In Australian mythology, the Wandjina are ancestral beings who came out of the sea. According to the Aborigines of the western Kimberleys region, these beings created features of the landscape and were then absorbed into the walls of rock formations.

Legends about the Wandjina say that they once caused a great flood that devastated the landscape and wiped out the human race. Disappointed with the corrupt behavior of humans, the Wandjina opened their mouths and released a torrent of water.

*See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

After the flood, the Wandjina spread out to different parts of the land. They created new humans and helped them set up a new society. To prevent further floods, the Wandjina kept their mouths closed. In time, their mouths disappeared completely.

Images of the Wandjina in human form appear in rock paintings in northwestern Australia. The figures have round faces, painted in white, with eyes and noses but no mouths. The heads are surrounded by a band of yellow or red, and white stripes on the bodies represent the falling rain. Each year during a cycle of religious ceremonies, the Aborigines repaint the figures to bring fertility to the land and ensure that the seasons change on schedule. By repainting these images from the past, the Aborigines make the Wandjina part of the present and preserve them for the future.

See also Australian Mythology ; Creation Stories ; Dreamtime .

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