Not the sign of the Cross


In his great work on Arrarnta (Aranda) people’s Dreaming narratives the German Lutheran missionary at Hermannsburg/Ntaria Carl Strehlow wrote:

Carl S Adlersfuss.jpg

(Carl Strehlow 1907:25.  8. Der Komet. Full reference below)

Google Translate gives:

Carl S google trans.jpg

My Google Translate of Carl Stehlow’s original 1907 comment may be a little rough (i left the final ‘t’ off ‘knupft) but the sense is clear – the stars which many Europeans (and others?) see as the Southern Cross are not seen this way by Arrarnta people in the centre of this continent.

This was studied in more detail in the early 1930’s by B. G. Maegraith, who confirmed Carl Strehlow’s statement (and much more). (Maegraith, B. G. (Brian Gilmore), The astronomy of the Aranda and Luritja tribes. More info below.)

Why should it be strange that Arrarnta do not have the same constellation for what Europeans (and others?) see as the Southern Cross? This important fact demonstrates that Arrarnta people have a very different cosmology to that of Europeans.

There is a world of difference between the Ways of First Peoples and those of European peoples of the last several centuries.

For Carl Strehlow, a Lutheran missionary, the sign of the Cross had the greatest of transcendental significance. First Peoples, on the other hand, had and have a much richer transcendental tradition which we know as ‘Dreaming’.  

The arrangement of stars, not visible to people in the Northern Hemisphere in recent times,  as a Cross played – and continue to play – an important role in providing some kind of astral blessing to the ‘expansion’ of Europeans into the lands of people in the Southern Hemisphere.

From Magellan on, seeing this imaginary Cross was something which had strong significance for the explorers, missionaries and colonists.  

Anyone who seriously wants to find out more about Arrarnta cosmology, and the arrangement of stars in that region which European’s group at the Southern Cross, can make a start at a piece from my earlier series on Arrarnta cosmology:!AlcvXZV0m016jVtWxEYtIXob6fhK

And for more on how Europeans and their colonisation of the Southern Hemisphere and Southern Cross see:!AlcvXZV0m016kkCGG3AZAu4iRJcN


Maegraith, B. G. (Brian Gilmore). 1932. “Astronomy Of The Aranda And Luritja Tribes.” Transactions And Proceedings Of The Royal Society Of South Australia 56 (10). Adelaide: 19–26.

Carl Strehlow: Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien, Ed. Städtisches Völkerkunde-Museum Frankfurt am Main and Moritz Freiherr v. Leonhardi, Vol. 1-5, Frankfurt 1907-1920 (No published English translation.)

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