14 May 2012

Erasure of an Aboriginal temple

Erasure of an Aboriginal temple, by Patti Miller (Eureka Street, 2 May 2012)

For thousands of years there was a sylvan temple on the banks of the river near where I was born. I have never seen the temple because most of it was destroyed before I was born, but I know what it looked like because it was described and sketched by an early ethnologist travelling in the area. It had a mile long avenue of trees carved with serpents, forked lightning, meteors and various hieroglyphs, leading to an earth-walled circular space where a giant human figure, also made of earth, reclined.

You might imagine from the temple that I was born in Greece, or Egypt, or perhaps India, but the fact is I was born and grew up near the Macquarie River in central west NSW. The sylvan temple, as described by the ethnologist, John Henderson, was the largest and most important sacred site for the Wiradjuri people along the river. Like all temples, it was used for protecting and conveying secret spiritual knowledge to the initiated and people came from hundreds of miles to be part of rituals and ceremonies.

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