National Geographic : 1988 Feb
takes us to the base of the cliff and shows us where Almudj, the rainbow serpent and one of the creator beings, split the rock and forced her way through. She then followed the creek upstream and came to rest in a deep pool below a waterfall. "Almudj still lives in that pool," Kapirigi says. Almudj is one of the most important beings to the Gagudju. She created hills, stone archways, and deep pools. Every year she brings the wet season and a renewal of life. She can then often be seen standing on her tail as the rainbow. Rock paintings of rainbow snakes may go back 10,000 years. Some ex perts believe that Almudj is the oldest continuously revered reli gious symbol in the world. As we return to camp, the last light paints Djuwarr in its bright est colors. The normally efferves cent Kapirigi is in a reflective mood. Like all the elders he is worried about the future, who will succeed him to look after Almudj and observe the rituals. He fears retribution if the life force is broken, if the country is not looked after. We ask him, "What about your children and grandchildren-don't they want to learn about the Dreamtime?" "No," he answers. "They are not interested. When I pass on, no one will know these stories." After a long silence he adds, "I can teach a good man, but there is nobody." It is almost dark now. Tiny bats wheel and turn after in sects. Like an omen, one brushes my cheek with its soft wing as it snaps up a mosquito. Down the canyon a sea eagle calls from its nest. Kapirigi's face brightens. "That's Marrawuti; he's the boss around here." For the time being at least, God is still in his heaven.