Australian fire ceremonies: Lartna and Engwura in the Arrernte tribe

Andrzej Szyjewski

Comparing the cycle of initiation rites in the Arrernte with initiation rituals in the desert tribes, we arrive at the conclusion that they are based upon an analogous symbolism of activities and ideas. The Arrernte initiations are therefore a transformation of the desert rites in which the ritual syntagmas are distributed differently. An example supporting this thesis is the use of tall torches of the witi/widi type in the circumcision rite instead of in the “proper” fire ceremony, the fact that they are not lit despite the presence of the symbolism of fire in the ritual songs, and the role of women in their destruction. The founding myth of the Engwura is at the same time a myth that introduces circumcision (Lartna), and both of these ritual activities are treated interchangeably in variants of the myth. The Engwura itself, as a fire ceremony, has to be considered the final and crowning phase of the initiation processes. It is characterised by the presence, shared with the Western Desert, of a symbolic complex in which a special role is played by the equivalence: adepts ≡ Eremophila ≡ torch fire. Due to the fact that use of Eremophila, on the one hand, refers to the symbolism of the monsoon season (the greenness of the plant) and, on the other hand, to fires of the dry season (the redness of the plant and associations with the emu), it constitutes an ideal operator for the initiation process.
Słowa kluczowe: Australijscy Aborygeni, Arrente, rytuał, mit, symbolika inicjacyjna, subincyzja, Eremophila longifolia, symbolika płci

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