Anthropology Friday: The Land of Perfection

Today we are continuing with excerpts from Smith’s Aborigine Myths and Legends. As usual, I am using “” instead of block quotes for readability.

In the chapter on religion, Smith tries to claim that Aborigine religion resembles Christianity. “Notwithstanding this lack of ceremonial religion, the believe in a Great Spirit, and the son of this Great Spirit.”

I believe Smith is overstating the resemblance.

Here is the chapter’s next section:

“The Land of Perfection

“On the Plain of Nullarbor [ed. note: probably Latin for “no tree”] there existed a wonderful and beautiful country. From legendary accounts it had the appearance of a city surrounded by four white walls, which varied in height from five hundred to a thousand feet. … Along the top of each wall there were domes and spires. The outside of the walls was composed of white quartz stone, and the inside was formed of a sky-blue stone resembling slate. …

“Thus in the land of perfection there was no need for one creature to prey upon another to live. … So all things lived in harmony. The most remarkable thing about this country was that n one had knowledge of it, or was conscious of its existence until he became ill or diseased in body, mind, or soul. … But before a soul could find entrance into that perfect land of bliss it must pass along a narrow ledge of rock. On one side of this ledge was a perpendicular wall, one thousand feet high, with a perfectly smooth surface. … On the other side of the ledge was a chasm–deep, dark, and unfathomable. …

“Beyond the ledge, upon the boundary line of the Perfect Land, were two cone-shaped crystals, that stood about two hundred feet high and measured about six hundred feet round the base. Round thee two crystals were coiled two snakes … Biggarroo is the good snake, and Goonnear the evil snake. …

Gumbaynggirr elder, Uncle Larry Kelly, with the Rainbow Serpent.
Not a picture of Biggaroo or Goonnear, but of a Rainbow Serpent, along with Uncle Larry Kelly, Gumbaynggirr elder

“A sick man journeyed along the road. … At last he reached the place where the two crystals stood. … Biggarroo and Goonnear called softly in their musical voices to the sick man, “This way, my friend. To me you may come. We were once of the same totem as you. Our mothers are one. You are my brother, and I am your brother.” …

“Biggarroo and Goonnear both proclaimed the same message. Biggarroo told the truth, but Goonnear lied. The sick man could not decide which one was the physician. … He took three strides toward the wicked Goonnear. Then his inner soul gave vision to the mental eye and perfect sight to the physical eye… He saw deceitfulness in the wicked, cruel eyes of Goonnear. Straightway he turned and walked into the open jaws of Biggarroo, the physician.

“After he had walked sixty pace or more along the monster’s throat … he decided that he would chose a quiet spot where the grass grew like a green carpet and flowers blossomed upon a bush, and that there he would lie down and rest. …

“He pressed on eagerly until he came to the middle of the snake. There he saw others of the human race. Some belonged to his tribe, and others ti tribes that were strange to him in the outer world. But in this inner world they all spoke one language; each held intercourse as a friend with friend, all being in sympathy. The thoughts of all were pure and free, but the people differed in their endowments. The more intelligent guided those of less understanding. All round in the interior of the snake there was abundant evidence that the human race passes from on from stage to stage until it is made perfect. …

“He awoke and rose up slowly, and walked to the open mouth of Biggarroo. He stepped to the summit of the cone and stood upright, with both hands clasped behind his back, with the dignity of some monarch beholding his kingdom. Suddenly there appeared a third eye on his face. … It was a wonderful eye, a magical eye, and it gave him wide vision and the power of looking through the veil of time. …

“The pilgrim’s soul desired to see the past once more… His single eye, the mirror of the soul, with keen vision traced the course of the sunbeams as they penetrated into the earth. First the frozen water, like a pavement of solid crystal covering portions of the earth, began to melt and flow in liquid state. Then the earth staggered and rolled and trembled as if in dreadful agony. Rocks rose and formed mountains, hills, and valleys, and the silvery liquid rolled between as rivers, streams, and lakes. When this work was completed, the Goddess of Light drew her mantle around her comely form, and retired into the darkness of everlasting night.

“Then the pilgrim’s soul led him again to the open jaws of Biggarroo. … [Biggarroo said,] ‘My child, it is the will of the Father Spirit that you, and all of the human race who resemble you, shall be like unto the Mother Goddess. The only way to attain eternal youth is to dwell within me for a season…’

“The pilgrim slept soundly, and a century passed before he regained his self-consciousness. He stepped forth out of the snake, and once more he walked to the summit of the crystal cone. … He looked, and was amazed to see that the barren earth had changed, that it was covered with vegetation that was very beautiful to behold. … Generation after generation of forest life forms came, grew, decayed, and passed on, and were buried and changed into other forms of matter far below the surface of the earth.

“He stood motionless, it seemed for only a day; in reality centuries came and went, passing the boundary line of the evermore. … The earth revolved, and time went on. The great monsters of the Reptile Age died out. Centuries again passed. Then came a pageant most wonderful to behold–the Bird Age…

“After the pilgrim beheld this wonderful sight, Biggarroo said to him, ‘ Go now, my child; enter the Land of Perfection.” … Then there came a time when a great and mighty storm arose in the south. It raised the water of the ocean with tremendous force, and drove it through the wall of the land of perfection. Then the Father Spirit… transferred the Land of Perfection to the Sacred Land, now known as the Milky Way.”

3 thoughts on “Anthropology Friday: The Land of Perfection

  1. My first thought when reading the description of “the land of perfection” was that it sounds a bit like a garbled folk memory of Papua New Guinea… (Possibly conflated with folk memories of Tasmania…?)

    (One of the few books I’ve managed to read in full in the past year is “When They Severed Earth from Sky”… This story seems like a good one to play with that type of analysis on…)


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