Interview about Mutant Message
Reposted from www.seizethemagic.com (first Published in Golden Age Magazine)
Bonnie McLean interviews Lorraine Mafi Williams, a traditional teacher and custodian of Aboriginal culture and wisdom.
I hear there is a lot of controversy in the Aboriginal community over Mutant Message. When I read it I thought it was pretty sympathetic to the Aboriginal community. What is this all about?
Well, Ive read both the American and Australian versions. The Australian version is watered down quite a bit. I honestly don’t think this woman ever took a walk with anyone except perhaps as a tourist on a tour into the outback. A lot of the information I think she got from books, especially a book called Voices of the First Day. There is a lot of erroneous information in Mutant Message. I think she used the Aboriginal people to espouse some kind of mixture of American Indian, Buddhist and New Age philosophy. She’s made a lot of money and gotten a lot of attention at our expense, and a lot of us are quite angry. This is why I have decided to speak up.
I’ll give you an example. They supposed walked in the desert for four months. They never saw a fence or came accross another Aboriginal clan (our groups are not called tribes, by the way). In four months they would have to have gone through several territories, for which they would have to have received permission from either the people living there (white or Aboriginal) or the government. Since 1985, any white person has to get permission from the Central land council to enter Aboriginal land. This may take three months. None of this was spoken of in the book. Our people do not usually travel in large groups such as 60 people. Traditionally, groups of men go on walkabout for initiation ceremonies or to gatherings in certain spots.
Women don’t go on walkabouts. In our tradtion men and woman do not mix like she describes in the book. They would not have slept together, and certainly not with feet touching. (This stuff with circles is American Indian). She had a male translator. We have many languages that are spoken by different clans, but we all speak English. We were all forced to learn English when we were put in mission schools. A translator would not have been necessary, and a male would not have been translating for a female.
Well, this brings up a lot of questions then. Do you mind if I ask some specific ones about things mentioned in the book?
Not at all. We might as well get this stuff straightened out. Think about it. What woman in her right mind would strip like that in front of strangers and allow her valuables like an heirloom ring be thrown in the fire? And depicting us as people who would be insensitive to her bleeding feet until we stopped walking at night, makes us look pretty uncivilised.
Lets go with the American version then. In the beginning Morgan describes how the “tribe” measured distance by singing songs in very specific detail and rhythm, that they actually sing from one location to another.
This is a misinterpretation of how our people work with the energy grids and passage paths. These paths are described through songs, because information is traditionally passed on through words, not writing. An old man will sing these “song lines” to a young boy, and old woman will sing them to a young girl for their initiation journeys. It would not be usual for a group of people to just be singing while walking. Also, about the group ritual in the morning asking for food. That kind of stuff isn’t necessary. You dont have to ask for what is already there.
Is it true that groups of people used to travel with dingoes, and used them for companionship and warmth at night?
Well, it could be if the dingoes made the choice. Our relationship with animals is different from yours. We don’t believe that we are superior to any one living thing. They were here before humans, as were the plants and rocks. We honour them because of that. A dingo would not be kept around to serve us, like keeping us warm at night.
She speaks of telepathic communication among members of the tribe. A scout would run ahead and communicate back to the “tribe” this way. They traveled in silence because this was how they were communicating.
There is telepathic communication among our people, but it occurs between individuals, not in groups. Not everyone is good at it. The elders, medicine people, teachers have been trained in telepathy, but it is a skill that does require training and takes time to learn. A runner (“scout” is an Indian word, isn’t it?) may indeed communicate back to certain individuals in a clan.
She mentions how children are taught to have non-attachment to objects. If a child took something without permission, the adults would avert their eyes. What else and how else are children taught about values?
Our adults don’t discipline our children by averting their eyes. Other adults may do so out of politeness when a child is being corrected by the parents. In our society the children come first. They stand in front of the mirror and say “I am precious”. This is the only way a person can really love others. When someone feels badly about themselves, they tend to make others wrong. Children learn that everything belongs to everyone. If a child wants to play with something for a while, he is usually allowed to do so. Eventually everyone gets a turn.
She said that bush flies were allowed to climb all over the people, because they cleaned out the ears and noses and entire body. Is this true?
These flies can be very clinging and hard to get rid of, but why would anyone want them climbing into their noses, eyes and ears? They lay eggs! Horses know to brush them off with their tails. Why would we be different.
She talks about carrying a firestick and using dung for fuel. Why would this be necessary if fires can be made easily by rubbing sticks?
Why would you even rub sticks when there are matches and cigarette lighters? No, even before the modern ways, our people didn’t carry fire sticks. It s too easy to make it rubbing sticks together.
She says that everyone is multitalented and that they spend their lives exploring themselves as musician, healer, cook, storyteller etc. I thought each person had a specialty that they began training for as small children. How is it?
You’re correct. I’m a writer and film maker and do that well. But I cannot draw to save me.
She says that birthdays are not celebrated – not getting older, but getting better. And when someone knows they are wiser, they tell the others it is time to have a celebration. Is this how it works?
Actually this is pretty accurate. For example, a hunter may do a really good job. The singer will make up a song. Dancers will mime the story of the hunter’s experience. The artist will draw the story. This is storytelling.
Morgan says the spirit enters the foetus when it tells the world of it’s presence by movement. A stillborn child is a body that housed no spirit. Is this true?
I think this is a Buddhist concept. We believe the baby’s spirit enters the body three nights after birth. It comes in through the top of the head, which closes by the time it is a year old. When a person dies, it goes back out the top of the head three nights after the persons death. During the persons life, it goes in and out through the navel, such as in sleep and astral travel.
Is it true that poisonous plants have traditionally been used against human enemies?
No, this is not true. We are not allowed to shed blood of another human being. By the way, this includes ourselves. We are not allowed to commit suicide. The so-called suicide deaths in [police] custody of Aboriginal cannot be suicides.
There had been Aboriginal tribes with Kings, with females rulers, some who stole people away from another group, and some who ate human flesh, including babies. What would you say to that?
Again we are not called tribes. We never had kings. We dont steal people from other’s groups . And we are certainly have never been cannibals! We have a very intricate system of family groups that has allowed us to prevent inbreeding, and that worked for 50,000 years. We don’t believe in abortion, and have our own methods of birth control that have prevented overpopulation. I think some of the stories of cannibalism came from the cannibals of New Guinea who brought their captives to the northern shores of Australia. They were black, too, and probably couldnt be differentiated from the local inhabitants in the eyes of the explorers. There was also a woman in Australian history named Daisy Bates. She was a bush nurse in the Northern Territory in the 1920’s. She lived in the desert and apparently went mad. In this state she reported a lot of wild stories, including women eating babies.
A healing is described in which a man with a compound fracture in his leg was healed and walked the following day. Does this really happen?
Our healings only support nature, which is the healer. This healing couldn’t have happened, because women’s menstrual blood would never be used on a man. This would be considered taboo.
In talking about totems, Morgan says that people choose their totem and may choose the kangaroo because it cannot step backward and it is balanced by its tail. Is this accurate?
We each have a fish, animal, and bird totem. These are passed down through the families. The women’s totems are passed down through the women’s line. The men’s totems are passed down through the men’s line. They are not chosen. An artist will paint his totem. This is how you can know where the artist comes from. We are allowed to eat our totems. A lot of us eat kangaroos, so they cannot be our main totem. Individuals may have a certain kind of kangaroo or wallaby as their totem. The eagle is a more universal totem than a kangaroo.
She describes dreaming as follows: The word “Dreaming” means “levels of awareness.” There is ancestor dreaming when thought created the world; there is out-of-body dreaming, such as deep meditation there is sleep dreaming, etc. She also talks about the use of a dream catcher. She says “tribal” people do not dream at night unless they call in a dream. Sleep for them is a time for important rest and recovery of the body. It is not meant to be a time of splitting energy between projects. They believe the reason Mutants dream at night is because they are not allowed to dream in the day. They make dream catcher with spider webs, and dance with them to remember their dreams. How accurate is this?
You have to remember that “dreaming” is an English word. It really is difficult to try and define it in this language. No, we don’t use dream catchers. Again those are used by American Indians. We do use sleep to receive information from our guides and ancestors. They come to us between 7:00pm and 11:00pm and between 4:00am and 6:00am, When someone is out in a disco until midnight, they miss the chance to receive information.
She talks about honouring the four elements – earth, water. Fire and air. Also the seven directions. This is American Indian spirituality. Is this also Aboriginal?
She talks about being taken to a sacred site. She said it was not a place of worship but a place to collect things and seek refuge. Would this be a sacred site?
Sacred sites are visited by shamans. Groups of people do not go to them. Men have their sacred sites, and women have theirs. There are different levels of sacredness. They are not places to collect things and are not refuges.
How about the head-dresses she describes?
Yes, head-dresses are used in traditional wear.
She says that the Aborigines were the first beings on the planet. Is this true?
According to our beliefs, the first race to embody on the planet was the Black race. The second was the Red. The third was the Aboriginal. We are separate from the black race. Then came the Yellow ace. And finally the White race.
She says Ayers Rock was at one time a burial site. Is that true? Why is Uluru (Aboriginal name for Ayers Rock) considered sacred?
Uluru has been a birthing site, not a burial one. How can you bury someone in rock? During the time of the great flood, Aboriginal climbed on Uluru and were able to survive. Some New Age people say it is made of crystal. This is not true. All these people climbing all over it is really not good for it.
In a celebration, she describes dancing with regal black men in the desert?
No, men and women dance separately.
Well, Lorraine, this was quite an eye opener. Thank you for setting the record straight here.