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Hollow Log Ceremony

Firstly the hollow log ceremony is a tradition that started during the Dreamtime and it relates to the burial procedures of those from Arnhem Land. Traditionally the burial procedure started with a shallow grave, where the deceased would be placed. Unusually the body would only be here for one year. Alternatively the deceased can be places in a small cave or ledge in the rocky escarpment for the same amount of time. Then the bones are retrieved, and carried around in a woven dilly bag. This lasts for a few month. These bones are then painted using red ochre and placed in a hollow log. Finally the bones are decorated using the deceased clans totemic symbols.Hollow Log Ceremony - Aboriginal Artefacts

As previously mentioned this practice goes all the way back to the Dreamtime. Muruyana, a mogwoi spirit was the first to make a hollow log. It is rumored that this spirit had strong sexual desires. And was always chasing women. When the time came to create the hollow log, he cut down a flowering tree and hollowed it out. He then placed in the middle of the sacred dance ground and a ceremony performed around it. Thus honoring the dead person so that their spirit might depart in peace for the happy land.

A great friend of Muruyana was Wak the Crow Man, an Ancestral Being of the Dreamtime. He constructed the first fish trap by cutting down saplings and placing them across a shallow river, leaving a gap in the middle so that a woven basket, conical in shape and tied with bush string at one end, could be suspended from saplings on each side of the gap. At the other end of the fish trap a removable woven cone was placed inside the opening to stop the fish from getting out. 

The Hollow Log Ceremony Dreamtime Story

Crow Man had given his two nieces to a friend as wives. But they refused to sleep with him. One night as he dozed beside the fire the girls threw hot ashes over him. His legs and arms shriveled up and he changed into a possum and ran back to his own camp. Telling his tribespeople what had happened to him and begging them to return with him and kill the two women. The tribespeople agreed. And after the women were killed, their spirits went into the bodies of catfish swimming around in the fish trap. Diver ducks sitting in nearby trees swooped down and picked the catfish clean. Leaving only the bones, in which the spirits of the two women still resided.

Devastated by the loss of his two nieces, Crow Man begged his friends to help him hold a ceremony in their honour. The hollow log ceremony was duly devised. And after the ceremony the bones of the catfish were gathered up and put in a paperbark basket. Which was then placed in the hollow log, and everything went up into the sky. The hollow log made a void in the sky alongside the Milky Way, on which the stars represent the catfish bones. Other stars represent the bodies of Crow Man and the singers and dancers who performed the ceremony.

Hollow log ceremony is just one of many stories behind the Aboriginal artefacts. To read more stories check out our culture page here. Alternatively you can contact us to find what hollow logs we have available.