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Old Dingo Man

It is only recently that details of the Tingari Ancestral Beings have been revealed to outsiders, and even then many secret and sacred song and dance cycles were forbidden to be disclosed. At one time it was thought that the ceremony was for men only, but women now claim that they play a part in certain sections if it as well as conducting ceremonies for the women. The Tingari Ancestral Beings were a group of senior elders who travelled continuously throughout the desert, moving from camp to camp to instruct Aboriginal people in law, language and ceremony.

They were accompanied by novitiates and several young men who were initiated to a certain degree, but still had to pass further age-grading rites and receive instruction in the hundreds of religious song and dance cycles revolving around the adventures of the old Tingari men, the location of sacred sites which they had created, fertility rites, the significance of body designs which each group of people had to paint on their bodies for ceremonies, and many other secret procedures. An important sequence was the strapping of small poles, called “wetti”, to the legs of dancers, the significance of which has not been revealed.

Tingari women usually accompanied the novices to give them support and encouragement, particularly if the young men had to undergo ritual cutting of their bodies, but they stayed some distance from the men’s ceremonial ground, and when they heard the singing and ritual calls commence they clapped their hands to their mouths as they sang out “kuta, kuta, kuta, kuta” to let the men know that they had heard but would now move out of earshot.

Another story relates the story of an old Dingo Man who travelled throughout the desert, sometimes as a dingo and sometimes as a human ancestral being, instructing the people living at isolated camps in law, language and ceremony. Once when he travelled from Yuendumu to Arrangi he mated with a female dingo who produced many cubs, and this is now regarded as an increase site.

Generally, the Tingari are mythical characters of the Dreaming who travelled great distances. They performed rituals and created and shaped sites. Their adventures and travels are enshrined in song cycles. These stories are taught to today’s youth after initiation and provide a context for contemporary customs.