Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Close encounters in Aboriginal Culture" Part one

Dear readers

Spring is in the air in Adelaide. On my drive to work yesterday I passed row upon row of trees in blossom; white, purple, pink colours abound. Flowers are also putting on a glorious display. I almost forgot to think about the UFO phenomenon, but only for a moment.

In my next moment of free thought, I wondered about UFO sightings in the Australian Aboriginal culture. So, I looked around, and to my pleasant surprise I found an academic article on the topic, from 2007.

It appeared in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 13, 901-915, was authored by Eirik Saethre of the University of Pretoria, and titled "Close encounters: UFO beliefs in a remote Australian Aboriginal community."


Saethre spent the period between 1996 and 1999 conducting PhD fieldwork in Central Australia, in an Aboriginal community of 750 individuals, located 500 kilometres from any population centre.

"I discovered that residents of a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory also possess detailed and unique beliefs regarding UFOs." (p902.)

"Although the sightings were brief and the inhabitants were never seen, Warlpiri people asserted that UFOs were spaceships piloted by extraterrestrial beings. The aliens were thought to search for and procure water from the desert." (p902.)

Saethre found that during the playing of card games, "...one topic of conversation was often recent sightings of UFOs." (p903.) Saethre recorded details of reports from 18 eyewitnesses and several more secondhand . "...everyone with whom I spoke "...acknowledged that people regularly professed to have encountered UFOs in and around the community." (p904.)

Warlpiri people said that people living in other communities rarely encountered UFOs. "...most of the residents with who I spoke did not refer to UFOs as either a recent or ancient occurrence. Consequently, it was impossible to establish accurately when community residents first began to have encounters with the aliens." (p904.)

What was seen?

"Witnesses uniformly described UFOs as similar to most television and film portrayals of flying saucers: large, disc-shaped, brightly lit objects that fly through the sky." (p904.)

"In most instances, people reported nothing more than seeing a UFO fly overhead quickly...none involved sustained or close contact...residents uniformly assumed that UFOs were spaceships. These ships were thought to be from outer space..." (p905.)


"...the aliens were thought to be able to impact upon the physical environment of the Tanami desert. Aboriginal residents asserted that the aliens were capable of finding and removing large quantities of water from rivers, rock pools, and in some instances, rain clouds." (p905.)

"As a result, alien spacecraft were considered to be more prevalent in specific geographical areas and at specific time of the year." (p.906.)

Giant coloured snakes:

Interestingly, giant multi-coloured snakes called Warnayarra are also said to be associated with the presence of water by the Aboriginal community. These snakes are referred to by the anthropological literature as "rainbow serpents." "Warnayarra were not believed to punish the UFOs or in any way harm them...Likewise the aliens were not thought to remove the Warnayarra with the water that they procured. Furthermore, I was never told of the aliens having any interaction with the ancestral spirits that guarded country...I have never heard any one state that the phenomenon referred to as UFOs originated in or was part of the Dreaming." (p907-8.)

To be continued in the next post.

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