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Birth of the Butterflies - an Aboriginal Dreamtime story by Michael J Connolly/Munda-gutta Kulliwari

©2009 Dreamtime Kullilla-Art all rights reserved.

Long ago in the Dreamtime when the world was very young, all the birds and animals spoke the same language and lived forever. No one ever died, so none of the creatures knew anything about the concept of death.

One morning a young Cockatoo was playing high up in a tree, swinging on a branch, when he slipped and fell to the ground landing on his head. Cockatoo did not move. The other animals tried to wake him up but he just lay there. A wise old Wombat looked at the bird and told the others that he had broken his neck. The animals, believing the Spirits had done this, called a meeting of all the animals under a big old gum tree to discuss this problem.

While they were talking, the Spirits came and took the little Cockatoo up into the sky. The other animals saw their friend wafting away into the far and beyond. This puzzled the animals very much. Why did the Spirits take their friend? Wombat told the animals that the Spirits had taken Cockatoo up into the sky so they could change him into something new. The animals wanted to know more about it and agreed that someone should go up to see what the Spirits would do with their friend; but who? It was nearly Winter and none of them wanted to go except for the Caterpillars. They agreed to go up together, into the far and beyond and make camp there for the Winter and return in the warmth of Spring to tell them what happened to Cockatoo. In one huge wriggling cloud the Caterpillars went up into the sky and all the other animals waited for Spring.

At the end of Winter, Wombat called all the animals to search for the Caterpillars but to no avail. They searched daily but would return with nothing. Then, on the first warm day of Spring, they saw them! A beautiful parade of brightly coloured wings; the first Butterflies.

The animals realised then that these beautifully coloured creatures were proof that the Spirits had given the Caterpillars a new and beautiful shape and that this must have also happened to their Cockatoo friend. As the Butterflies settled in the trees, they were such a mesmerising sight that the oldest animals decided that this is the way it must always be.

As we retreat into our homes and cocoons, life gives us an opportunity to transform and find new beauty. Just as it did that first time, long ago, in the Dreamtime…

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