WALBIRI RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND PRACTICE
This paper will examine religious beliefs and practices of the Walbiri peoples of Australia, emphasizing the Walbiri's reliance on orality and pragmatism in their culture and theology. The Walbiri are seminomadic aborigine hunters and gatherers who have wandered the rocky ranges, outcrops and low-lying hills of the western desert region of Central Australia for centuries before European contact. More recently, the Walbiri have subdivided into four major groups--the Ngalia, Walmalla, Waneiga and Lander Walbiri. The Walbiri nomadic pattern of wandering from water hole to water hole within their loosely defined territories remains the main organizing principle of Walbiri life, exceeding in importance even the rhythms of the seasons. At present, the Walbiri inhabit government settlements within or near their original country.
Walbiri patrilineal descent groups resemble Western "landowning units," (Munn, 1973, p. 21) except that the Walbiri perceive ownership in a spiritual context of what Munn (1973, p. 21) describes as "ritual rights exercised by men of the group over a series of ancestral localities and their associated ceremonies, cult objects, and ancestral totemic designs." Walbiri descent groups, lineage-like units, include about seven to 12 adult men who represent the lineage as a whole. Boys are initiated into the "lodge" of his patrilineage through circumcision. Women, excluded from the lodge, nonetheless are co-owners of "the totemic ancestors and sites of which their fathers and brothers are the actual ritual guardians" (Munn, 1973, p. 23).
Some of the Walbiri ancestors personify aspects of nature, while others are merely human. The Walbiri believe that these ancestors "emerged from the ground during ancestral times; wandering through the country they created various topographical features called "tracks" and "sites" (Munn, 1973, p. 23). These beings are considered by t...