Dirahnggan - Clever Woman
Dunghutti Artist: Brett Roberts



Legends of Dirahnggan
Below there are three stories about Diranhnggan written down by people from three different Bundjalung Clans. 

The formation of the Clarence River NSW

Written down by  Eustan Williams Githaval Clan
 In New South Wales The Clarence River rises near the Queensland border and enters the sea at Yamba. The  stories which follow form the Bundjalung Nation history of the making of the Clarence River by the wicked old woman of the creation period, Dirahnggun - (Dirrangan)

The Source of the Clarence River: Dirrangan at Tooloom.

Some people say that Dirrangan is a witch, that she's mean and cunning and brings you all the mischief in the world. Others say that she is friendly. But she's a very old woman and she has long hair down to her knees.
    Dirrangan had two married daughters and a son-in-law. The son-in-law was a Buloogan, a strong, handsome man. The daughters of Dirrangan were his two wives. The daughter quarrelled with their mother and the Buloogan took the quarrell up and sided with his wives. They starved the old woman; they didn't pass her anything to eat and she became angry.
    Dirrangan's camp was under a big fig tree at the waterfall which is the source of the Clarence River. There was a basin, a hollow, which contained their water. Dooloomi was the name of the pool, and and it was the jurrveel or home of the spirit of the water. Tooloom now is the white man's name for this waterfall - Tooloom is as near as he could get to saying Dooloomi.
 While the son-in-law and his two wives were out hunting and gathering food, Dirrangan drained all the water out of the pool with a bark coolamon, or carrying dish. When the Buloogan and his two wives came home came in the evening, there was no water.  The two wives were running about all over the place looking for water, but there was no water. Dirrangan had had put leaves and bark over the empty basin hole in the rock so that the place was hidden. For two or three days the Buloogan and his wives could not get a drink of water and they became desperately thirsty.
    Dirrangan was pretending to cry for for them. Some people say that Dirrangan was sitting on this coolamon of water in her camp, hiding it, and when the Buloogan found this out, he got angry and cried, 'Well you're not going to have all the water! I'll let it out!' He thrust his spear into that coolamon and let it out.
    Others say that when Dirrangan, the Buloogan and his two wives went to sleep, the Buloogans two dogs, who were thirsty, found the water which Dirrangan had hidden in the coolamon Two mountains nearby called Dillalea and Kalloo-Guthun are named after those two dogs. In the night the dogs returned to the camp of the Buloogan and stood over him. And the water dripped from their mouths. When the Buloogan felt this he woke up and followed the two dogs back to where Dirrangan was asleep with the water.
    When the Buloogan saw where the water was hidden, he was angry. He caused heavy rain to fall and the hollow rock-basin began to fill. The water rose and rose and backed up where the creek is now.
    When the water began to rise Dirrangan climbed into the fig tree and made a platform in the boughs But the water rose and swept her and the fig tree away and left a hallow beneath the cliffs where the waterfall is now. Dirrangan was holding on to the fig tree as she was swept away. She was swept overt the second fall, which we call Ngalumbeh. At the bottom of this fall she was whirled around and round, still holding on to the fig tree, in a whirlpool for half a day.
    The water was getting stronger and stronger. The Buloogan had cursed the water to make it unmanageable. It took her and the fig tree away down the Clarence River. From time to time Dirrangan would sit in the torrent with her legs wide apart trying to block the water, but each time the flood would bear her away. Where the South River comes into the Clarence River, Dirranggan sat with her legs outspread. The water rose and went up and made the South River. There she sat until the flood rose and swept her and the fig tree on again.
    Below Grafton on the river, there is a fig tree growing. Many old men would see the tree and say, 'Oh look! Dooloomi borrgun!' which means "That fig tree belongs to Tooloom!' Those old men would say, "Dirrangan. She's away down there, but she belongs up there at Tooloom. But Dirrangan is still in that fig tree.

Eustan Williams Githavul Clan.
 


The Dams Dirrangun Made along the Clarence River.
Written down by Lucy Daly, Bundjalung Nation Baryulgil Clan

Somewhere in the mountains near Tooloom in those forests of tall trees, somewhere in those mountains hidden by drifting mists, the old woman Dirrangun kept her sacred spring. This old woman didn't want anyone to know where the water was. It was good water and she used to get it herself. But one day she was sick. And there was a young man called Buloogan. He was a very well-built man, he was handsome. She asked this Buloogan if he would go and get the water and sent him up to this secret spring. She had to direct him and tell him where it was. So the Buloogan set off into the mountains to get some water in a bark coolamon.
    When the Buloogan got to the water, he found that Dirrangun had dammed the water up. The Buloogan broke the dam and the water started to run away.
    when Dirrangun saw the water coming, she started to try to dam the water. But the water came faster and wider. These mountains that you see here are the dams dirrangun made to stop the water. But the water broke through them.
    And at last the water came down and went into the sea, which we called in the language Burraga. That's how this river, the Clarence came to be here. Mount Ogilvie, that's one of the dams Dirrangun made. The gouge down below Baryulgil is the place of the last dam that Dirrangun made. But the water broke through. When the water got down to Yamba, Dirrangun realized that she couldn't stop it so she cursed it and made it salt so no one could drink it. Somewhere in the mouth of the Clarence is the last stand of Dirrangun as she tried to stop the water. She threw herself in front of the water to try to stop it, but the water just rushed over her and she was turned to stone.

Lucy Daly, Bundjalung Nation, Baryulgil Clan..
 


Dirrangun and Her Family at the Mouth of the Clarence River at Yamba.
Written down by Bella Laurie Yeagirr Clan.

    A long time ago in the early days there was a tribe on this side of the river in Yamba and a family, just a family, at Iluka, straight across the river from here.  The tribe from here was invited to go over the river and visit this family.  And this old Dirrangun, she was a cranky old lady, she was the mother of this family.
     And when the tribe from here went over to Iluka to have a day with this family, Dirrangun wouldnít offer them anything to eat, she was that cranky.  She had a daughter-in-law and a son and a daughter.  Everyone that went there found that she would never offer them anything to eat.  This old woman was terrible, wicked and mean.  Her son had two little boys, and the daughter died and the daughter-in-law died and left her there with the son and two grandsons.  Thatís the old Dirrangun Iím talking about.
    And then, they tell us that the sea was calm then, at that time.  And the son made up his mind to go away with the two boys and leave his mother.  So he got to work and made a canoe.  When he had finished the canoe he took it down to the beach.  He put one boy at the back of the canoe and one in front.  Then he got in and started to paddle away.
     The mother followed him to the beach and she didnít want the sone to go.  But he wouldnít stop, he took no notice of her.  She sang out after they got a good bit out on the water in the canoe.  She called out and told then not to leave her on her own.
    She had a yam stick with her, and, when he didnít take any notice, she started to hit the water.  And she started to corroboree, sticking the yam stick in the ground and cursing.  She started to tell the waves and sea and the water to be rough, the wind to come and the water to rise.  And she cried and coo-eed for them to come back, but they took no notice.
     So she watched them until they got out of sight.  The canoe was on its way to Ballina.  And just when they turned the little canoe to go into Ballina, the waves came up and the canoe sank and went under with the two little boys and the father.
    And today they say you can still go to Ballina and they can show you that canoe with the two boys, one in front and one at the back, and with the father holding onto the paddle in the middle.  They were turned in rock.
    Then, two or three years after, the Dirrangun jumped into the river and drowned herself.  There youíll hear that roar of the sea, that noise.  Thatís supposed to be Dirrangun looking for her son and two grandsons.  Youíll hear that sound at Eungarri and Shelly Beach and it works right back to Ballina.  Thatís her under the water, sheís turned into a big rock.
    You might have heard of those white men blasting that stone, in the mouth of the river at Iluka.  Thatís her.  They canít touch it.  They canít interfere with it.  They tried, but they canít.  The white people asked my father if it would be right, if they blew that stone up.  My father said, ďNo, if they did, all the sea water would rush in.Ē  Sheís supposed to block it.  Thatís the true thing that the old people told us.
    My father, he used to get all us children and tell us.  He said, ďWhenever you hear the roar of the sea, thatís Dirrangun.  Sheís looking for her son and two grandchildren.Ē
     My father told the white people, ďDonít touch that rock.Ē  The white people tried and it rained and rained and wouldnít allow any boat to go out to sea.  They had to leave that stone and itís still there to this day.

Bella Laurie, Yeagirr Clan.

 

   
            
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