From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kunapipi, also spelt Gunabibi, ('womb')[1] is a mother goddess and the patron deity of many heroes in Australian Aboriginal mythology. She gave birth to human beings as well as to most animals and plants. Now a vague, otiose, spiritual being, "the old woman" (Kadjeri)[1] once emerged from the waters and travelled across the land with a band of heroes and heroines,[2] and during the ancestral period she gave birth to men and women as well as creating the natural species. She could transform herself either into a male or female version of the Rainbow Serpent.

Origins and diffusion[edit]

The Kunapipi cult seems to have arisen among tribes in the Roper and Rose River areas. In the Alawa version she is said to have emerged from the waters.[1] From there it is thought to have gradually spread north-east into Arnhem Land, where it existed as a complementary masculine form with Djanggawul, a female figure.[3] According to Tony Swain, Kunapipi traditions, especially regarding her northern origins, reflect the impact of Sulawesi/Macassar influences, via contacts with trepang traders, and possibly the pre-Islamic rice mother cult, which survived down to modern times among the Toraja and Bugis.[4]



  1. ^ a b c Swain 1991, p. 240.
  2. ^ Swain 1991, pp. 238ff.
  3. ^ Berndt 1974, p. 4.
  4. ^ Swain 1991, pp. 241–244.


  • Berndt, R. M. (1974). Australian Aboriginal Religion. 3. Brill. ISBN 9004037276.
  • Swain, Tony (February 1991). The Earth Mother from Northern Waters. 30. History of Religions. pp. 223–260. JSTOR 106295.