Junda, or the Charrnock Woman, is a Nyitting Katitjin yarn about the creation of the South West region of Western Australia and tells the tale of Junda's walk through country to collect spirit children, which she kept in her long white hair. The yarn of the Charrnock Woman takes on different meanings dependant on who tells the story, and her motives are reliant on the storyteller.
Charrnock/Charnok/Jarnok Woman - Names for Junda Edit
The Katitjin story of Junda is known by many names with numerous spelling variations. Whadjuk Noongar Elder Sandra ___ stated in conversation that the name of this spirit woman is Junda, but her personal name must not be confused with the name attributed to her existence. The Noongar word for "evil" is, in fact, Jarnok - the spelling of which has changed with Wedjela (white person) use. The story of Junda, whilst known to some as the tale of the Charnock/Charrnock/Jarnok Woman, is quite literally translated as the "Tale of the Evil Spirit Woman, Junda". 
Nyitting Katitjin (dream time) Edit
Much of Noongar culture revolves around intangible heritage aspects, not least of which includes the spirit world, Nyitting (Dreaming or Cold Time). Nyitting Katitjin is essentially a series of Noongar stories based on spiritual events, from which tangible aspects of culture were created . Many Dreamtime stories are told only through word of mouth, or by having a “yarn”, terminology that has similar, if not deeper, connotations to the English definition of the word. In Noongar culture a yarn is not just an enjoyable tale, rather it becomes something infinitely more intrinsic – a tangible way of distributing important cultural knowledge. In the Dreamtime telling, the actions of the Charrnock Woman resulted in the area of Jenalup (Blackwall Reach) and the releasing of children from her hair created a magnificent display in the night sky, something we see every evening – the Milky Way.
The Charrnock Woman Yarn Edit
"The Charrnock Woman animation" - CAN Community Arts Network
|“||The story of the Charrnock Woman begins back in the dreamtime, when the evil spirit of the Charrnock Woman would wander from kallep to kallep (campfires), stealing little koolongurs (children). She was very tall, taller than the jarrah trees, and she had long white hair that she used to keep the spirit children captive while she gathered more children in her arms. Once she had collected enough children, she would take them to her ‘man’ who dwelled in a cave near Wave Rock, and feed the children to him.||”|
|— as told by the Community Arts Network |
The Joondalup Mooro Boodjar however tells a slightly different version of the Charrnock Woman yarn, in which Junda is seen as an almost benevolent spirit who saves the children from being eaten by the tall spirit man.
|“||In the dreamtime there was a tall spirit man and a tall spirit woman, of the Charrnock People. The tall woman had long white hair that stretched down her back, and she liked to walk across the land. During one of these walks, the Charrnock Woman saw a small pair of eyes looking at her, and when came closer she saw it was a spirit child. The Charrnock Woman was so enchanted by the child that she did not want to part with it, so she placed in her long white hair for safekeeping. As she walked throughout her country she found more of these spirit children, and kept them in her hair. Soon she had travelled so far that she reached a large valley, and left her footprint in the soft earth. The Wadjela call this valley the Swan River, and the place of her footprint is now known as Blackwall Reach. The Charrnock Woman walked north, following the lakes that the Charrnock Man created as he journeyed ahead of her, and collected more and more. Her walking left this feminine spirit wherever she went. Eventually she had collected so many children that she could no longer continue to carry them with her, and the ones that were still on the ground were crying. The Charrnock Woman learned that the children in her hair were missing their families, and so she decided to part with them.||”|
|— Joondalup Mooro Boodjar - Indigenous Culture within Mooro Country|
Different Perspectives Edit
The Dreamtime yarn of the creation of the South West region of Western Australia has many different versions, all particularly dependent on which country one hears the tale. Some of these yarns depict the Charrnock Woman as a maternal, beloved being who collected the children out of love. Others, such as this video, depict the Charrnock Woman as an evil spirit who collected the children with the purpose of feeding them to the Charnok Man, who dwelled in a cave near Katter Kich (Wave Rock). This short audio clip features the Whadjuk Elder Marie Taylor discussing the white hair of Junda, the Charrnock Woman.
This yarn is discussed in a recent interview between historian Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe and widely respected Noongar elder Noel Nannup, where Nannup speaks of the dreaming connection between the Noongar people and the South West region. In this yarn, the strongest spirit in the South West of Western Australia is feminine, or Charrnock Woman. Whadjuk Noongar Elder Noel Nannup stated in an interview with historian Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe that "the strongest spirit in the South West region of Western Australia is feminine". This is embodied in the spiritual presence of the Charrnock Woman, as a tall being with long white hair stretching down her back.
The Charrnock Woman in Contemporary Culture Edit
In 1997 traditional artists Sandra Hill, Jenny Dawson and Miv Egan created this beautiful tribute to the story of the Charnok Woman at the East Perth Public Art display. The rich colours and vibrancy of the Charnok Woman’s hair, coupled with the beautiful and ornate ceramic work are a fitting tribute to such a colourful and intangible Dreamtime story.
Junda's story has also been told through other mediums, such as weaving and embroidery, and the resulting doll from this activity was used in a beautifully made film by the Community Arts Network as part of a series focusing on reviving the old Katitjin stories for use in a contemporary society, and to educate the next generation about yarns and Noongar culture. Ms Geri Hayden (pictured, left) talks about her experience making dolls, and creating this representation of Junda.
|“||One of her dolls, the “Charrnock Woman,” is based on a Dreamtime story about a giant woman who stuck babies in her hair and stole them.
“The Charrnock Woman was stealing all these babies from the community to give to her partner to eat them,” she says. The people called on a good spirit for help, and they were turned into magpies so they could fly high enough to fight the giant baby stealer. “They called it a fight across the Bibbulmun nation far and wide. They drew her off the country, they drove her to Bates Cave.” Ms Hayden says when she tells the story the kids ask “is it true?“ And we tell them it’s a Dreamtime story, it’s a part of us as Noongar people. This is our history. It’s a really good feeling when kids can sit down and listen and want more.
|— as told by David Bell, interviewing Ms Geri Hayden |
This video by the Community Arts Network WA, the Charrnock Woman Animation, shows this yarn in more detail.
- S. __, personal communication, October 30, 2017
- Name= "Nyitting Yarn" http://www.derbalnara.org.au/katitjin
- The Charrnock Woman Yarn http://www.canwa.com.au/project/the-charrnock-woman/
- Joondalup Mooro Boodjar Brochure http://www.joondalup.wa.gov.au/Files/Joondalup_Mooro_Boodjar_Brochure.pdf/
- Name= "From the Dreaming to Modernity: The Story of the Noongar People of Western Australia" https://web.archive.org/web/20160921043701/http://www.daa.wa.gov.au/about-the-department/news/from-the-dreaming-to-modernity
- Stories and Stitches https://perthvoiceinteractive.com/2014/05/29/stories-and-stitches/