Tag Archives: Mary Graham


Traveling up the great chain of being toward the world soul, we may get in touch with things that precede any capability of verbalization, that seem to reach out for contact, that are learning to communicate in a language we can understand – Ralph Abraham


Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright: the Dancing Fairies

Something that has grown as an actor in my research is the word entity; it is a symbol of the more-than-human world, and all of things within, which we are being with when we are walking and dwelling with country. John Law (2004) uses the metaphors ‘impossible, or barely possible, unthinkable or almost unthinkable’ to try to describe slippery entities (but he never actually names them…). I imagine these tricky entities lurking in shadows, whispering to us in our dreams and showing themselves when we least expect them to. But are they really there: perhaps non-physical but autonomous in their existence? Or are they, as Jung suggests, mere projections of our own minds (Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham 2001)? Does it matter? If we are to imagine an existence without the presence of entities, does it mean that we automatically inherent a disenchanted, mechanistic world? So entrenched is the atomistic and mechanistic view of the world, that it seems unimaginable that past western societies communed with all sorts of entities that now only inhabit our ‘fairy tale’ storybooks. Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham (2001) question, what if ‘they/we’ (the collective consciousness that continues to perpetuate the modern scientific paradigm) got it wrong?

The eradication of spirit from the visible world has been a project prosecuted with great zeal throughout the rise of modern science. An admission that this project overlooked something as fundamental as a communicating intelligent agency co-present with is on this planet would be more than a dangerous admission of the failure of an intellectual method. It would pretty much seal the bankruptcy of that method (p. 94).

Our Western ancestors and some descendents would call the names of these entities: elves, fairies, sprites, genius and the like, but what about the things that we feel which lack physical form but still feel… sense… yet, grasp to comprehend… What do we name these things?

Walking the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail I see the physical form of country, and slowly I awaken to ‘seeing through feeling’ (Roe and Hoogland 1999), through my liyan, and ‘see’ the country in new light. I am attracted to things that seem to beckon me forth – trees, lagoons, sand dunes, the full moon – but they are tangible. Then there is the feeling in each place, the liyan of that place as Goolarabooloo might say. Is the feeling of each place a memory of the ritual and dwelling that has been performed there one generation after the next? As I write this I think of the ash from fires mounting up and being sucked back into the earth with the rains, then the cycle being repeated again and again. Perhaps the liyan of a place is an entity, a spirit dwelling there, anticipating and recognising us on our return. Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham (2001) question too whether the morphic resonance (memory) of a place is like a spirit.

A few weeks ago I explored in conversation with a group of women our experiences with non-human entities. We shared stories about our experiences with old trees, stones, and places that called to us. Someone in the conversation brought up the idea that if we allow ourselves to listen to our intuitive sense, we are attracted to entities (trees of whatever they may be). We asked each other, what would it be like to embody attraction as a way of being? When I shared this conversation with another friend amongst tall trees in the tropics, it resonated with her deeply. She told me stories about the places she has been attracted to as a child,  which she then journeyed to as an adult. I asked her, did she have a sense that these places had ‘called her’ to be with them so that they could teach her something? I makes me think about all the places I have felt called to, whether they be Gurambai, the creek near to where I live, Wamoon down south, or the lagoon at Ngunungkurrukun; are they pulling me towards them to reveal something, about themselves or about being with? And again I fall back into the words of Kombu Merri woman Mary Graham (2009) ‘the world reveals itself to us and to itself – we don’t “discover” anything,’ (p. 75).


Filed under Theory, Uncategorized

The Land makes us

I have returned to the literature of Kombu-merri woman Mary Graham, who writes about storytelling as an Indigenous methodology that is grounded in place. Graham (2009) writes:

The inclusion of Place in a story provides an authentic explanation of how and why something comes into the world. This in turn provides a balance between agency, whether human or spiritual, and point of origin or Place. Balance and re­balance is achieved when Place is used like an ontological compass (p. 75).


Place, as an Aboriginal category, implies that there is no division between the observing mind and anything else: there is no “external world” to inhabit. There are distinctions between the physical and the spiritual, but these aspects of existence continually interpenetrate each other. There is never a barrier between the mind and the Creative; the whole repertoire of what is possible continually presents or is expressed as an infinite range of Dreamings (Graham 2009, p. 76).

I like the way that Graham addresses dualism and creates metaphors for a unified existence between people-place. She speaks beautifully about the agency of Land in her interview with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio.

The way Graham speaks about Land – as a great life force and the holder of knowledge – reminds me of Paddy Roe’s description of Living Country – land that is alive and has the agency to act upon us and reveal itself to us when we are ready to learn. In, Listen to the People, Listen to the Land, Frans Hoogland (1999) describes Living Country as:

… where the land is whole and complete; where the interaction between people and land is alive through law and culture; where the spirit of the land is ‘standing up’, and ‘vibrant’ (p. 30).

The dynamic relationship between people and place is most often depicted from the perspective of human direct experience by non-Indigenous writers. It is so important that Indigenous people’s perspectives rise to the surface to voice their perspectives and give voice to the Land. Graham talks about the recognition that Land has of its people in her interview:

…The Land knows its own people, because it hears the language of its own people and it’s, I know it sounds a bit odd, but it’s sweat, it recognises the sweat of people and they know, ‘Ah yes, that’s the sweat of the people, our people, my people, the people that belong to this area and that sweat, that other people’s sweat I don’t recognise that,’ that land is saying…

Her edict, I am located therefore I am, puts place at the heart of identity and belonging, and I am reminded again of what is slowly coming up and becoming visible, seeking to emerge; narratives of belonging for settler people and subsequent generations through a deep acknowledgement that we are becoming of this place and are becoming of this home, but based on a deep respect and reverence of Indigenous peoples who have always been at home because this country is theirs.

Graham, M 1999, ‘Some Thoughts about the Philosophical Underpinnings of Aboriginal Worldviews’, Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture & Ecology, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 105.

Roe, P & Hoogland, F 1999, ‘Black and white, a trail to understanding’, in J Sinatra & P Murphy (eds), Listen to the People, Listen to the Land, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, pp. 11-30.

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Filed under Research Methodology, Theory