Australian Aboriginal

Seven sisters

The Pleiades constellation figures in the Dreamings and songlines of Aboriginal Australian peoples, usually referred to as the seven sisters.

The story has been described as “one of the most defining and predominant meta-narratives chronicled in ancient mainland Australia”, which describes a male ancestral being (with names including Wati Nyiru, Yurlu and others) who pursues seven sisters across the middle of the Australian continent from west to east, where the sisters turn into stars.

Told by a number of peoples across the country, using varying names for the characters, it starts in Martu country in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and travels across the lands of the Ngaanyatjarra to South Australia.

In the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the eagle-hawk chases the seven sisters up into the sky, where they become the star cluster and he becomes the Southern Cross.

Official name: The Pleiades, Nickname: Seven Sisters
The Southern Cross is made up of four or five stars. To find the Southern Cross, use two “pointer stars” Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri to guide the way.

In the Western Desert cultural bloc in central Australia, they are said to be seven sisters fleeing from the unwelcome attentions of a man represented by some of the stars in Orionthe hunter.

Orion the Hunter, the most recognizable constellation

In the Warlpiri version of the story, the Napaljarri sisters are often represented carrying a man called Wardilyka, who is in love with the women. But the morning star, Jukurra-jukurra, a man from a different skin group and who is also in love with the sisters, chases them across the sky. Each night they launch themselves into the sky, and each night he follows them.

The people of around Lake Eyre in South Australia tell how the ancestor male is prevented from capturing one of the seven sisters by a great flood.

The Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation of Victoria tell the Karatgurk story, which tells of how a crow robbed the seven sisters of their secret of how to make fire, thus bringing the skill to the people on earth.

In another story, told by peoples of New South Wales, the seven sisters are beautiful women known as the Maya-Mayi, two of whom are kidnapped by a warrior, Warrumma, or Warunna. They eventually escape by climbing a pine tree that continually grows up into the sky where they join their other sisters.

Home > Seven sisters