Spencer & Gillen

A journey through Aboriginal Australia

Sketch of Emu Intitchiuma Ceremony

Physical Description

Black and red ink sketch on large single sheet, one side only. Depicting figures in ceremonial performance. Annotations and explanatory text throughout.


Single Page

Road cleared by party in waiting by which Inwurra party carrying Churinga approach. Party are not visible until they enter this space. About 300 yards.

Inwurra party approaching at run leading men carrying Churinga initiates zigzagging course of Emu running. All expect the leading man carry spears, shields and boomerangs.

V shaped column shouting Oorwai! Oorwai! As they approach about 35 in number all decorated with Undattha and Charcoal and some with sticks whittled stuck in the hair etc.

Showing appearance of bundle of Churinga covered with a great number of Immeetnya the inner covering consists of Ooleara the bundle is carried at about this angle above the head of the leading man who imitates the attitudes and zigzagging course of an Emu running. White rings on upper half are of Undattha [?] bundle is round not flat [?] about 30 wooden Churinga contained in bundle [?] of various sizes [?] see picture two old men displaying them to me [?].

[?] Dotted lines indicate course of leading old man who carried Churinga he was simply painted a deep from head to foot no other adornment [?].
This figure without spear and shield and with Churinga bundle held at proper angle above head indicates attitude of approaching leading man.

Tree in which platform is erected to hold Churinga when not in use at the ceremonial ground. When the bundle of Churinga is deposited in the shield all squat down opposite to the party who have been awaiting their arrival [?] the shields only being between them. They all sing for a minute or two then the head man of the Inwurra begins unpacking [?].

When the Inwurra is sighted by men within yellow fringed square the latter shout Erlea! Erlea! Erlea! (Emu) and then sing until the Churinga bundle is deposited in the shield.

Man sitting with stick.

Party squatting facing east singing and awaiting arrival of Inwurra party The men squatting at a little distance on each side hold short heavy sticks with which each in turn strikes the ground heavily They begin doing this after a messenger arrives announcing the approach of Inwurra this occurs half an hour before they arrive.

Two large shields in one of which the leading man lays the bundle of Churinga and in which when unpacked the Churinga are stacked The Immeetnya and Ooleara are stacked separately.
Shield containing damper and Immeetnya.
Man sitting with stick.

Shows position of Churinga - Ilpintira which represents the internal economy [?] of the Emu after the Churinga are unpacked all go and sit around here singing and the old men whispering explanations of the drawing. This sacred drawing is when not being actually used covered over with bush.

Note The backs of men taking part in ceremony are painted in ochre various colours mixed with grease designs being copied from the Ilpintira.

The red line represents space cleared and swept for ceremonies.
Hills behind ceremonial ground scrubby.
Open Country.

These three old men who are called Inneeakwa meaning the ancestral fathers are decorated before daylight on the following morning the Churinga which are fixed to their heads are also decorated with red white and yellow colours bunches of emu feathers in the centre of which is placed a few of the bright coloured tail feathers of the black cockatoo are tied to the top of the Churinga the Inneeakwa escorted by the whole party of men cross the hills just as the sun is rising and upon arriving at the edge of the open country they take up position here photographed and await arrival of Lubras and children who are summoned to attend by the IIluera i.e. the men whose breasts and backs are decorated and who represent the young emus throughout the ceremonies. Some Illurea went on ahead to summon the Lubras and in each instance they brought them along at a run until the spot set apart for them to stand at was reached. As soon as the Lubras halted the Inneeakwa without shifting their feet imitated the movement of Emu the bunch of feathers in their hands representing wings the Lubras watched intently and presently the Inneeakwa glided (not walked) along a few feet nearer their audience while the women uttered cries of alarm an the repeated the previous movement finally they made a little run upon which the men shouted and the women and children fled being impelled on by the warning shouts of the men who waved one hand in their direction and one towards the Inneeakwa as if wishing to drive both parties back to the respective camps. The Inneeakwa then turned and ran back over the hills to their ceremonial ground where the Churinga were taken off and their head dresses removed. This exhibition before the women took place during two days in the morning at sunrise and in the evenings just before sunset twice each day.

Position of all men who are attending the ceremonies those decorated on breasts and backs stand in front about 100 yards from the Inneeakwa.
Note Immeelnya = fur string used by men as head dress.
Ooleara = hair waiste girdles.
Shows relative position of women and children who are grouped watching the Inneeakwa about 200 yards distant.
Main camps about one mile from where the women stand.
F.J.G 13/3/96

Rights: Barr Smith Library

Document Details

Date Made
Mar 13th 1896
Northern Territory


Language Groups


Barr Smith Library
unnumbered doc19


Ceremony Type
Primary Subject
Secondary Subject