SIX SEASONS CYCLE
Each season is characterised by changes in the environment
In Australia, most Indigenous nations follow a six-season cycle which is determined by the subtle flow and change of weather, and the animals and plants that responded to these changes.
Six season cycles are distinct from the introduced four-seasonal European calendar. Each is characterised by changes in the environment: the flowering, fruiting and seeding cycles of local plants; the changes in weather, temperature and wind direction; the presence of insects; the breeding cycles of fauna on land and in the sea; the presence of certain constellations in the night sky, the fatness and skinniness of species; the magnitude of tides. Aboriginal people eat and exist in harmony with the Earth. Ecocentric living above the ego is the spiritual + psychological interconnectedness + communion of Aboriginal living.
The seasons recognised on Currie Country + known locally are:
Nungalgiri (summer), Bumtu (autumn), Yarga (pre-winter), Warringin (winter), Jubei (pre-spring) + Kujei (spring).
NUNGALGIRI – SUMMER
SEASON OF CHUNGUNN/ MUGGERA (LIGHTENING/THUNDERSTORMS)
Begins late November
Ends early January
This is the rainy season, with magnificent sunsets and storms and occurs around November to late January. However, rain may start to fall early November, or it may start much later. Sometimes it might just rain for a short period of time; the length of this season varies according to the duration of the rainfall. Plant growth is rapid.
The rain softened ground enables young shoots to push their way through to grow. Insects are abundant and multiplying rapidly and soon the pools will be full of tadpoles and mosquito larvae.
In the evenings bilin (flying foxes) can be seen flying in big groups as they leave the mangroves, heading to the fruiting trees in the bush. This time of year, people avoid walking through thick grass growth due to snakes that are everywhere now. Ngaurm (lizards) are still too skinny to hunt.
Temperatures and rainfall increase, thunderstorms and hail. Kinyingarra (oysters) and pipis (yugari) are fat. Many baby birds are begging, there is a massive insect explosions. Borobi (koalas) are breeding, cicadas are calling. Grasstree and Christmas bells flower, especially after a bushfire. Pigface are ripe on the coast. Gums shedding their bark and Cunjevoi peak flowering,
BUMTU - AUTUMN
SEASON OF THE BUMTU (BLOODWOODS)
Begins late January
Ends late March
Pink/Yellow Bloodwoods flowing in surrounding areas of Far North NSW. Bilin(flying fox), nyombil (lorikeets) and sugar gliders feed on bloodwoods. Hot and humid peak flood and cyclone season. Jirun (frogs) peak breeding. Winter migrating birds are leaving + jurun (eels) are fat for eating.
The weather is still hot and the humidity high. Soon the rain will stop. Bamtu is the time when bush foods are plentiful and a lot of different gajul (fat) ripe bush fruit are available. The plants that flowered during Chungunn/Muggera are now in fruit.
Due to the abundance of sustaining water in the bush, wallabies and other animals can move freely. All the ngaurm (lizards) are fat after feeding on the abundant supply of insects.
Ngaurm (lizards) are now easy to catch because it doesn't move as fast when fat.
Kabul (carpet snake) get ready to have their young now. Many bush birds arrive this time of year to eat the nectar and fruit from the trees. The honey-eaters, berry-eaters and insect-eaters are the most common birds during this time. The rainwater that lay as puddles and pools on top of the ground in Bamtu quickly evaporate. Tadpoles have become taran (frogs) and mosquitoes have multiplied. People burn wood to keep them away.
Towards the end of the season pnland Bamtu tree is in full flower. Grass seeds are dry now and the south-east winds start to blow. The Yarga (winds) arrives.
Bloodwoods are (Eucalyptus dampieri/ Eucalyptus polycarpa). They are also used as a painkiller for toothache. It's gum is rubbed directly on the area of the pain.
YARGA - PRE WINTER
SEASON OF THE GOYUNG (SEA MULLET)
Ends late May
Yarga begins late May
It is the season when the first westerly yarga (winds) start to blow, layers of mist at Meerschaum Vale. Paperbark peak flowering, swamp mahogany flowering late in the season. Watch for noisy friarbirds, yellow-faced honeyeaters and Eastern spinebills coming from the south and the ranges feed on nectar.
The ijun (dry grass) seeds are knocked off. The waterholes continue to dry up and eventually only the more permanent ones will have water.
The nights and mornings begin to get cold and people light fires at night to keep warm. The dum (bush yams) are dug up from the shallow sands and eaten raw or cooked in hot ash.
The colour of the ocean changes and the reef fish are still skinny. Salmon head towards the creeks to lay their eggs. All ngaurm (lizards) continue to be fat throughout and dig their holes in readiness to hibernate over the cold time.
Towards the end of Yarga, the nights get colder and fogs Jirum (frost) starts to occur. In the early morning sky, once the Jirun (seven sisters stars) can be seen rising in the skies people know Yarga has come.
Hairy grubs are making their lines across the ground signalling the sea mullets are approaching + heading in. We do not catch the first fish we catch the second rounds + beyond. The babies lead + teenagers - adults.
SEASON OF THE WONGARA (FLOWERS)
Ends Late July
Cold time. Shortest days. West + southwest winds. Wintertime! Sea and nights are cooler. Peak number of east cost lows. Rainforest pigeons feeding on camphor laurel fruit. Whales can be seen migrating north along the coast. Sea bream spawning. Peak nectar time for honeyeaters, feeding on the masses of banksia flowers. Wallum taran (froglets) calling, Tuckeroo flowering, forest red gum starting to flower. Reptiles resting up.
The jirun (seven sisters) can be seen in the eastern part of the early morning sky and shine more and more brightly. The nights and morning become even colder. The south-east winds blow strongly and some rain may fall but not enough to fill waterholes. In the sea the salmon, and goyung (sea mullet) are fat. In the bush, the ngaurm (lizards) are still fat but are in hibernation and a lot of plant food is available.
JUBEI - PRE SPRING
SEASON OF THE JUBEI (MUD CRAB)
Begins late July
Ends early Sept
Jubei season begins around late July early August till early September, a transition time when the weather starts to warm up.
Drying out and winds can be strong, first hint of the northerly winds. Birds starting to sing, and build nests. Turtles and echidnas start moving around and are fat for eating. Old People do say don’t eat the first echidna after winter. The coastal acacia peak. Some heaths are flowering. Banksia still flowering. Grey mangrove mass ripe fruit.
People take advantage of the low spring tides to explore the reef which offers an abundance of jalumm (fish) such as snapper, mogim (sea perch). Shell fish on the reef are also fat. A walk in the mangroves can be rewarding as the kinyingarra (oysters) and mangrove jubei (crabs) are now fat at this time.
Towards the end of the season, the days become very hot and humid, making the arrival of kujei (honey bees).
KUJEI - SPRING
SEASON OF THE KUJEI (HONEY BEE)
Begins late Sept
Ends early November
Generally the driest season, north winds. Peak birdsong, Goanna are fat. Turtle are fat when silky oak flowering. Humpback whales migrating south.
Kujei is the time of the build-up to the Wet. The days are very hot and the air is humid. In the bush Wattle pods are dry and have split open. People search the trunks of Bloodwoods and Inland Bloodwood trees for the kujei honey bee wax entrance to its nest. The kujei (big bee honey) or kabei (small bee honey) is removed and the nest resealed up.
Gradually the rain clouds build up and the north-west winds blow harder. In the distance thunder can be heard after lightning flashes.
Jilbi(stingray) are fat and people search along the water's edge to spear them. The hunter has to be careful of the spike at its tail. If poked, the poisoned blood has to be squeezed out. Goanna ngaurum are fat, pingin (turtles) are fat when silky oak is flowering, swamp lily flowers telling us its spring. Humpback whales migrating south. Insects increase. Northern migrant birds arrive. Channel Billed and brush cuckoos, dollar birds, spectacled monarch, leaden flycatchers, vine flowering.
All the reef fish and shell foods are still fat. In the evening sky the clouds that come in from over the sea indicate that it is mating time for turtles ('married turtle time') and that their eggs will soon be found on the beach.
The pingin (turtle) nest on Fingal Head beach and the pingin nursery is located on the marine shelf surrounding Cook Island off the coast of Fingal Head Becah. Pingin has always been part of the Currie family diet and killing pingin was mens business and when the pingin was coked the fat like a luxurious fat used for babies skin or chafing or injury, and as an oil for moisturising and the flesh of the pigin is eaten after a ceremony of gratitude.
Heath flowers end when the first rains fall.
Aboriginal Australian also use astronomical movements, particularly of stars or certain constellations—often their heliacal rising, which is the time when they are first visible on the eastern horizon just before sunrise—to track time + mark events. As well as calendar systems based on observations of weather + changes in climate, flowering + fruiting of plants + behaviour of animals within the environment in which people live. Perfect sense in a society that depends upon + manages its environment, where observations of how the landscape + food sources change over time are essential for survival.
Currie descendants observe the seven sister constellation + changes in climate + environment to keep time.