“According to the Mandalbingu people, a long time ago the sky was very close to the Earth and it was dark. Everyone had to crawl about the earth in darkness. The intelligent magpies decided that if they worked together they could raise the sky upwards to create more room for all. They did this by lifting the sky upwards by using long sticks. As they pushed the sky even higher it suddenly split open to usher in the first sunrise The blanket of darkness broke up into fragments and drifted away as clouds. The magpies burst into song and from that time onwards they have greeted the sunrise with their warbling song.”
(Ragbir Bhathal, Aboriginal Astronomy)
This story has not strayed far from my thoughts for days.
Since reading the Mandalbingu story, I have been thinking back to farm life and the magpies I observed doing something that seemed pretty remarkable to me. For years up there on the hill, I observed a group of magpies regularly gathering on my lawn, arranged in a circle staring at each other for a long time, with the occasional warble.
It was a thrilling thing to watch because, in no other way can you describe it as some sort of intentional mapgie conference.
A conversation amongst elders?
Swapping songs? Sharing?
Or, as I now understand it, raising the sky: