Patjala – Traditional healing in the Western Desert

Patjala is a Martu Aboriginal word which literally means ‘to bite.’ In a traditional medical context the term also denotes the deep sucking or cupping action of the shaman or mapantjara when he bites and sucks the affected part of a client’s body in order to remove the harmful affliction believed to be causing his or … Continued

Ochre: an ancient remedy

Indigenous West Australians once used animal fat mixed together with finely ground red ochre wilgi as a treatment for a range of skin infections and wounds. Greasing the skin with a fatty unguent protected the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun, insulated the body from the cold and deterred biting insects.  When animal fats were … Continued

Mapantjara: the desert shaman

Mapantjara is the traditional name of the Western Desert shaman or “Clever Man,” who was commonly referred to as “Mapan” by my indigenous informants at Wiluna in Western Australia. He is reputed to cure illness through his great knowledge of magic and ability to control mystical powers. Not only does he have the ability to … Continued