Image courtesy of Grahame Kelaher Photography

Lake Ballard and the Seven Sisters Dreaming

The open star cluster known as the Pleiades or "The Seven Sisters"

The open star cluster known as the Pleiades or “The Seven Sisters”

Today, it would seem that we no longer know the Aboriginal name given to Lake Ballard. But we do know that its Aboriginal custodians have been living near it, or visiting it, for well over 10,000 years.  Spiritually, Lake Ballard is intimately associated with a ‘Seven Sisters’ dreaming story.

In the night sky, the ancient Greeks referred to the Seven Sisters as the Pleiades, but globally almost every culture has its own names and history for them. The ‘Sisters’ are among the nearest star clusters to Earth, being most obvious to the naked eye during the winter months in both hemispheres.

In local Aboriginal spirituality, the Seven Sisters Dreaming involves the ‘Sisters’ on one of their nightly exploits. They were cruising across the sky and far below they saw a lake, and decided to go down and play for a while on its surface. They did this, but soon a man started chasing them, very keen to catch the youngest sister. Very frightened, to escape the man, they had to hide.

Today, many of the features of the lake and its surrounds are testament to the identity of the Seven Sisters, the ‘chase’ they endured, and the hiding places where they found safety.

This story has a number of variations (and locations) for differing traditional custodian groups within the vast central region of Western Australia.

In 2002, Paddy Walker, an elder of the Wangkatha people, was standing at the south-western edge of what we now call Lake Ballard, explaining “that island right in front of us, the largest of the islands, that is the oldest of the sisters. The other islands, heading out there, up the lake, are the other sisters, the younger ones…”

For a full account of the Dreaming origins of the landforms on and around Lake Ballard, it is recommended you purchase a copy of Antony Gormley Inside Australia, published by Thames & Hudson.

Banner image courtesy of Grahame Kelaher Photography