Yilpinji Love Magic

This screen print by “Love Story”, relates to the love magic ceremonies of the Warlpiri and Kukatja people (of the Australian Western and Central Deserts)

“A man sings love songs to attract the object of his affections, his desired lover, to him and in the same way a woman may also sing yilpinji to charm a man who is her beloved, and the object of her sexual desire (literally brings the man ‘to her throat’) with powerful love songs…. ‘Waninjawarnu’ [‘from the throat’] is when a man and a woman fall in love with each other in their inner feelings, in their heart and soul [literally throat and stomach] . . .

While the stomach is the principal seat of the emotions for the Warlpiri and the Kukatja, the throat (‘waninja’) is the primary location of sexual love and attraction. Amorous feelings, sexual yearning and attraction are all located, deeply felt and experienced in the throat (as opposed to the heart). Falling in love is described as ‘waninja-nyinami’ (emotion that is literally ‘throat-sitting’ or ‘throat-located’). When Warlpiri and Kukatja people fall in love, it gets them in the throat, not in the heart. For this reason special significance relates to necklaces and other body adornments worn about the neck, close to one’s throat, and they are often used in ceremonies pertaining to love. Often these are woven out of hairstring and used in yilpinji ceremonies . . .

The Kukatja and the Warlpiri people have powerful traditions of love magic rituals and ceremonies, involving the singing of secret love songs as well as other forms of artistic expression. Sometimes this involves the painting of special designs onto their bodies or the production of ‘love objects’ to enact these ceremonies.”

(Christine Nicholls)

Women inherit their Yilpinji knowledge from their mothers, and they transmit this knowledge to their daughters. It has been this way for thousands of years. But in many cases now the link between young people and community/culture has been severed. Indigenous people who are isolated from country, from traditional knowledge, and from community, have a higher risk of mental illness and suicide.

Judy Watson



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