Fire becomes rain becomes fire

The Warlpiri sacred site Kurlpurlunu,recently rediscovered after being lost for 70 years, is used for rainmaking ceremonies (among other things). For the Warlpiri rain (ngapa) and fire (warlu) are closely related – in this world and also in the Jukurrpa (the Dreaming). Rainmaking knowledge is held by those with the skin names Jampijinpa/Nampijinpa and Jangala/Nangala.

In one Fire Dreaming (Warlu Jukurrpa) ceremony, two men carry firesticks away from its source, in opposite directions, to create a double hunting fire (lirramirni). The rising plume of hot smoke mixes with the colder air at altitude, condensing water vapor into a fluffy cloud (Pyrocumulus – from the Greek ‘Pyro’ for fire). When this cloud becomes anvil shaped it produces rain. And just as fire brings rain, sometimes the anvil shaped clouds produce lightning – fire becomes rain and rain becomes fire again.

The practice of using fire to create rain is still used today in the Tanami desert, particularly in rainmaking sites. This photograph was taken just outside Lajamanu community in 2015 during a traditional burn.

Warlpiri elders are passing their knowledge onto the next generation of warriors, featherfoots, rangers, healers and teachers. They’re producing an app to reconnect young Aboriginal people with country, to create resilience and prevent suicides. You can support Kurdiji 1.0 Aboriginal suicide prevention app by donating at and sharing the campaign.


(photograph by Judith Crispin)

One thought on “Fire becomes rain becomes fire

  1. Excellent initiative! A friend of mine has been telling me a lot about this project!
    If theres any way I can offer my photographic services – please let me know!


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