Australian aboriginal tales, rainbow serpent

Aboriginal Dreamtime: The Rainbow Serpent


In the Aboriginal Australian myth, Rainbow Serpent meanders like a snaking river across the landscape, sunlight reflecting the spectrum of colors. He inhabits permanent waterholes and controls precious oils and waters.

Eddie Blitner, Mimi Spirits and Rainbow Serpent
Painting by Eddie Blitner / Mimi Spirits and Rainbow Serpent – Aboriginal Art Australia

Goorialla, The Great Rainbow Serpent, Way Back in Dreamtime

In the middle of the country, the great serpent rested for a while as he was sick. He had eaten one of the great red kangaroos that he considered his to take as he wished. But it had been too old and tough and hard to digest. Goorialla spewed it up again and left it lying in the desert. Many years later his people found the remains and called this great red lump Uluru.

The Rainbow Serpent

The Rainbow Serpent participates in the creation of the world in so many of the Aboriginal Myths of Dreamtime. From OZJThomas

The Legend of the Rainbow Serpent

Far off in Dreamtime, there were only people, no animals or birds, no trees or bushes, no hills or mountains.

The country was flat. Goorialla, the great Rainbow Serpent, stirred and set off to look for his own tribe. He travelled across Australia from South to North. He reached Cape York where he stopped and made a big red mountain called Naralullgan. He listened to the wind and heard only voices speaking strange languages.

STORY: Spirit Talk: Stories of Traditional Healers of Central Australia

Goorialla carves out lagoon at fairfield
Goorialla carves out lagoon at Fairfield. From “Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories,” Story by Dick Goobalathaldin Roughsey, Film Narration by David Gulpilil, Soundtrack by Andrew Vial. Photographed and edited by Alexander Cochran, Artwork adapted by Stephanie Adams, Book published by Collins, 1975, Film produced by Weston Woods.

This is not my country, the people here speak a different tongue. I must look for my own people. Goorialla left Naralullgan and his huge body made a deep gorge where he came down. He traveled North for many days and his tracks made the creeks and rivers as he journeyed North. Goorialla made two more mountains, one of the Naradunga was long made of granite, the other had sharp peaks and five caves and was called, Minalinha.

One day Goorialla heard singing and said, “Those are my people, they are holding a big Bora.” At the meeting place of the two rivers, Goorialla found his own people singing and dancing. He watched for a long time, then he came out and was welcomed by his people. He showed the men how to dress properly and taught them to dance. A big storm was gathering, so all the people built humpies for shelter.

Two young men, the bil-bil or Rainbow Lorikeet brothers came looking for shelter but no one had any room. They asked their grandmother, the Star Woman but she had too many dogs and couldn’t help them. The Bil-bil brothers went to Goorialla who was snoring in his humpy but he had no room.

STORY: Ch´ol Creation Story: The Origin of Life on Earth

Australian aboriginal stories, children stories, the rainbow serpentThe rain got heavier and the boys went back to Goorialla and called out that the rain was heavy. Goorialla said, “All right come in now.” The Bil-bil bothers ran into Goorialla’s mouth and he swallowed them. Then he began to worry about what the people would say when they found the boys missing. He decided to travel North to Bora-bunaru, the only great natural mountain in the land. Next morning the people found that the boys were gone and saw the tracks of Goorialla and knew that he had swallowed them.

You may never see these lakes or mountains, but after the rain you will see his spirit in the sky, which is the rainbow. This is the reason why he is called Goorialla the Rainbow Serpent.


The Aboriginal Australian Rainbow Serpent meanders like a snaking river across the landscape, sunlight reflecting the spectrum of colours. He inhabits permanent waterholes and controls precious oils and waters. Unpredictable, he vies with the ever-burning Sun, replenishing stores of water, forming gullies and deep channels as he slithers across the land, collecting and distributing the rivers of life.

Dreamtime stories tell of the great spirits and totems during creation, in animal and human form they molded the barren and featureless earth. The Rainbow Serpent came from beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains and gorges as it pushed upward. The Rainbow Serpent is known as Ngalyod by the Gunwinggu and Borlung by the Miali. He is a serpent of immense proportions which inhabits deep permanent waterholes. Descended from that larger being visible as a dark streak in the Milky Way, it reveals itself to people in this world as a rainbow as it moves through water and rain, shaping landscapes, naming and singing of places, swallowing and sometimes drowning people; strengthening the knowledgeable with rainmaking and healing powers; blighting others with sores, weakness, illness, and death.

STORY: Ecological Amnesia: Life Without Wild Things

The Trails of the Rainbow Serpents

“Long, long, long time ago in the Dreamtime,
the Balladong people, the tribe of the Nyoongar people,
there was a great explosion,
as the Earth was being formed.
Boyagin rock erupted and out of the rocks came the Waggles – The Giant Rainbow Serpents”


Dreamtime Stories – NineOneTwo

Dick Roughsey – The Rainbow Serpent – Angus and Robertson, 1993

Rainbow Serpent on Wikipedia

Eddie Blitner – Artlandish

Updated 20 March 2023

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Pingback: Baja California: An "Earthly Paradise" in the Desert |

  2. Aboriginal Artwork

    Generally I can’t read post on weblogs, on the other hand would want to point out that the following write-up really urged me personally to perform consequently! Your current publishing style has been amazed everyone. Appreciate it, really terrific article.

  3. Pingback: Walkabout: Following Songlines Beyond the Western Frame |

  4. Pingback: Charming snakes – "Hey Momma"

  5. Karen Smith

    The painting by sussane illes has stolen symbolism
    She is not allowed to paint the mimi spirits or the dreamtime stories stealing aboriginal way of painting
    Please remove this artwork

  6. Pingback: Il serpente arcobaleno – Pillole di Folklore # 27 – Pillole di Folklore e Scrittura

  7. Pingback: Spirit Talk: Stories of Traditional Healers of Central Australia

  8. Pingback: A Retelling of the Rainbow Serpent Using Memes – OF MYTHS AND STORIES

  9. Pingback: What Is The Aboriginal Name For The Rainbow Serpent? The 11 New Answer -

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.