IN THE DREAM TIME, many ages ago, the cluster of stars which we now know as the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, were seven beautiful ice maidens. Their parents were a great rugged mountain whose dark head was hidden in the clouds, and an ice-cold stream that flowed from the snow-clad hills. The Seven Sisters wandered across the land, with their long hair flying behind them like storm clouds before the breeze. Their cheeks were flushed with the kiss of the sun, and in their eyes was hidden the soft, grey light of the dawn. So entrancing was their beauty, that all men loved them, but the maidens’ affections were as cold as the stream which gave them birth, and they never turned aside in their wanderings to gladden the hearts of men.
One day a man named Wurrunnah, by a cunning device, captured two of the maidens, and forced them to live with him, while their five sisters travelled to their home in the sky. When Wurrunnah discovered that the sisters whom he had captured were ice-maidens, whose beautiful tresses were like the icicles that drooped from the trees in winter time, he was disappointed. So he took them to a camp fire, and endeavored to melt the cold crystals from their beautiful limbs. But, as the ice melted, the water quenched the fire, and he succeeded only in dimming their icy brightness.
The two sisters were very lonely and sad in their captivity, and longed for their home in the clear blue sky. When the shadow of night was over the land, they could see their five sisters beckoning to them as they twinkled afar off. One day Wurrunnah told them to gather pine-bark in the forest. After a short journey, they came to a great pine tree, and commenced to strip the bark from it. As they did so, the pine tree (which belonged to the same totem as the maidens) extended itself to the sky. The maidens took advantage of this friendly act, and climbed to the home of their sisters. But they never regained their original brightness, and that is the reason why there are five bright stars and two dim ones in the group of the Pleiades. The Seven Sisters have not forgotten the earth folk. When the snow falls softly they loose their wonderful tresses to the caress of the breeze, to remind us of their journey across our land.
When the Seven Sisters were on Earth, of all the men who loved them the Berai Berai, or two brothers, were the most faithful. When they hunted in the forest, or waited in the tall reeds for the wild ducks, they always brought the choicest morsels of the chase as an offering to the Sisters. When the maidens wandered far across the mountains, the Berai Berai followed them, but their love was not favored.
When the maidens set out on their long journey to the sky, the Berai Berai were grieved, and said: “Long have we loved you and followed in your foot steps, O maidens of the dawn, and, when you have left us’ we will hunt no more.” And they laid aside their weapons and mourned for the maidens until the dark shadow of death fell upon them. When they died, the fairies pitied them, and placed them in the sky, where they could hear the Sisters singing. Thus were they happily rewarded for their constancy. On a starry night, you will see them listening to the song of the Seven Sisters. We call them Orion’s Sword and Belt, but it is a happier thought to remember them as the faithful lovers who have listened to the song of the stars from the birth of time. — Recounted by W. J. Thomas