Journalist, historian and naturalist living in Perth's eastern suburbs.
Published June 19th 2018
The Rainbow Serpent Has Arisen - And It Rocks
In the backblocks of WA's central Wheatbelt is an astonishing rock formation which, if not for its isolation, would be a major tourist attraction.
Towering over bush off a dirt road north of Kellerberrin, the unsuitably named Shark's Mouth Rock looks like nothing less than the head and shoulders of a gigantic serpent rising, jaws agape, from the earth – and to indigenous people that's exactly what it represents.
The outcrop looks like a huge serpent with its jaws agape.
In Noongar lore the Waugyl or Rainbow Serpent is the living spirit of fresh water. Its titanic writhings and burrowings created the rivers, lakes, caves and hills, and its huge coils could be seen travelling from waterhole to waterhole in the form of the rainbow.
The awe-inspiring outcrop outside Kellerberrin represents physical evidence for this belief and is an important sacred site for the Noongar people, as well as one of the most perfect natural sculptures I've ever seen.
Not only has it eroded to produce a lifelike gaping mouth complete with a concave upper palate and wide tongue, it also has indents where the eyes should be. Whether these are natural or were added by human hands in the distant past is hard to tell.
Handprints inside the upper jaw of Shark's Mouth Rock.
Inside the upper jaw are half a dozen hand prints left, according to an elder who showed me the site, by young women travelling from outside Noongar country to take up with local husbands. Shark's Mouth Rock was where they were instructed in Noongar ways by women elders and told how their own Dreaming trails linked to those in Noongar territory.
It is easy to imagine the huge rock head in its former glory as the focus of ancient nighttime ceremonies, its features animated by the flicker of campfires and its flanks echoing the Noongars' traditional songs.
It's easy to see why the outcrop was a focus of Aboriginal culture.
Situated on private property surrounded by natural bush and marked only by a small sign on a farm gate, Shark's Mouth Rock's ancient majesty still commands an instinctive respect and never fails to impress and fascinate everyone who sees it.
This is illustrated by the fact that there is no litter or graffiti at the site – and the fact that I'm leaving it up to you to find out exactly where it is.