Namarrkon (Lightning Man)
Namarrkon is the Lightning Man, the source of the fierce tropical storms in Western Arnhem Land during the big wet. During the dry season Namarrkon lives in a billabong not far from Numbuwah, a sacred rock in Western Arnhem Land, only venturing out occasionally to hunt for food around his lagoon. In the wet season Namarrkon lives among the storm clouds, sitting down and watching the people below.
This is the time he is angry and creates flashes of lightning, loud thunder and then torrential rain. From late October Namarrkon’s thunder signals bush tucker is ready to harvest. This is the start of the ‘build-up’ season before the proper rains come. Namarrkon’s presence gets stronger through the wet season. In January and February Namarrkon strikes trees and splits them with lightening. Namarrkon’s presence and hence the monsoon season subsides in early March.
Namarrkon’s body is shaped like a praying-mantis. He makes lightning flashes with lightning rods that go around his body from his ears to his genitals. In this painting Namarrkon’s power to light up the sky is expressed by the wild illuminated face of the figure, energetic hatching, arched elbow and flexed hands. He is often depicted with stone axes attached to his knees and elbows. No one ventures near this lagoon or touches the bush food near Namarrkon’s camp. He therefore remains undisturbed and happy, and only growls in his ‘thunder voice’ if someone comes too close.
Namarrkon is honoured in song and dance during ceremonies, so that he remains content and does not alter the balance of the seasons.