Importantly, in Aboriginal Australia, these figures and their attendant narratives provide a valuable source of knowledge about the hazards of specific places and environments. Most important of all is their social function in terms of engendering fear and caution in young children, commensurate with the very real environmental perils that they inevitably encounter.
The monstrousness of many, although not all, of these monstrous Desert Beings lies in their particular disposition towards cannibalism. In the farthest reaches of the Western Desert, in the Pilbara region, the brilliant although largely unheralded Martu artist and animator Yunkurra Billy Atkins creates extraordinarily graphic images of cannibal beings, including babies see animation still, below.
These ancient, malevolent Ngayurnangalku Cannibal Beings have sharp pointy teeth and curved, claw-like fingernails. They reside beneath a salt lake, Kumpupirntily Lake Disappointment. In those environs they have been known to stalk and to feast on human prey — to be precise, Martu people. This unnerving environment is grounded in an equally unnerving narrative. Kumpupirntily is home to the fearsome Ngayurnangalku, ancestral cannibal beings who continue to live today beneath the vast salt-lake.
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As Billy Atkins avows :. In this respect, monstrous figures reflect what could be described as the potential vulnerabilities and fault-lines of specific Aboriginal societies and locations. This is so the world over. The belief system relating to Mamu activity has extended into the post-contact lives of older Anangu people. This is demonstrated by the elderly Pitjantjatjara people who accounted for the mushroom cloud released by the British program of testing atomic bombs at Maralinga on Anangu land as evidence of Mamu wrath and fury at being disturbed in their underground dwelling places and therefore rising up in a huge, angry dustcloud.
Wati Nyiru chases the Kungkarangkalpa, the celestial star sisters comprising the constellation known to the ancient Greeks as the Pleiades, through the night sky, with sexual conquest among other things on his mind. The Warlpiri Pangkarlangu, which extends further across the Central and Western Deserts, usually wears a woven hair-string belt around his middle. This accoutrement is closely connected to his foul purposes. Pangkarlangu, huge lumbering bestial humanoids, roam the desert in search of their desired quarry.
In their spare time, they fight one another.
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Pangkarlangu grab their prey by their little legs, upending them quickly, head down, tiny arms akimbo. Warlpiri adults who are successful hunters use a similar technique to seize good-sized goannas or bluetongue lizards by their tails, in order to prevent them from inflicting deep scratches or painful gashes on the arms or hands of their captors. The Pangkarlangu models his baby-execution method on those human hunters of small game, killing the infants swiftly and expertly - by dashing their brains out on the hard red earth, in a single blow.
After slaying his defenceless victim, a Pangkarlangu will string its little body around his waist, tying its legs onto his hairstring belt, so that its head dangles and bobs up and down as he strides along. Then the Pangkarlangu makes a fire, chucking the dead tots onto the ashes, after which he settles down to gorge himself on a mouth-watering meal of slow-roast baby.
There was no doubt in my mind that such narratives are first and foremost about social control with respect to the specific dangers of the desert where, in the summer months, people can die horribly tormented deaths from thirst within a matter of hours. Such monstrous beings and their attendant narratives exist to impress upon and to inculcate into young children the need for obedience to older members of the family, and especially not to wander off into the desert alone, lest they meet a fate perhaps worse than that of encountering a ravenous Pangkarlangu.
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Pwdre ser is Welsh for "rot from the stars. Gelatinous meteorites are not always connected with the atmospheric beast theory; they are actually easier to find among collections of Forteana that include reports of many different odd things falling from the sky. This atmospheric beast is from the speculative documentary 'Alien Planet' where it is an intelligent creature.
This image is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film. Atmospheric beasts, or things that sound like them, are minor characters in the folklore of many regions. They are often given local names. The English variety is often named "Boneless" or "Shapeless" and resembles a small patch of living, animate fog. Unlike fog, it can be felt as a semi-solid mass.
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In the later decades of the twentieth century, the atmospheric beast theory had been almost forgotten. Serious investigators usually stayed away from it. But, today, interest in atmospheric beasts has been growing, mainly because they now seem more plausible after the recent discovery of what might be a related cryptozoological animal: air rods. People have begun to comb through older reports of miscellaneous random unexplained stuff, a place where a few atmospheric beasts often lurk, and they have also re-examined some of the weirdest UFO reports, which sometimes sound a great deal like the witnesses are actually describing atmospheric beasts.
Since atmospheric beast sightings are rare and the creatures don't have much prominence in folklore either, it has happened that few authors were inspired by the concept and so fiction involving atmospheric beasts is also rare. Two of the most notable films are both Japanese: Dogora is about atmospheric beasts that must consume carbon and threaten civilization, while Space Amoeba is about an atmospheric beast native to Jupiter which hitches a ride to Earth and then converts normal Earth animals into giant monsters.
The American movie The Blob is sometimes cited as an atmospheric beast movie, though the connection is iffy. The Blob is supposed to be loosely based on legends of pwdre ser or star jelly, but in the film the presumed atmospheric beast does not die upon contact with the ground but instead travels over land, growing and consuming. The television show Star Trek: The Next Generation occasionally had things like atmospheric beasts that were native to outer space instead of a particular planet's atmosphere, but these creatures were never very prominent.
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