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Aboriginal Dreaming Stories - The Emu in the Sky


The Emu in the Sky


Long ago in the Dreaming there was a cat called Jooteetch who was married to an Emu called Wej. One day, Wardu the wombat paid a visit to Wej while Jooteetch was out hunting. Wardu was secretly in love with Wej and she was tempted by his charms. At sundown, Wej told Wardu to leave before Jooteetch returned as he would kill them both in a jealous rage. However, before Wardu left he painted Wej with a precious red ochre that was used for special ceremonies.

When Jooteetch returned he asked Wej why she was decorated with this precious ochre and who gave it to her? She told him that she found it but he knew she was lying as he had recognized Wardu's tracks leaving their camp. Jooteetch pretended to believe her and asked her to build a fire for the cold night ahead. When the fire was ablaze he grabbed Wej and threw her into the flames. With the strength of her powerful legs she jumped so high into the sky that she never ever returned.

Now on a dark night, if you look up at the Milky Way, you can see her as the dark patch between the stars which is known to the Aboriginal people as Wej Mor.


The 'Milky Way' highlighting 'The Emu in the Sky'

The 'Milky Way' highlighting the shape of 'The Emu in the Sky'

Astronomy plays a big part in Aboriginal culture. Many Aboriginal groups use the movement of the planets and stars as a calendar to calculate the seasons and fix the date of certain tribal activities. They also attribute religious or mythological significance to certain celestial forms. The 'Emu in the Sky' is a spectacle which is visible in the Autumn sky. Dark nebulae (interstellar dust and gases) contrast with the bright stars of the Milky Way to form the shape of an emu.

The Painting Process for our Page Illustration

Many of the topics in our Aboriginal Art lessons are illustrated with a painting that was inspired by the theme of that page. To help you understand the technique used for each painting, we have deconstructed its development in the form of a slide show. Once you see a step by step analysis of how each image is constructed, it may provide you with a model that you can adapt for your own ideas.

(Click on the play buttons or swipe back and forward to explore each stage of our painting.)


  • The symbols and images used to create our art lessons are taken from the two pages above. These illustrations are free to download and and print for your own use. The symbols and images are by no means exclusive and you should feel free to add your own.