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Staring into the fire, last one awake, I heard the unmistakable sound of scissors cutting hair.

‘Who’s that?’ I whispered.

‘Ricky.’ The voice came from the darkness on the far side of the fire.

‘Are you cutting your hair?’

‘Yeah. I’m gonna shave my head.’

‘You mad bugger. I’ll do that for you.’

An unfamiliar face hove into view. Banished at breakfast, withdrawn and wounded at lunch, almost invisible over dinner, something had taken hold of him; he needed to shed his disguises. He’d already shaved off his moustache and scraggy beard, his nude chin and upper lip glistening alarmingly in the light; long black hair hung in wisps around his neck, one savaged chunk stuck up on the side, victim of the first pre-emptive strike with the scissors in the dark.

We sat huddled together close to the dying coals in a thin drizzle of rain, me sitting high on my canvas chair, the Ant cross legged on the ground with his back to me. He leant back into my body as I set to with my trusty Gillette, not knowing just what I was taking on.

The rain kept tumbling down but huddled close to the ebbing warmth of our private fire we two desert rats kept on talking, the clouded sky encasing us, milling with the smoke, a secret bubble for a secret act. The snores and rattles of sleeping men, the coal crack and crumble and our whispered intimacies mingled in a cozy hum as layer after layer of hair slid back to reveal the high dome of his forehead, a surprised scalp that emerged blinking to torch light, tumbled slowly over his skull and fell smoothly back to his neck. He was bare and defenseless, the soft line of his spine merging into strong olive shoulders, trusting me, leaning back into me, giving me his thoughts.

‘It was suddenly easy and I don’t know why. All this stuff I’ve been consumed with for ages just slipped away and instead of it being a huge great complicated thing it was just easy. I heard a voice. ‘Just stop doing that shit – surrender…’

He lapsed into a silence I felt no need to interrupt.

‘Surrender,” he whispered again.

All floppy piety and peace, he lent back in my arms, surrendering. I ran my fingers over his scalp. His yesterdays were gone.

If only it were so easy.

‘It’s finished,’ I whispered.

Such a deep calm had come over me I didn’t want the moment to stop. Tomorrow we were back in civilization. With this last gesture, it was over.

‘You’re a good friend,’ he sighed.

No, I wasn’t.

I was just pretending.

For Ron and Shirley Hagan of Crawley, South Australia their first trip to the Outback was chock full of surprises.

‘Did you see them?’ Shirley asked, a high pitched twang of incredulity in her voice. ‘They were the dirtiest men I’ve ever seen! Filthy!’

Ron nodded numbly.

‘And every one of them said hello to me – and smiled. They were all smiling like loony men. Some of them had war paint on. There must have been fifty of them. Fifty. The dirtiest men…’

Her voice lapsed as I hove into view. I’d been filling my water bottle on the other side of a concrete partition, listening to the lot. Clearly I was one of The Dirty Men. I smiled broadly.


“You must be with that group,’ she said unperturbed.

‘Yes, we’re a Christian men’s group,’ I answered, straight-faced, ‘we’ve been praying in the desert for seven days. Secret men’s business.’

‘Seven days, Ron!’ she said.

She had neat little feet tied up in the cleanest pair of Adidas this side of a carton with loose pink slacks under a beaded V necked top. Shirley was a big woman and her freckled breasts caught the afternoon light,  sparkling like grapefruit in a tiara.

‘That’s why we seem a little grubby. It’s been most intense. Praise Jesus.’

‘Oh yairs, praise Jesus,’ she replied and nudged Ron.

‘Wha…?’ he muttered and looked for escape.

There was a loud, juicy fart from behind the partition.

‘Praise the Lord!’

Ranald’s pixie face appeared.

‘Come brother, time for the ritual circumcision.’

And with that he took my hand and we slowly walked away.

‘I wonder where they’ve really been…’ said Shirley.

Ron didn’t care.

Dog didn’t know.


I never saw these men again – they vanished into Australia. I don’t know where or what or how. Let’s hope whoever they were then is not who they are now. Ten years is a long, long time.

It’s ten years, almost to the day, since Dogster went bush with the shamen. On my return the words tumbled out, aided by copious notes and a very juicy set of videos taken on site. If some of this report seems extreme, trust me – it’s probably verbatim. The first draft was abandoned, almost complete, in February 2001. I’ve forgotten exactly why. Maybe it was shamanic intervention. I was pretty crazy at the time. Life got in the way and these words lay in a box unread and forgotten, waiting for technology – and a far more capable writer – to release them. Now a decade later, polished and radically re-edited – maybe these silly shamans can be set free.


Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world.[2] A practitioner of shamanism is known as a shaman (pronounced /ˈʃɑːmən/ “SHAH-men”or /ˈʃeɪmən/ “SHAY-men”).[3]

Shamanism encompasses the belief that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.


Pitjantjatjara people

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Regions with significant populations
Central Australia: approx. 4,000
South Australia
Northern Territory
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
Christianity & Traditional
Related ethnic groups
Ngaanyatjarra, Yankunytjatjara

Pitjantjatjara (pronounced [ˈpɪɟaɲɟaɟaɾa]) is the name of both an Aboriginal people of the Central Australian desert, and their language (for which see Pitjantjatjara language). They are closely related to the Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra and their languages are, to a large extent, mutually intelligible (all of them are varieties of the Western Desert Language).

They refer to themselves as Anangu (people). Pitjantjatjara country is mostly in the north-west of South Australia, extending across the border into the Northern Territory to just south of Lake Amadeus, and west a short distance into Western Australia. The land is an inseparable and important part of their identity, and every part of it is rich with stories and meaning to Anangu.

They have, for the most part, now given up their nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle but have managed to retain their languages and much of their culture in spite of increasing influences from the broader Australian community.

Today there are still about 4,000 Anangu living scattered in small communities and outstations across their traditional lands, forming one of the most successful joint land arrangements in Australia with Aboriginal Traditional Owners.

HistoryAfter many horrific and often fatal encounters with European dingo hunters and settlers, 73,000 square kilometres of land was established in the north west of South Australia for their use in 1921.

Extended droughts in the 1920s and between 1956 to 1965 in their homelands in the Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts led many Pitjantjatjara, and their traditionally more westerly relations, the Ngaanyatjarra, to move east towards the railway between Adelaide and Alice Springs in search of food and water, thus mixing with the most easterly of the three, the Yankunytjatjara. They refer to themselves as Anangu, which originally just meant people in general, but has now come to imply an Aboriginal person or, more specifically, a member of one of the groups that speaks a variety of the Western Desert Language.

However, European depredations continued and Dr. Charles Duguid tirelessly fought for their protection, wellbeing and a chance to gradually accustom themselves to their rapidly-changing circumstances. In response, the South Australian Government finally supported a plan by the then Presbyterian Church to set up the Ernabella Mission in the Musgrave Ranges as a safe haven. This mission, largely due to the insistence of Dr. Duguid himself, was ahead of the times in that there was no systematic attempt to destroy Aboriginal culture, as was common on many other missions.

Beginning in 1950, many Anangu were forced to leave their homelands due to British nuclear tests at Maralinga. A large number of Anangu were subsequently contaminated by the nuclear fallout from the atomic tests, and many have died as a consequence.[citation needed]

Their experience of issues of land rights and native title in South Australia have been unique. After four years of campaigning and negotiations with government and mining groups, the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act was passed on 19 March 1981, granting freehold title over 103,000 square kilometres of land in the far northwestern corner of South Australia.

The Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act, 1984 (SA) (the Act) granted freehold title of an area of 80,764 square kilometres to Maralinga Tjarutja. The Unnamed Conservation Park (now Mamungari Conservation Park) with 21,357.8 km² was transferred to the Maralinga Tjarutja in 2004.

Recognition of sacred sites

Pitjantjatjara people (Anangu) live in the area around Uluru and south to the Great Australian Bight

The sacred sites of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) were extremely important spiritually and ceremonially to the Anangu with more than forty named sacred sites and eleven separate Tjurkurpa (or ‘Dreaming’) tracks in the area. Some of these dreaming tracks led as far as the sea in all directions. Unfortunately, Uluru and Kata Tjuta were just over the border in the Northern Territory and separated from the Pitjantjatjara Lands in South Australia and had become a major tourist attraction and, ultimately, a National Park. The Central Land Council laid claim to the Ayers-Rock-Mount Olga National Park and some adjoining vacant Crown land in 1979, but this claim was fiercely resisted by the Northern Territory government.

After eight years of intensive lobbying by the Traditional Owners, on 11 November 1983, Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced that the Federal Government intended to transfer inalienable freehold title to them. He also agreed to ten main points they had demanded in exchange for a lease-back arrangement to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service for a “joint-management” régime where Anangu would have a majority on the Board of Management. This was finally granted in 1985, but with the government reneging on two of the most important points the Anangu had requested: they were forced to agree to lease the Park for 99 years, instead of the fifty years originally agreed on, and had to allow tourists to climb Uluru.

Origin of the name

The name Pitjantjatjara derives from the word pitjantja, a form of the verb ‘go’ which, combined with the comitative suffix -tjara means something like ‘ pitjantja-having’ (i.e. the variety that uses the word pitjantja for ‘go’). This distinguishes it from its near neighbour Yankunytjatjara which has yankunytja for the same meaning. This naming strategy is also the source of the names of Ngaanyatjarra and Ngaatjatjarra but in that case the names contrast the two languages based on their words for ‘this’ (respectively, ngaanya and ngaatja). The two languages Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara may be grouped together under the name Nyangatjatjara (indicating that they have nyangatja for ‘this’) which then contrasts them with Ngaanyatjarra and Ngaatjatjarra.

Pronunciation of the name

The name Pitjantjatjara is usually pronounced (in normal, fast speech) with one of the repeated syllables -tja- deleted, thus: pitjantjara. In slow, careful speech all syllables will be pronounced.


Correspondence from a certain shaman 2010.

time with the friend terry beershop‏

This bloke did Returning to the SAUCE and ran away because he was scared of dying.

Correct me if I am wrong Sir Terrence, bishop of your own CHURCH.
He knows that 16 litres of fluid that was killing me is the presence of OSHO.
NOW there’s a real deal “know all”
By the compassion master terrence bishop,
who nose endarkenment is when there are no lights anywhere.
the kind friend of compassion.
has lots of money should be able to support pitjatjanjara dancers
send him and invitation from the HEART OF THIS COUNTRY.
Time with The Friend

And then there is the one who travels with you in the car of your manifest existence, the witness within you, the unchanging part of you that was never born and will never die. This quiet witness who sits in the back seat of your existence is actually your resident consulting mechanic, your navigator and advisor and your most ardent supporter in your efforts to keep on travelling towards your own true nature. This ‘back seat driver’ is the quiet voice that reminds you of the true direction you want to go, of the need to slow down from time to time, or of the need to rest and give some loving attention to those parts of yourself that have been neglected.

Rumi, the great Sufi poet, calls this travelling companion ‘The Friend’. Our ego might argue that we don’t need the advice of any back-seat driver and that we are perfectly capable of driving on our own. Rumi suggests otherwise. He advises us to make friends with this loving presence, and to check in as often as we can to see what

122 Spiritual Not Religiousguidance might be on offer. He suggests that we frequently pause to consult with the quiet one.

Taking the time to get to know this ever-present loving friend in the back seat of your mind is perhaps the single most potent practice you can perform. There is no fixed method that opens you to this presence. You can bring your awareness to The Friend at any time in any context.

However if you are driving the car of your existence with your foot flat to the floor, the chances are that your awareness will be firmly fixed on the road ahead, trying not to crash into the myriad of obstacles on the path and to not get side-swiped by all the other lunatic drivers. Most of us live like this, and unfortunately only take the time to bring attention to our quiet friend after we had a massive pile-up or some part of our car falls off and sends us crashing into the nearby ravine of worldly failure.

If you take nothing else from this book, take with you the realisation of the need to slow down from time to time and listen in a quiet space for the loving kindness of The Friend in the back seat. You might even decide to park the car of your worldly endeavours at least once a day for perhaps 20 minutes, and light a candle to signal your willingness to connect. The spiritual traditions call this practice meditation, and more than any other practice, it holds the potential to change the way you travel in a way that makes the destination a secondary concern.

A while ago I saw a bumper sticker on a car parked in a church yard that read, “If God is your co-pilot, change seats”. Wisdom is very often found in the strangest of places, but we will fail to see it if we are moving through the world of earthly endeavours at breakneck speed.

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