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The Tree of Souls

Dec 24, 2021 -- Posted by : di.below

Did you know that WA’s Native Christmas Tree ‘Nuytsia Floribunda’ carries a deep, and highly spiritual significance for the local Aboriginal people?

Found only in Western Australia, its native habitat stretches from Kalbarri National Park on the north-west coast to Cape Le Grande in the south-east, where its burst of vivid yellow flowers around December each year have given rise to the popular name of Western Australian Christmas tree.

For the local Bibbulmun people, this tree is traditionally known as *‘Moojar’ or *‘Kaanya’, which translates as ‘recently departed soul’.

In some **early research of the culture and stories of the local Aboriginal people, it has been described as “the tree of souls” – where according to the ‘old people’, its branches and flowers serve as a sacred resting place for the spirits of ancestors who have passed away. No living person ever sheltered or rested beneath the shade of the tree of souls, no flower or bud or leaf of the tree was ever touched by child or adult, and no game that took shelter beneath it was ever disturbed.

This cultural knowledge and tradition is still widely shared by the local Aboriginal people today. The lives of the ancestors are rejoiced with the blaze of flowers and colour, celebrating the spirit of the old people, and strong continuing culture.

In some of the records from early explorers, (e.g. Symmons, 1841) the tree has been named mutyal and the gum mod-jar, which reflects the local Aboriginal term mootcha” meaning prohibited or forbidden.


*Names and spellings vary for different cultural groups   

**This information is based on archival research and field interviews between 1992 and 2005 with Noongar spokespersons from the Perth, Pinjarra, and Moora areas.

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