M̀ewal is Merri's name' : form and ambiguity in Marrangu cosmology, North Central Arnhem Land
This thesis examines two spirit concepts, Merri and Mewal, in a north-central Arnhem Land cosmology. My broad objective is to write on the content and organisation of Aboriginal cosmology and the relationship of spirit concepts to the sensible world. The research is based on six months fieldwork in 1989-90 at two outstations, Galawdjapin and Gattji (see Map 1.1 ). My aim prior to fieldwork was to record and analyse a genre of song belonging to the Marrangu people. I wanted to see how the songs
... see how the songs relate to mortuary beliefs and customs. This aim (of recording and translating the entire song cycle) proved too ambitious for the short time I was at Galawdjapin and Gattji, though many recordings were made and a start made on the translations. Analysis of the songs remains an important aspect of the research, as both Merri and Mewal are named song subjects 1 in the Marrangu manikay cycle (see Chapter 4). Hamilton, working among the Anbarra people of north-central Arnhem Land, has observed that "research is often like this - the questions you set out to ask are supplanted by questions which the data themselves generate" (1981 :16). In my case the data generates first ambiguity, then questions. The ambiguity is this: people at Galawdjapin and Gattji say that the Spirit Beings Merri and Mewal are two different entities but that they are also the 'same'...