A Tjurunga or Churinga, Tjuringa is an object of religious significance for the Central Australian aborigines of the Arandicgruppen and some surrounding tribes. Tjurunga often had a broad and indefinite meaning, because the term encompassed by Strehlow sacred ceremonies, stone and wooden objects, Schwirrgeräte, ground drawings, ceremonial poles, ceremonial headdress, songs and mounds.


To generalize means Tjurunga sacred stones or wood. The objects are elongated stones and woods that are partly polished or smooth or ornamented. Some of these items are braided with hair or ribbons and were called by Europeans Schwirrgeräte. There is a totem of the group to which it belongs on every Tjurunga. Tjurunga are sacred in the occult ideas and only a select few allowed to look at them. It is considered sacrilege to produce a picture of it. Emile Durkheim assumes that the NameTjurunga usually is a noun but can also be used as an adjective to mean "holy."

The term Tjurunga with Theodore Strehlow roughly translates to something similar like "secret ", "personal". Here Tyumen means hidden, secret and runga personally. H. Kempe argues against this translation and says Tyumen mean big, powerful or sacred and that runga could not be translated as personal property.


The ownership of holy Tjurunga among the Arrernte, Luritja, Kaitish, the Unmatjera and Illpirra was predominantly determined by the location of the receipt of each individual member of a patrilineal clans. They include individual or groups with the associated legends, chants and ceremonies. Because these relics are considered so sacred, their availability is limited to a few people. Before and during the early 20th century, it was only initiated men allowed to see the holy objects or touch. Women and uninitiated men were not allowed to touch or see, except from a distance this. The Tjurunga were kept secret from the rest of the clan in a holy place, which was also not reachable for the uninitiated and women.

While some scientists have such as Theodore Strehlow, suggested that these relics belong to the little property that could be owned by individuals legitimate in Central Australia, Durkheim and Kempe defend the view that the Tjurunga are not possessed by an individual can. Thus, for example, writes Durkheim: " As regards the meaning of the word runga, this seems doubtful. The ceremonies of the Great Emus belong to all members of the clan with the Great Emu as a totem; all can participate in them; they are not the personal possession of any member. "

Religious aspects

In many myths are told that the ancestors themselves have used Tjurunga and they certainly kept as their most valuable possession. Such myths emphasize the life-sustaining magical properties of these Tjurungas. The forefathers considered her Tjurunga as part of his own being and were always worried that strangers could rob him of his true content. Accordingly, there are numerous stories of theft and robbery, which involve a very cruel revenge after themselves. Tjurunga were considered to be equipped with magical properties. They were rubbed on the body to transfer their holiness and to heal wounds. While a Tjuruinga was useful for the individual, the collective fate of the clan was regarded as associated with the object. Not least, it was the totem that made ​​sure that the group took to himself by the Tjurunga.

The acquisition of sufficient knowledge, which led to the holding personal Tjurunga was tedious, difficult and sometimes extremely painful. Practices differ between different groups. Theodore Strehlow writes how the men of the North, South and West Arrernte groups had to prove themselves over several years after their last level of initiation.

Ceremonial importance

The Tjurunga were visible incarnations of some parts of the fertility of the Great Tree of the respective totems. The body of the ancestral changes in a transmutation into something that will survive the time change and decay. In the ideas of Aboriginal stone Tjurunga were prepared from their forefathers themselves. Wood Tjurunga, made ​​by the old men, are symbolic of the actual Tjurunga, which "can not be found". The Tjurunga " made ​​man" of were accepted as sacred objects without any reservation. A young man can get his Tjurunga body at the age of 25 years and his before the holy songs and ceremonies that are associated with it go over 35 to 45 years old, in his possession. The older he gets and the more he proves that he is to have the Tjurunga value, the more he receives a steadily growing share of the Tjurunga who belonged to his own totem clan. Under certain circumstances, it may become a member of the Assembly of master of ceremonies, who worshiped trustee of the old traditions of the entire clan are.

In 1933 Strehlow noticed that the young men who were hired after the arrival of whites in central Australia from foreign invaders, were closely watched by the old men of their groups. In many cases, no ceremonies or chants were handed over to the unworthy younger generation, unless that young men made very generous gifts to their elders. With the death of the old men, these songs and ceremonies were forgotten.

Acquisition of knowledge

The old men observe the behavior of a young man. It must be full respect for their elders, you must follow their advice in all things. It is the value of silence in ceremonial affairs know: no description of his past experiences may be expressed in the presence of women and children. His own marriage had to comply with the laws of the groups. Is all this the case, one day it will be the old men sitting in a circle, ask in their midst to take place to begin with the singing. An elder told Strehlow:

Relationship to historical research

The holy relics were of high interest for the early European anthropologists and sociologists who studied the nature of totem religions. Researchers such as Walter Baldwin Spencer, Francis James Gillen, Theodore Strehlow, H. Kempe and Emile Durkheim studied the Tjurunga. Durkheim discussed the nature of Tjurunga in his Essay The elementary forms of religious life, looking at the Tjurunga as an archetype of a sacred object.