Cottage Point may have been a particularly sacred place to the Darramuragal (Aboriginal) people who lived in what is now Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park for many thousands of years. Hidden among the bush are a number of Aboriginal engraving sites depicting Baiame, an “ancestral hero” or deity figure who created the earth. Baiame (or Biami) is sometimes referred to as the “Sky Hero” or “Sky Father”, as he said to have returned to the sky after creating the land: the Devils Rock (Burragarra) site is where Baiame is said to have stepped onto Mt Yengo in one stride and then ascended back into the sky.
Is there an (Aboriginal) God?
There is much post-colonisation literary discussion of Aboriginal spirituality, which is discussed in some detail in The astronomy and songline connections of the saltwater Aboriginal peoples by Robert S. Fuller. Earlier writers often attempted to apply European concepts of religion, while later research focused on totenism: “a philosophy which regards man and nature as one corporate whole for social, ceremonial and religious purposes”.
While not a “god” in a Western sense, Baiame was a powerful figure in Aboriginal mythology:
Another powerful creator, who is also one among many who all play a part, is Baiame, sometimes referred to as a Sky God or a Supreme Being. Any apparent similarity to Christian beliefs assumed by the use of these English terms is misplaced. Baiame is important for creating people themselves and when he completed his creative work he returned to the sky behind the Milky Way.Aboriginal Spirituality, Aboriginal Philosophy, V Grieves (2009)
How is Baiame depicted?
Some of the Cottage Point Aboriginal sites are almost certainly representations of Baiame, while others may not be… There is no definitive or consistent way in which Baiame is depicted. Although occasionally drawn as an anthropomorph (sometimes with one human and one animal foot), Baiame is generally shown in a frontal view and as a human figure. Depictions of Baiame typically include a head-dress, internal decorations such as waistbands, vertical lines along his body or with ornaments attached to the body. Often, sites with a Baiame figure also have a line of mundoes, or footprints. (In contrast to Baiame, Daramulan – the son or brother of Daramulan depending on the mythology of the local Aboriginal people – is always drawn in profile and with only one leg.)
Where are the Baiame sites located?
Although this is not a rule, and there are many exceptions, it is common for an engraving of Baiame to be on the top of a ridge or on a rock platform with views, and often in a commanding position. All the significant Cottage Point Baiame sites are on ridge-tops, and while the views are often impeded by bush, it would be easy to imagine the visual connections between the sites.
The “Gods of Cottage Point” Baiame sites
I’ve retained the historical names for these Aboriginal engraving sites. At the time these sites were first recorded by Europeans in the 1890s, what is now called Cottage Point was called Terrys Point, after James Terry who had a landholding of 100 acres. W.D. Campbell described one of the Baiame Aboriginal sites as being “at the head of valley above Terry’s”, and Terrys farm or Terry’s Portion 71 and the “cart-track from Terry’s” were common reference points. However, most the Cottage Point Aboriginal sites were called “Smiths Creek”, after the tributary of Cowan Creek on the southern side of Cottage Point.
This is arguably the most significant Aboriginal engraving site in the area. It is thought that a line of mundoes at the nearby Taber Trig (west) engraving site points to these two Baiame figures, while the Baiame on top of Mount Murray Anderson points across the valley to these two figures.
The site has two Baiame figures, both with a rayed headdress, and multiple vertical stripes on their bodies. The larger Baiame figure is sixteen feet (over five metres) in height, and the smaller one is 14 feet high (just under five metres).
A very distinctive depiction of Baiame, where he is shown with two horns (or horn-like ears) and is holding a club or boomerang in one hand, and a dilly bag in the other. Taking up most of a small rock platform just below a survey marker on a ridge above Cottage Point Road, this Baiame is 10 feet high.
Taber Trig (East) Baiame
This Baiame figure is not on the top of a ridge… but is located on an enormous rock platform that has sweeping views over Smiths Creek and the valley below.
Baiame is eighteen feet (six metres) in height, and has four protuberances on ths the top of his head, which may be a head-dress. Next to the figure are four shields, all very weathered.
A short distance away on the same rock platform is Taber Trig (East) Man, described by Campbell as “a man or deity” and by McCarthy as a “mythological figure”. Although this figure appears as a man rather than a deity, being of a more normal size (8 feet and 6 inches tall, or 2.6m) and not decorated, the left foot has three pointed toes and looks like an emu’s foot.
A man or a god? In a large shelter below Taber Trig are three charcoal figures, one of which was described by Campbell as a “man or deity”.
Another interesring site, which has over twenty figures on one relatively small and unassuming rock, just below Cottage Point Road. It’s again nor clear whether this sites includes an engraving of Baiame, although Campbell did state “the central figure represents a deity decorated on the arm and waist, with one foot human-like, the other pointed”. This would be least god-like Baiame by size, being just three feet and three inchs (one metre) tall.
These are just some of the Aboriginal engraving sites around Cottage Point – for a full list of Cottage sites have a look at thre Ku-ring-gai Chase – Cottage Point Aboriginal sites page.
Summary of Cottage Point Deity sites
|Site Name||No. Motifs||Original Recorder||AHIMS ID|
|Smiths Creek Two Deities||2||Campbell Plate 20 Fig 4||45-6-0314|
|Smiths Creek Baiame||6||Campbell Plate 12 Fig 16||45-6-0312|
|Taber Trig (East) Baiame||5||Campbell Plate 12 Fig 15||45-6-0315|
|Taber Trig (East) Man||1||Campbell Plate 12 Fig 12||45-6-0317|
|Taber Trig Shelter||9||Campbell Plate 20 Fig 7||45-6-0289|
|Smiths Creek Engraving Site||24||Campbell Plate 20 Fig 9||45-6-0313|