Earth Treasure Vase for Gabarnmang, Australia

Auntie Margaret Katherine at Gabarnmang.


“It is as if the Great Spirit and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Ancestors, Elders and Lineage Masters who have ever watched over this project and practice, guiding and assisting in its realization, are saying, “Here. Add this place into all the ingredients that make up the whole. Allow the energy from this location, from beyond the folds of time, to enhance and support the prayers that will carry all life into the next age – throughout space and time on behalf of this beautiful blue-green planet we call home. Of all the pilgrimages and places we have been with this practice, we know with Gabarnmang that our work will carry on.” – Cynthia Jurs

After the burial of the first Earth Treasure Vase for Australia in Jawyon Country (Northern Territory), Cynthia gifted the Australian ‘’Earth Treasure Vase Mob’’ four of the second generation Earth Treasure Vases to be planted in each of the four directions of the Australian continent. The first of these was taken to Gabarnmang, a 50,000 year-old rock shelter covered with paintings, only accessible by helicopter. Aunty Margaret Katherine is the Custodial Elder of this ancient hidden land, and invited us to bring this first of the second generation of Earth Treasure Vases there with her – thus ending the first chapter of this great Earth walk, and initiating the second.

Few people beyond the archeologists studying the site have ever visited this remote place and we are deeply grateful to Auntie Margaret Katherine for insisting a vase be brought here, bringing the ancient Gabarnmang – sure to become a world heritage site – into the global Earth Treasure Vase mandala.

Entrance to the Gabarnmung Caves.

On Gabarnmang, excerpts from Smithsonian Magazine: Is This the Oldest Cave Art on the Planet?

Gabarnmang, or Nawarla Gabarnmung, meaning “hole in the rock”, “passageway”, or “valley open from the centre” is an Aboriginal archaeological rock art site in southwestern Arnhem Land at the top end of Australia’s Northern Territory. This remote location lies on the traditional lands of the Jawoyn people, east of Kakadu National Park……

Like the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of the expansive rock shelter is a mural of breathtakingly vivid and bold works of art – hundreds of them. And the paintings extend up and down 36 remarkable sandstone columns that, like the pillars of a temple, appear to support the cave.

Cynthia Jurs reflects:
The most important thing about the Gabarnmung cave paintings may not be their age or their splendor. It is that the Jawoyn people, the descendents of the ancient civilization that created the works, are still alive – and Auntie Margaret is the living treasure who is informing archeologists about what they have found. We feel so blessed to have been invited by her to this most sacred site and to have learned from her ourselves.

Earth Treasure Vase Burial in Gabarnmang, Australia

The specific intention I had set for the network of Earth Treasure Vases to be placed throughout Australia is to unite indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, to support the return of indigenous Australia’s ancient wisdom, and to be a cause for the songlines to sing their sweet symphony once more. – Cynthia Jurs

The group of 27 flew into this remote sacred site in a shuttle of helicopters over the vast now-uninhabited land, to Gabarnmung, where they would sleep the night and place this Earth Treasure Vase in the Earth for eternity. Upon arrival, Margaret led them to the place where the vase would rest; she had obviously thought deeply about its placement in the most sacred spot imaginable, the equivalent to placement in the inner shrine.

That night after our final ceremony and sealing of the Earth Treasure Vase in a circle around the fire, we snuggled in a group lying directly on the Earth with her soft sand as our mattress, our toes twirling sand through them that would have been trodden by thousands of ancestors millennia before. After Ben Manbulloo’s bedtime stories, the men retreated to their small fire with the women huddled together around their blazing hearth. – Cynthia

At night, our campfire was visible from the Gabarnmung shelter above.
Image courtesy of Jonatan Lundmark/Rest Your Eyes Productions

The following account of what happened on that day of the burial is shared by Jeremy Ball, who participated in the pilgrimage and played a significant role in the burial.

It happened, it really happened. Back at my desk amongst a busy home life, it seems surreal to think back to what occurred just 5 weeks ago – like a fable or a distant dream – but I have evidence to prove that it did happen, memories that spark awe in my flesh.

I was first up as faint rays of light cracked over the horizon, and checked the path to the placement site, disturbing kangaroos as I walked, who went hopping off through the long grass. Julian gently droned his crystal didgeridoo into the Earth as a wake-up call to the women and ceremonial opening of the day. Slowly our mob’s dream-bodies reunited with their flesh; followed by tidying of bedrolls and brewing cups of tea, in ceremonial silence. In the middle of the huddle was Mumma who did not rise but lay there snuggled and warm, saying, “I’ve shown you where to place it, now you can do it, Bungardi (my skin name as her son).” “Wo, Garang (“Yes, Mother”), I replied.

Carrying the Earth Treasure Vase, I led the group in single file, Cynthia and Manbulloo close behind, and Julian playing the dij to consecrate the ground as we walked. We clambered into the place selected by Margaret that I had dug out the day before, and with the group gathered all around, chanting mantras led by Julian, I felt Cynthia’s presence close by channeling a column of light, and Mumma palpably holding space for the ancestors back in camp.

Jeremy Ball, Cynthia, Aunty Margaret and Ben Manbulloo Emery shed tears upon arriving at Gabarnmung.
Image courtesy of Jonatan Lundmark/Rest Your Eyes Productions

With the support of this sacred entourage, I placed the Earth Treasure Vase neatly in the rock, in a place made to measure, eroded to perfection over millions of years. As I did so, I felt as if the Earth Treasure Vase was sucked deep into the Earth, followed by a great heat and heaviness, as if an emissary of Mother Earth had accepted the offering.

At the point of acceptance, I felt a flash of light as if the Mimi (protective spirit or guardian angel of this place) had received the blessings contained in the vase (especially that of the Dalai Lama whom we had met at Uluru just 5 days before). Then they soared, united with the blessings straight up into the sky and spreading the blessings over and into every part of Gabarnmung. I was seared by a bright flash of the most profound light…and then it was time to seal the tomb.

The group filed round passing rocks to place around the Earth Treasure Vase, cocooning it in its forever home. Halfway through, Manbulloo, who will steward the next Earth Treasure Vase in Australia, took over, sliding into the opening in the rock, with all present mucking in, the drone of the dij and the chant of Tara echoing all around.

When the deed was done, I looked up to see Cynthia sitting on the edge of the rock face, now a joyous grandmother of a new generation of Earth Treasure Vases.

Remembering Aunty Margaret

By Cynthia Jurs

My adopted mother, Aunty Margaret Katherine is between the worlds now. She is entering the dreamtime. She came to me on the full moon in August, just after she died. She arrived, as she told me she would, as a yellow butterfly. It was late afternoon and I was in the garden with Sandy who was telling me a wonderful story about the appearance of a magical butterfly and right on cue, Mumma appeared, floating in and out of the flowers. I did not learn until later that evening on our full moon call that Aunty Margaret had passed away. I was grateful to be with so many of you, our global Earth Treasure Vase community, to receive this news. This was fitting, since it was Margaret who brought the Earth Treasure Vase mandala to life and gave it meaning in a way that no one else has done.

When I left for Australia to complete the mission of burying the last of the original Earth Treasure Vases there, I had no idea what I would find. It struck me shortly before I departed that this would be an important journey. Indeed, that Earth Treasure Vase, the one Aunty Margaret called my “Teacher,” found its rightful home on her Ancestral land.

She liked to sit around the fire with a cuppa tea. One night she gave us all “skin names” – the traditional way of making a proper connection between us mob so we clearly knew what our relationship was to her, and to each other. I became her daughter and she, my Mumma. I was estranged from my three sisters after our parents died, but Margaret gave me back a family. I got three brothers (had always wanted brothers!) and many other sisters, aunties, uncles, in-laws, children and grandchildren. Our global Earth Treasure Vase community became a family through our beloved Mumma, Aunty Margaret. The family healing I received through her was the gift of a lifetime. And the vast view of unconditioned awareness (the dreamtime) that she embodied, so profoundly and completely connected to Country (the Land, Earth, Songlines) brought everything together for me.

With my Bungari (brothers) Ben Manbuloo Emery and Jeremy Ball

Margaret was waiting for us at the Mary River Roadhouse, sitting on the grass playing cards with her mob. After some meeting and greeting she hopped barefoot into one of our vehicles with her fancy purse and off we went. We were bound for Kakadu to bury the last of the original Earth Treasure Vases and she would be our guide. After several days, she sat me down and said, “Honey, I support you and ‘your Teacher’ and will do whatever you want, but this isn’t really a very good place for him.”

The group had begun to sense this too but we did not know what to do or where to go. She explained that it floods there every year and the vase would not be safe. Then she said, “I have a very good place. You could bring him there.” I looked at Jeremy, who looked at Ben, who got out the maps. Ben reckoned if we got up early and drove all day we would be there by nightfall. Sure enough we arrived on Aunty Margaret’s land late that afternoon.

Aunty Margaret Katherine welcomed us to Country by calling out in a lovely voice to all the Spirits and Ancestors: “Nagaga…Niwala…wan wokani…maam…kawanango niwala leear ingolo! Nagaga…Niwala…Nigaganai ningolo leear…Awan wokani maam…Kawonango leear ingolo!” (To all our elders, I bring these white fellas to see this place, this country. I introduce all the family to you and to this Country. To all the old people (Ancestors) here…I bring these white fellas to see your Country. I’m introducing this mob to you. I am introducing them to the land and the Spirit people in the Language.)

To her, this Welcoming to Country, was important for us to learn. She taught me these words and wanted me to memorize them. I remember the sound of her voice calling out and how the words reached all of us in that special place. She asked me to use these words to make relations with the places I visit and the ancestral lands I know.

She told us this blessing would go out, on and on forever, and that we were now invited to bring the Earth Treasure Vase to rest there for all time. And while the group made camp, Jeremy and I went with Mumma in her “troup carrier” with Daddy (David, her husband) driving, to find the perfect location for ‘My Teacher’ to be placed in the deep rock wall that lined that sacred valley.

Mumma’s unconditional acceptance of me and the vase was one of the greatest gifts of my life. Sitting around the fire, she saw into the nature of My Teacher, and she opened the Way for the Earth Treasure Vase to enter the dreaming. The songlines came alive and connected the Earth Treasure Vases around the whole Earth. The global Earth Treasure Vase Mandala was awakened, whole and complete, back to the beginning of time and forward into future generations. From that place on her land, the whole cosmos opened up in sheer unspeakable vastness and the stars fell from the infinite sky down to touch the Earth. In her eyes, and in her cackling laughter, all this was made clear. Her heart expressed itself so purely.

Mumma during an ETV ceremony at Karlu Karlu and with her 3rd son (Kodjak) in our mob, the musician, Julian Silburn.

Aunty Margaret was a holy vessel of healing, open to Spirit, pouring her love into the world. To have held her hand walking barefoot on that old Earth and slept on that ground not once but three times. To have rung the bell and sat around the fire, listening to her stories. And to have stood next to her when she met the Dalai Lama at Uluru and he held her hand continuously. Recognizing each other, they giggled. “He made me feel so calm,” she told me later.

With my Bungari (brothers) Ben Manbuloo Emery and Jeremy Ball

The vase started its Australian journey on the altar of the Dalai Lama’s public teachings in Sydney. His Holiness had been told about it. One morning he stopped to pick it up and bless it. Then, it traveled on to meet Uncle Bob Randall, the Custodial Elder of Uluru, and finally “My Teacher” ended up in Mumma’s hands.

At the end of that first pilgrimage, I gifted the Earth Treasure Vase Mob – my new family – with four of the 2nd generation Earth Treasure Vases to be planted in each of the four directions of the Australian continent. Mumma blessed these on our 2nd journey and the first of these was taken on our 3rd trip to the most sacred place I have ever visited – Gabarnmang — a 50,000 year-old rock shelter covered with paintings, only accessible by helicopter. Aunty Margaret Katherine is the Custodial Elder of this ancient hidden land and invited us to bring this 1st of the 2nd generation of Earth Treasure Vases there with her – thus ending the first chapter of this great Earth walk, and initiating the second. It is here that she will be laid to rest for all time.

Thank you Mumma for the blessing of walking with you for a little while. I send my love to you across the songlines of this beautiful Earth, throughout space and time.

Aunty Margaret Katherine Oenpelli, Buyhmi-Jawoyn Elder

By Magi Whisson & the Australian Earth Treasure Vase Mob

We first met Aunty Margaret on the first Australian Earth Treasure Vase pilgrimage (2013). It was one of those unplanned, wondrous meetings that the Vase Beings draw forth. Sitting on the grass outside a remote outback roadhouse Cynthia told her the Story of the Vases. Aunty Margaret responded by climbing into one of our 4-wheel drive vehicles and from then on she became the heart, soul and joy of all our future Earth Treasure Vase pilgrimages and so much more.

Under her embrace and eldership we were welcomed and given entrance into ‘Country’. She called to the ancestors of the land, introducing us, teaching us the Law, and leading us into sacred relationship. For Aboriginal people ‘Country’ includes all living things. It incorporates the land, people, plants and animals. It embraces the seasons, stories, and creation spirits. ‘Country’ is both a place of belonging and a way of believing.

I was born in Australia and had lived here then, for 63 years, but this was the first time I had been so profoundly met by the heart and spirit of this land. Having been welcomed to ‘Country,’ I, like many others, now have a growing and abiding relationship with this ancient land. This is a gift beyond words. Mumma’s whole being was ‘Country’. It was all of her.

Mumma was a bridge between black and white peoples, community and government and an advocate for many indigenous mobs other than her own. She was the matriarch within the unbroken lineage of the Jawoyn people. She took us all in as family, gave us skin names, which expressed our relationship to her. We were her daughter, son, sister, brother, mother, granddaughter. And she was Mumma to us all.

Mumma with her Bungari (sons) Jeremy & Ben, Bungann (daughter) Cynthia, and her Beling (sister) Magi.

I still well with tears at the enormity of her unconditional love. It was so vast yet so personal. So present yet so pervasive. It was true, real and unfailing in spite of the depths of abuse and injustices that she, like so many indigenous peoples, have and still suffer. Within the ceremonies we shared with her, Mumma would sometimes wail. It was a piercing wail from the depths of Being. A wail that held the Story of 60,000 years of continuous living culture. A wail that held the grief, the hope and the knowing. She wailed the Song of the Ancient Ones. She wailed Life into Being.

Magi with Mumma in the bush. Photos by Eva Iken.

And, Mumma had a laughter that rippled with fullness. We were all touched by her giggles, her warmth, her wicked cheeky smile. Mumma was woven together with an innocence and an ancientness that should have defied each other but instead held a wondrous embrace and renewed us in its contrasts. Mumma, when deeply touched, would stream with tears of gratitude.

Mumma was and is the Ancient Law, the Dreamtime, the songs and stories. She loved a good story both to tell and to listen too. What a privilege we have all shared to be with her and to have received her profound teachings and blessings.

While we will miss those bare feet walking upon the land, her jewel of a heart, her bubbling laughter, her calls to the Ancestors…we now have a formidable Ancestor in the Spirit world, inspiring, guiding and accompanying us. Thank you dearest Mumma for so much you have given and for the profound richness of life and love that has flowed on from our coming together as one Mob. You have been an Earth Treasure beyond words.


Monday Mindfulness Meditation