Sydney Seasons

Australia is a large continent, with very different weather patterns all over it, yet since European occupation, the ‘traditional’ view of the weather has been that of the Northern Hemisphere, with four seasons; Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn. Some people argue that Canberra is one of the only places in the country that can genuinely claim to experience all four seasons. Everywhere else, the weather is localised and different. Up north in Australia there are two seasons, ‘the wet’ and ‘the dry’. In Perth the summers are hot and dry and the rain that falls in winter is in short sporadic bursts. In Sydney rain comes in torrential storms during summer and can drizzle for a week at a time in winter. (1)

As a direct consequence of this, the Northern Hemisphere’s Celtic Eight-fold Wheel Of The Year is really not a good fit for Australian seasons either, yet many Pagan groups here still follow and celebrate the eight sabbats; Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasdh and Mabon. In most cases these sabbats are offset by six months from the northern hemisphere dates, so for example, we Aussies celebrate Beltane (a Spring festival) at the end of October or beginning of November when it is actually Spring. In the northern hemisphere Beltane, also known as May Day, is celebrated at the beginning of May, when the northern Spring occurs.  However, there are still some here ‘down under’ who insist on sticking to the northern hemisphere dates and directional elemental correspondences, thereby working completely out of sync with our local seasons and elemental directions …to each their own I guess.

I found some information online about local Indigenous weather knowledge which shows the different seasons of the Sydney area as recognised by the  D’harawal People. I would like to some day develop my own local “pagan” calendar (which may or may not partially tie in with some of the ‘traditional’ sabbats) and although I will not be directly copying this information or using the Aboriginal names for the seasons etc it does help me to get a better idea of the sorts of things to look for. At this stage it will definitely be a project for the future (sadly I’m too busy with other things at the moment).

The following chart is from The Lost Seasons – Features – The Lab – Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Gateway to Science (1) and the information below it is also from that same source as well as the Australian Govt. Bureau of Meteorology (3).

Weather cycles around Sydney (D’harawal Calendar)

The D’harawal Country and language area extends from the southern shores of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to the northern shores of the Shoalhaven River, and from the eastern shores of the Wollondilly River system to the eastern seaboard.(3)

Seasons of the Year | Climatic Cycles

The 6 Seasons of the year

Goray’murrai Nov-Dec (approx)
  • Time of the blooming of the Kai’arrewan (Acacia binervia)
  • warm and wet, do not camp near rivers
  • Parra’dowee the Great Eel calls his children to him (1)

Time of Parra’dowee – Goray’murrai (warm and wet) November – December
This Season begins with the Great Eel Spirit calling his children to him, and the eels which are ready to mate make their way down the rivers and creeks to the ocean. It is the time of the blooming of the Kai’arrewan (Acacia binervia) which announces the occurrence of fish in the bays and estuaries. (3)

Gadalung Marool Jan-Feb (aprox)
  • Time of the blooming of the Weetjellan (Acacia implexa)
  • hot and dry, eat only fruit and seeds
  • Burra (kangaroos) start having their babies (1)

Time of Burran – Gadalung Marool (hot and dry) January – March
The behaviour of the male kangaroos becomes quite aggressive in this season, and it is a sign that the eating of meat is forbidden during this time. This is a health factor; because of the heat of the day meat does not keep, and the likelihood of food poisoning is apparent. The blooming of the Weetjellan (Acacia implexa) is an important sign that fires must not be lit unless they are well away from bushland and on sand only, and that there will be violent storms and heavy rain, so camping near creeks and rivers is not recommended. (3)

Bana’murrai’yung Mar-May (approx)
  • Time of the ripening of the fruit of the Lillipilli (Syzygium spp)
  • Wet, getting cooler, time to make cloaks and start the journey to the coast
  • Marrai’gang, the tiger quoll seeks her mate (1)

Time of Marrai’gang – Bana’murrai’yung (wet becoming cooler) April – June
The time of the year when the cries of the Marrai’gang (Quoll) seeking his mate can be heard through the forests and woodlands, and when the lilly pillys ripen on the trees. However, when the lilly pillys start to fall, it is time to mend the old warm cloaks from last cold season, or make new ones, and begin the yearly trek to the coastal areas. (3)

Tugarah tuli Jun-Jul (approx)
  • Time of the flowering of the Burringoa
  • (Eucalyptus tereticornis)
  • Cold, time to gather the nectar for ceremony,
  • Barrugin, the echidna begin their gatherings. (1)

Time of Burrugin – Tugarah Tuli (cold, frosty, short days) June to late July
This is the time when the male Burrugin (echidnas) form lines of up to ten as they follow the female through the woodlands in an effort to wear her down and mate with her. It is also the time when the Burringoa (Eucalyptus tereticornis) starts to produce flowers, indicating that it is time to collect the nectar of certain plants for the ceremonies which will begin to take place during the next season. It is also a warning not to eat shellfish again until the Boo’kerrikin blooms. (3)

Tugarah gunya’marra Aug (approx)
  • Time of the flowering of the Marrai’uo
  • (Acacia floribunda)
  • cold and windy, build shelters facing the rising sun, time to begin the journey to the highlands along the rivers, plenty of fish
  • Boo’gul the marsupial mouse mates and dies
  • Wiritjiribin, the Lyrebird builds his mounds when season ends (1)

Time of Wiritjiribin – Tugarah Gunya’marri (cold and windy) August
The lyrebirds’ calls ring out through the bushland as he builds his dancing mounds to attract his potential mates. It is the time of the flowering of the Marrai’uo (Acacia floribunda) which is a sign that the fish are running in the rivers. At the end of this time the Boo’kerrikin (Acacia decurrens) flower, which indicates the end of the cold, windy weather, and the beginning of the gentle spring rains. (3)

Murrai’yunggoray Sep-Oct (approx)
  • Time of the Miwa Gawaian
  • (Telopea peciosissima)
  • Cool, getting warmer, time for major ceremony
  • Gathering of the Ngoonuni, flying foxes. (1)

Time of Ngoonungi – Murrai’yunggory (cool, getting warmer) Sept – October
The time of the gathering of the flying foxes. A magical time of the year when the flying foxes gather in the darkening skies over D’harawal Lands. They come in from the north-east, the north, the north-west and the west, and swirl over the Sydney area in a wonderful, sky-dancing display just after sunset, before setting off for the night-time feeding grounds to the south. But it is also a very important ceremonial time for the D’harawals, which begins with the appearance of the splashes of the bright red Miwa Gawaian (Telopea speciosissima) in the bushland. (3)

(1) © Bodkin/Andrews clan of the D’harawal People

Climatic cycles

GARUWANGA – Dreaming
  • (approx 12,000 to 20,000 years)
  • Talara (Time of Ice) – When the sea is three days walk to the east from the Cave of Secrets
  • Gani (Time of Fire) – When the Sea Spirits reside in the Cave of Secrets (1)
  • (Approx 11-12 years)
  • Gadalung Burara – Hot and Dry
  • Murayung Murrai – Getting cooler and wetter
  • Tugara Murrai – Cold and Wet
  • Goray Murrai – Getting warmer and wet
  • Gadalung Murrai – Hot and wet
  • Murayung Burara – Getting Cooler and Drier
  • Tugara Burara – Cold and dry
  • Goray Burara – Getting warmer and drier
  • Ends with the appearance of the Aurora Australis in the sky (1)

(1) © Bodkin/Andrews clan of the D’harawal People

References & Further Reading:

(1) The Lost Seasons ~
(2) Indigenous Weather Knowledge ~
(3) D’harawal Calendar ~
(4) Should Australia Have Five Seasons? ~
(5) Kurnell’s Tipping Point: Book Review — D’harawal, Seasons and Climatic Cycles ~
(6) Working with the Land: A few personal notes ~