The Legend of Karlu Karlu and the Protection of Sacred Sites
The “Devils Marbles” also known as Karlu Karlu “Big Boulders” is an area of Australia that is covered with hundreds of round boulders that have diameters from 1.5 feet to around 20 feet. Some of these boulders are even balanced on top of each-other in a way that can appear almost magical.
In the local Indigenous mythology, the Karlu Karlu are an important site of ritual and ceremony and are said to be created by a Devil Man named Arrange. Arrange is said to have traveled through the area and was making a hair belt which is something worn by men initiated in the local custom.
While Arrange was twirling the hair into strings he dropped clusters of hair onto the ground, which formed the boulders that we see today. When he traveled back to Ayleparrarntenhe, he also is said to have spat on the ground and his spit turned into the granite boulders located in the more central part of the area. The twin-peaked hill to the east of the area was named Ayleparrarntenhe to commemorate the event.
Protecting Local Sacred Sites
The Native locals are said to believe that the stones contain great powers and consider them to be sacred. Causing the stones damage or disturbing them is said to have life threatening consequences.
Much to the dismay of the locals, one of the stones was taken from the area to be placed on John Flynn’s grave in 1953. Flynn was the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It wasn’t until 1998 that the stone was returned. After that, the local Alice Springs Arrernte people gave the group permission to take another stone to be placed on Flynn’s grave.
Another boulder was taken in 1980 without permission. It took 15 months of local controversy and the tragic death of an Indigenous Elder to get the stone returned in 1981.
Make sure to add this little known sacred site to your bucket list, and remember to respect the customs and ways of the local people while you are visiting. It is an honor to be among such ancient giants.
Atlas Obscura, By Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, Workman Publishing Company, 2016