The Seven Sisters Dreamtime Story

The Seven Sisters Dreamtime Story

The story of the Seven Sisters combines celestial wonder with a tale of relentless male pursuit. This narrative, known variably across different Aboriginal communities, is one of the most revered Dreamtime stories.

Flight and Pursuit

Central to this tale are the Seven Sisters, ethereal beings who once graced the Earth. Initially, they encountered a group of men, who were awestruck by their first encounter with women. The men attempted to pursue the sisters, but the ladies were adept and resourceful, managing to outsmart and outrun the men.

However, the Seven Sister’s trials were far from over. They soon found themselves the focus of Wati Nyiru's (or Yurlu's) affections. Wati Nyiru was a shape-shifting sorcerer who sought to claim one of the sisters as his bride.

A performance of the Kungkarangkalpa: Seven Sisters songline inma (ceremony), 2013.
Source: National Museum of Australia

Skin Groups

Yurlu’s pursuit was fraught with cultural taboos, as he belonged to an incompatible skin group, making any union with the sisters against traditional laws. In Aboriginal culture, "skin groups" are part of a complex kinship system that determines social and ceremonial rights and responsibilities. An individual is assigned a skin name at birth, based on their father's skin, but not identical to it, and this categorization is permanent.

Driven by lust, Wati Nyiru still persisted. He chased the seven sisters across the continent, attempting to trick them with his sorcery and trap them into submission.

A Chase Across the Landscape

The narrative unfolds across the vast Australian deserts, billowing through the lands of various Aboriginal groups including the Martu and the Anangu. As the sisters fled from Wati Nyiru’s relentless chase, they left a mark on the landscape, shaping it and imbuing it with their essence. This aspect of the story serves as a cultural map and a guide to survival in the harsh Australian environment.

The Seven Sisters travelled from Wanarn, past Tjantu Paltju Pungkutja (a Seven Sisters site), to Warakurna. At Tjantu Paltju Pungkutja.
Source: National Museum of Australia.

The Transformation

The climax of this tale is as dramatic as its course. In a bid to escape Yurlu's relentless pursuit, the sisters sought sanctuary in the heavens. Leaping into the sky, they transformed into the Pleiades constellation, a cluster of stars that continue to narrate their story in the night sky to this day. Yurlu, undeterred, followed them into the cosmos, taking his place in the Orion constellation, perpetually chasing the sisters across the night sky.

David Wroth, Japingka Gallery, 2015

A Story Beyond the Stars: Tracking the Songlines of the Seven Sisters.

You can visit the "Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters" website, presented by the National Museum of Australia. The immersive website offers a unique opportunity to delve into the Seven Sisters narrative through a number of interactive features: the significant rock art site of Walinynga (Cave Hill) and the collaborative artwork project, 'Tjanpi Seven Sisters Flying'. This project is a profound journey into the Dreaming of the Seven Sisters.

Seven Sisters Flying. Source: National Museum of Australia

Songlines: Tracking The Seven Sisters


  1. Kate Owen Gallery. The Seven Sisters Dreamtime Story. Retrieved from Kate Owen Gallery

  2. Japingka Aboriginal Art. Seven Sisters (Pleiades) Star Dreaming Story - Aboriginal Art Stories. Retrieved from Japingka Aboriginal Art

  3. National Museum of Australia. Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters. Retrieved from National Museum of Australia

  4. The Box Plymouth. (n.d.). What are the Seven Sisters songlines? Retrieved from The Box Plymouth