The Bora Ring and the Cemetery

Bora ring

Unlikely neighbours

Stopping on a country road in Tucki Tucki, a small town near Lismore, NSW, I was lured into Tucki Tucki Cemetery by a sign which read “Aboriginal Bora Ring”. The cemetery is small and quiet except that it’s located by a country road, and the sacred bora ring inside – where Aboriginal boys were once initiated into manhood – is today just a humdrum field of grass. The cultural activity once so alive in these fields is now gone. The bora ring, however, is one of the finest remaining examples of its kind.

Bora ring
The Tucki Tucki Bora Ring

 The bora ring

Bora sites consist of circles of hardened earth, containing one, typically two or three rings. Women and children stood in the large circle (typically 30 metres across) while only men were allowed in the inner circle. The circles, where sacred ceremonies took place, reflected social hierarchy and hosted singing, dancing, story telling, circumcision and/or body scarring. Fires and marked passageways would symbolise the passing of boyhood into manhood and ceremonies were unique to each tribe.

Bora ring
The key-shaped arena, which was part of the procession leading to the ring

The Tucki Tucki Bora Ring was a single-ringed site and, like others of its kind, was reached by a winding ceremonial procession where now lies farmland. The site was last used by the Bundjalung people in the 1800s. Unfortunately, the majority of bora sites were decimated with the arrival of Europeans, and perhaps the only reason the Tucki Tucki Bora Ring survives today is that it shares land with Tucki Tucki Cemetery.

Bora ring
The processional entrance, facing south-west

The survival of this bora ring, however, was recently under threat with the proposed expansion of a quarry by the NSW Government. I haven’t heard any further development on this and hopefully it was rejected. Insane that a mere quarry should replace a rare piece of Aboriginal heritage. Turning my thoughts inward, I stood in a slight depression in the centre of the bora ring – which was alleged to have once been a fire pit, even an open grave – and tried to imagine the fervent ceremonies here long ago…

Bora ring
The view of the cemetery from the center of the bora ring

The cemetery

Admittedly, I enjoy exploring cemeteries, I find them fascinating as they make me think about the passing of time, how precious life is and that everyone has a story. As I wandered I came across a few interesting graves, like the one near the entrance (below), which put a smile on my face. For here lies a fellow traveller, I thought, a passionate liver of life. It was perhaps a glimpse into a grand story.

Bora ring

Then there were stories marked with fewer words, like the lone grave to the east next to the bora ring. This grave belonged to one Ivy Beatrice Greber, an infant who never made it to her 16th month, dying in 1900. Just why she was buried entirely alone is a mystery. Allegedly both her parents are buried in the cemetery too, alongside other graves. Perhaps she was afflicted with something terrible, born out of wedlock.

We may never know.

Bora ring
The lone grave of Ivy Greber

6 thoughts on “The Bora Ring and the Cemetery”

  1. Ah, progress – who needs sites of cultural significance when we could have more gravel for roads and driveways … the idiocy of bureaucrats and big business leaders stuns me sometimes…

    1. Hi Hans,

      Yeah, it’s a bit bewildering isn’t it. So many cultural aspects lost through misunderstanding. Although it’s nice that sites like this remain, even if it is due to a fortunate set of circumstances.

  2. I have been to the Bora Ring at Tucki Tucki…I made the mistake of stepping into it taking photo’s I didn’t’ feel the best and mentioned to my friend I was feeling off all of a sudden, I took the camera away from my face and saw I was standing in the boar ring removed myself and apologised and felt better very shortly after.

    1. Hi Shay,

      Great that you were feeling the energy. I did think about staying outside, but decided to pass through it in the end (and didn’t feel bad for it).

      Thanks for stopping in.

  3. hi Ivy was the last child of her parents whom married in 1876 in singleton. as to why there i dont know

  4. Rev Alan Shaw

    Locals whose European settler ancestors are buried in the nearby Christian cemetery claim that on the same ridge another bora ring was originally located joined to the existing one by a winding path. It was located in the paddock beyond the fence to the south of the existing one but has long since been destroyed by agriculture.
    During the initiation ceremony participants would make their way from one ring to the other.

    The existing ring has a raised earth border around the perimeter and a depression in the centre most probably a fire pit. The timber fence around the ring is easily crossed but we have also found that entering that site brings a sense of the sacred and we should respect such precious relics from our ancient past. Gut feelings should be followed. Stay out of the circles.

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