Dhii, maa

Dhii = ‘meat’, a social classification. The male/female pairs are Gambuu/Buudhaa; Yibaay/Yibadhaa;; Marrii/Maadhaa; Gabi/Gabudhaa. These are reflected in some current surnames such as Combo, Hippi, Murray [perhaps] and Cubby.

Maa is in the dictionary as ‘totem’ but that meaning may be uncertain.

That by way of introduction to a question and a longish non-answer. A doc with this information is just below. John

Ngaanduwaa dhayay/somebody asked.

Yaama John, Do you know the 4 Main Totems for each of our Gamilaraay Skin Groupings?


Well, not really an answer, but a few points and pointing to information.

I have seen various material on totems and skins. My understanding is that what were called skins in many other parts of the country were called dhii/meat in GY.

As I understand it, totems were inherited from your mother, so at least 2 meats had the same totem. That means there was not a simple relationship between meat and totem.

I have pretty much decided that the area of meats/totems/and other social groupings is too complex for me to get my head around, apart from the fact that the sources may be incomplete. So I won’t try to answer the question directly. The best I can do is take a few things from the sources and point people to the older materials.

The sources I am using are Kamilaroi and Kurnai and Giacon/Sim 1999.

The book Kamilaroi and Kurnai is available online from the National Library, and has relevant information around p 43 (and perhaps elsewhere). Go to: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-1454124947/view?partId=nla.obj-1454276996#page/n53/mode/1up

A page from Giacon/Sim 1999 which deals with these topics is at the end of this article. You can find Giacon/Sim 1999 by going to yuwaalaraay.com > old sources > link > Sim

Let me play with a few examples.

A Yibadhaa woman’s children are Gambuu (man) and Buudhaa (woman). Buudhaa’s children in turn are Yibaay and Yibadhaa. So these women, mother-daughter, down the generations, alternate between Yibadhaa and Buudhaa. They are both Yanguu Moiety, and share the same totems. So two meats, one set of totems.

A Yibaay man (brother of Yibadhaa) has the same totems as his sister. His wife is Gabudhaa – so from the Wudhurruu Moiety. So his children, Marrii (man) and Maadhaa (woman), are in a different Moeity from him and have different totems from him, but are in the same Moeity as their mother and have the same totems as her.

I’m already getting lost, so I’ll have to wait for someone who can get their head around all of the complexities and explain it simply.

The dictionary has, as one of the meanings of maa

4 totem (YY). Langloh-Parker said that marks called maa on rugs and weapons tell who made them and where they belong. The maa for the dhinawan (emu) clan is an arrow head pointing downwards; to particularise which branch of that maa, there would be painted a kurrajong leaf, so telling it belonged to a dhinawan of the kurrajong tribe and country.

It is not clear how this use of maa relates to personal totems.

Maaru yananga. /go well

John Giacon 2020-02-28

Giacon/Sim 1999

Social Law

The terms used are the same in Guwamu and Yuwaalayaay.

There are two main totemic divisions, i.e. the two Moieties.

                        1. Yanguu, comprising galah emu kangaroo frog etc.

                        2. Wudhurruu, comprising wallaby, duck, goanna, kookaburra, possum, red snake, carpet snake, kangaroo rat, etc.

                        Each totem is subdivided into 2 types

                        Magula and Bumbira.

This is based on a perceived or supposed distinction or difference, “large” and “small”, in natural species. One type is supposed to be larger, stronger and more important than the other. Hence Magula people are deemed more important than Bumbira people, so a Magula emu would be more important than a Bumbira emu. In the natural world, the difference between “large” and  “small” forms might be gender based, but was not seen as this by GR and WW.

A person’s inherited totem and class depend on that of the mother. For example the offspring of a Magula emu woman and a Bumbira goanna man would be a Magula emu totem. Marriage within the same moiety (in Yanguu or Wudhurruu) is forbidden. as is marriage within the same totem.

Social Sections

and Moiety Division

Yanguu                                          Wudhurruu

Man                                               Man

Gambuu  (uncles)  Yibaay               Marri  (uncles)  Gabi

Woman                                          Woman

Buudhaa  (aunts)  Yibidhaa             Maadhaa  (aunts)  Gabuudhaa



This is the conventional marriage pattern.

Gabi        must marry   Yibidhaa              (M)   Gambuu  (F)     Buudhaa

Yibaay    must marry   Gabudhaa                      Marri                Maadhaa

Marri       must marry   Buudhaa                        Yibaay             Yibidhaa

Gambuu  must marry   Maadhaa                       Gabi                 Gabuudhaa

Gambuu   Marri               Yibaay   Gabi                  Marri   Maadhaa     Gambuu    Buudhaa

Brother in Law                Brother in Law                Brother & Sister     Brother & Sister

Gabudha       mother to       Marri                  Yibidhaa          mother in law to      Marri

Yibaay          father to         Marri                  Buudhaa          mother in law to      Gabi

Maadhaa       mother to       Gabi                   Maadhaa          mother in law to      Yibaay

Gambuu        father to         Gabi                   Gabuudhaa       mother in law to      Gambuu

Buudhaa       mother to       Yibaay                   Vice versa   Son in Law

Yibidhaa       mother to       Gambuu            


    1. Here is a reply I sent to Lisa. I had forgotten about some of the references I had included in the blog. John
      Yaama Lisa,

      replying to your comment on GY Guladha [and good to know some people are reading it]

      This is a complex area. http://www.austkin.net/ has an introduction to it.
      For much of Australia Aboriginal people talk about their skin – which corresponds to Marrii, Hipaay, Gabii etc for GY – but in GY [Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay] these are referred to as your ‘meat’.
      It determines/determined who could marry, and your relationship to other people.
      This was different from totem; My impression is people had many totems: birds, other animals, plants, winds, stars.

      Cubby and Gabii;
      The k/g sound make no difference to meaning in GY [’no’ can be said gamil/kamil/gomil/komil, for instance; in GY G is used, not K
      the u in Cubby is written ‘a’ in GY and most Aboriginal languages; [the u in ‘put’ is written ‘u’]
      the y sound in Cubby [different from the y sound in ‘by’] is written as ‘i’ in GY, and traditional speakers had a long sound, written ‘ii’,

      I hope that clarifies at least some things; but, as I said, this is a complex area.
      If you have more questions I’m happy to have a go at answering them.

      maayu yanaaya [Yuwaalaraay]
      maaru yananga – go well [Gamilaraay]



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