Chapter 11:  Australian Aboriginal Ornament

Erythrina vespertilio  Š BatÕs-wing coral bean - Fabaceae

The aboriginal tribes of the Central Desert of Australia have a long tradition of decorating their bodies with feathers, pigments and seeds.  The seed necklaces made and worn for aboriginal womens' ceremonies centered on sexuality and fertility.  Commonly used seeds for these necklaces were 'ininti' and 'witchinbara'.

'Ininti', the bat-winged coral tree, Erythrina vespertilio, and 'witchinbara', Stylobasium spathulatum, were formed into long strands generally on hand-spun string made from human hair.  These body ornaments were worn in lengthy harnesses over one shoulder, across the chest and under the arms.  They were also wound around the head to form headbands to hold feather headdresses in place.  Women and children picked up quantities of 'ininti' seeds, which can be yellow, orange or red, as they foraged for food.  Later they burned holes in them to ready them for stringing.1

Beads were formerly strung on human hair but now the readily available cotton or filament have taken precedence.2