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The Myth that Birthed Wu Tao


When Wu Tao was still just an idea in my mind, before any of the dances had come into form, I was given this story to guide me.  Gwana and Ungur represent the divine marriage within each of us.  Gwana the eagle is spirit, Ungur the snake, our body.  We live on the earth with Ungur and have felt separated from spirit for eons.  Wu Tao was given to remind us of our true nature.  We are spirit and we have a body.  Our purpose is to remember this.  As we do we spiritualise our world, the earth and the whole universe.  I hope you enjoy the myth of Ungur and Gwana.

Gwana’s Journey to Earth

Ungur the great snake and Gwana the eagle of the sky, spoke often about the distances between them.  Between the earth and the sky, and about how difficult it was for the people of the earth to know their connection to the heavens and live a balanced life on earth. Gwana flew so high, only a few determined ones could reach him, and then they forgot how to live on the earth or didn’t return at all. Most people however, saw the heavens as being unreachable and so, only lived a small life, being on the earth without knowing the greater purpose for which they had been born.

After many discussions, Ungur and Gwana made a pact. Together, they would find a way to bridge the distances between sky and earth and share this with all the people of the world.

Gwana slept deeply that night and a dream came to him. In the dream, Ungur whispered in his ear,

“The wind will come. Listen to her, talk to her. She will show you the way.”

The next day, Gwana left the sky, knowing it would be a long time before he would return. He flew and soared and sang a song to the wind. The wind came and blew gently. She spoke to him,

“As you leave the world of Spirit, you must accept and know me. I am the element of air. I am the first doorway through which you must pass on your journey to earth. Here in me, you let go of a little of your spirit. I take its place in your body to be. It is ok to grieve but know it is time to let go – to be transformed and to accept me into your being.”

Gwana listened to all the wind had to say and let her take her place in his body. He thanked her for her gifts and then without a word, the wind left, leaving behind a great stillness. Gwana could not stay flying, without the wind beneath his wings and he flew quickly down and plummeted deep into the ocean. It was very dark and Gwana couldn’t see anything at all. Fear took hold and he struggled to reach the surface of the water without success. Then, out of the darkness, the ocean spoke to him.

“I am the ocean and the element of water. As you leave the world of spirit, you must come to know and accept me into your body. I am the second doorway through which you must pass on your journey to earth. I take my place in your body to be. Building your tissues muscles and bones. Be still in me. Be patient in the dark. You are the seed waiting to be born. Don’t be afraid. The darkness will pass and only light there will be.”

After what seemed to be a very long time, Gwana found himself floating ever so gently, to the surface. He felt like a newborn child, full of energy and born again. He thanked the ocean for her gifts and flew across the water till he reached the land, where he settled in the branches of a large tree. Here, he spread his wet, waterlogged wings and let the sun dry his feathers. Then, the tree spoke to him.

“I am the tree of life, and the element of wood. I am the third gateway through which you must pass on your journey to earth. I stand at the centre of the world and you must know and accept my energy into your body in order to be fully alive! I am your life-energy energised! I will help you to grow, to be alive and vibrant! Take this gift of vital energy and use it wisely!”

Gwana thanked the tree for his gifts and flew low across the land. He felt full of energy and vitality, able to face anything he encountered. The true energy of youth. He sang and danced and as he flew, he noticed three fires burning brightly in the distance. As he approached them, he saw that the flames were enormous, with many tongues of fire reaching high into the sky.

Beyond the flames, far away in the distance, he saw Ungur curled against the side of a mountain. Gwana knew that there was no way to reach her except through the flames of the fire. He closed his eyes and flew through the first fire. The fire spoke.

“I am the element of fire, the fourth gateway through which you must pass on your journey to earth. I am here to purify your mind and body, and to remind you of your Spirit, for you must never forget who you are. You are spirit and body joined together. Remember this always and now pass through my two brothers.”

Gwana thanked the fire for his gifts and continued through the next fire. He felt his body burning, yet his spirit was clear. He continued on and flew through the third fire. He emerged on the other side and flew to the ground.

He looked at his body. His feathers were shiny white and tinged in grey, where they had been singed by the fire. His mind was clear, alert, and empty. He had been purified, yet his spirit was intact and he remembered who he was and where he had come from.

Away in the distance, he saw his beloved Ungur lying against the mountain. In no time at all he was by her side.

“You found me!” exclaimed Ungur with tears in her eyes. “No-one has found me here for a very long, long, time.”

“Yes!” said Gwana. I have traveled from my place in the sky to you. Now I know your way. I am here, at your door to receive your blessing.”

“And so it shall be” said Ungur. “Climb on my back.”

So Ungur traveled across the land with Gwana riding on her back. Gwana rested and Ungur sang her song,

“I am Ungur, mother of all.

When you swim in the ocean,

You swim in me. 

When you drink from the stream and billabong, 

You drink from me. 

When you walk on the land, 

You ride on my back.

Gwana the eagle of the sky rides with me.”

(courtesy RG Locke)

They traveled like this for many days and Ungur shared all of the earth’s wisdom and beauty with Gwana. Gwana rested in Ungur, in her knowledge and wisdom and came to know life on earth as it was meant to be lived. They lived many years together, until there came a time when Ungur knew it was time for Gwana to leave. She spoke to him.

“Gwana my love, it is time for you to return to your place in the sky for that is where your true purpose lies. It is not here with me on the earth. But this time you do not fly home. I will take you there on my back.”

Gwana agreed with Ungur that he needed to go back to his true home. He had missed it immensely and was glad to take his leave and return to his home with the grandfathers in the sky.

So, Ungur uncurled her enormous body, stretching high into the sky like a giant ladder, and with Gwana on her back, she flew into the shimmering, blue, sky until she reached Gwana’s home.

Here, they embraced. Gwana spoke quietly into Ungur’s ear.

“I know your way. I know the way to you. This knowledge I will pass on to all that come to me and wish to know you and the earth. The way now is open to all.”

Ungur spoke too.

“Through me, they will come to know you, my dearest Gwana. They will remember the gifts of vision and purpose that you have given to them. My body will be the bridge, the path, connecting all life on this earth to you – to the world of spirit.”

They parted, and Ungur returned to earth. Gwana stayed in the sky.

From then on, the two worlds of sky and earth were joined. All beings were able to know and live in both worlds, the world of spirit and the world of earth.