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Image: Tourism & Events Queensland/Charlie Ferguson

Researcher inundated with ‘Min Min’ light stories

He’s taken on little people. Now, Dr Curtis Roman is tackling the mysterious, serpentine orbs known as Min Min.

Particular to Australian outback, particularly indigenous, mythology, Min Min describes a phenomenon of bouncing blue, white or yellow balls of light that people claim ‘stalk’ them at night.

Unlike other researchers, however, Roman, a Senior Lecturer in Aboriginal Studies at Charles Darwin University, isn’t interested in possible scientific explanations for Min Min: his purpose is to gather Indigenous interpretations of them. “For example, there are some stories that suggest that Indigenous people may believe the Min Min light is a spirit,” he said.

“People who have seen the light say that they can follow cars, jump in the air and appear and disappear at will. One of the beliefs is that if the lights catch you, you will never been seen again. Others speculate that they are reflections of distant lights or mirages or a result of warm and cold air coming together.”

Roman, a Larrakia man, announced the project and called for people to submit their personal stories in late September. Since then, “people from all over” have reached out to him – some, eagerly sharing their encounters with the light, others, cautiously whispering them to him, afraid of what others might think of them for doing so.

“Indigenous people from the bush are not scared of these lights, although the same cannot be said of people from urban areas, who often seemed to be spooked by them,” Roman informed. “I got the sense that in a lot of cases people were just grateful for an opportunity to talk about these things; that nobody had stopped to ask previously.”

Several Indigenous people offered that the light performs a ‘guardian’s role’, warding people off sacred sites. Water was another central theme in these stories: people recounted seeing the lights on or near sources of water, as was the light’s method of movement as snake-like, “which may link in with Indigenous people’s beliefs about the rainbow serpent”.

Nonetheless, he said his interpretation of it is irrelevant, given the purpose of the project. Though the “enduring mystery” of Min Min may be undetermined, it will be preserved.

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