A ‘womens’ business’ plant, the paperbark tree is familiar to most Australians. The soft bark peels off from the trunk in sheets, which can be used during menstruation, during and after childbirth and for physical injury where there is bleeding. Women would birth with the baby being born onto a soft sheet of paperbark; or it might be used later for the smoking or welcoming ceremony for the infant. Search out a paperbark and notice how the appearance of its bark relates directly to women. This practice of associating any physical appearances of a plant in common with parts of the human body is used in homoeopathy and the making of essences; it is known as the ‘doctrine of signatures.’
In the Dreaming about Dolphin, just before she transforms into a human, she hears an owl calling from a paperbark tree. How she knows it is in a paperbark tree we do not learn, but perhaps its presence, with the owl, emphasises her connection with feminine energies. (It could just as easily been a bat in a mango tree!) The owl is often represented as a symbol of or for women, being associated with the night, the occult and the spiritual domain. In Aboriginal culture, the owl was regarded as a kobong, (a concept similar to totem), for women as a whole. The owl and paperbark tree might also have signified the presence of her kobongs as she changes from a dolphin to a human.
Paperbark has long been used by Aboriginal people and is a much loved, respected and important resource. From carrying and warming, cooking, wrapping babies, to cups and domestic uses, to art and spiritual practices… paperbark is versatile.
Two famous Aboriginal writers took their names and totems after paperbark, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) and Mudrooroo; the later stating the paperbark tree to be the totem of all writers.
Paperbark is a special womens’ business plant, so if you have this tree in your life, you can be sure that those things which are generally related to women will make their presence felt! It might be a good time to admire the Paperbark tree for its ability to reflect, or be attuned to, women; and review your connection with these energies. As the bark of this tree peels away in layers, there might be something being revealed in your life in a similar way; a gradual ‘peeling away’ until the centre or core is revealed.