Aboriginal people in the rocky environments of western and south-western Arnhem Land tell of the existence of tall slender spirits which they call Mimih. The name Mimih is well known throughout the Top End of the Northern Territory.
Aboriginal groups living in this region share mythology which relates to the ‘beings’ known as Mimih. These groups include the Kunwok chain of languages and the Rembarrnga, Dalabon and Djawoyn language groups. Other groups of people with familial and ceremonial links to rock country inhabitants are also familiar with Mimih.
In recent years Mimih have become a topic in the repertoire of some artists among the Kunibídji people, speakers of the Ndjébbana language and the traditional landowners of the Maningrida area.
The people of western Arnhem Land believe that Mimih spirits live in a social organisation similar to Aboriginal people and that Mimih society existed before humans. Mimih are credited with instructing the first people with knowledge relating to survival in the rocky environment of the Arnhem Land plateau. Mimih are said to have taught the first humans how to hunt and butcher game and also how to dance, sing and paint. The song and dance style of western Arnhem Land Aboriginal people is still known today as Mimih style. This term is also used by Aboriginal people further to the east in central Arnhem Land when describing the dance and song of their western neighbours.
Mimih are usually described as being benign towards humans. However, sometimes they are attributed with mischievous and dangerous qualities capable of kidnapping and even killing humans. 'Clever' men, or Aboriginal men with supernatural powers, sometimes befriend Mimih and are taught their songs and dances and shown their secret places. Mimih are like people using the same kinship terms and speaking the same language as the local Aboriginal group. They live in families like humans and it is said that some Aboriginal men with mystical knowledge have spent time living with Mimih in their camps.
Mimih are depicted as terribly thin— having necks so slender that a stiff breeze would be fatal. For this reason they emerge to hunt only on windless days and nights. As soon as a breeze develops, Mimih run back to their rocky caverns and disappear inside.