A Tjurunga, also spelt Churinga and Tjuringa, is an object considered to be of religious significance by Central Australian Aboriginal people of the Arrernte (Aranda, Arunta) groups.
Generally speaking, tjurunga denote sacred stone or wooden objects possessed by private or group owners together with the legends, chants, and ceremonies associated with them. They were present among the Arrernte, the Luritja, the Kaitish, the Unmatjera, and the Illpirra. These items are most commonly oblong pieces of polished stone or wood. Some of these items have hair or string strung through them and were named “bull roarers” by Europeans. Upon each tjurunga is a totem of the group to which it belongs.
The ownership of sacred tjurunga amongst the Arrernte groups was determined largely by “the conception site” (donde da la primera patada el niño en el vientre de la madre) of every individual member of a patrilineal totemic clan (Esto hacía que diera en herencia una canción asociada a ese punto del paisaje, de modo que se podrían entender como libros de cuentas, o libros donde se inscribían las canciones que cada miembro del clan tenía?). Because these relics are considered sacred, their availability is limited to a small number of people. During the early 20th century and before, only initiated males were able to see or touch these sacred objects.
The wooden tjurunga made by the old men are symbolical of the actual tjurunga which “cannot be found”. These “man-made” tjurunga were accepted without reservation as sacred objects.
Scholars such as Spencer, Gillen, Strehlow, Kempe and Durkheim all studied tjurunga. Durkheim discusses the nature of tjurunga throughout his seminal work The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). He considered the tjurunga to be an archetype of the sacred item.