Australia - Aboriginal Dreaming - Ancient spirits in the 21st century
An introduction to Aboriginal Dreaming
To an outsider, "The Dreamtime" is fundamental to the concept of traditional Australian Aboriginal religion. The Aborigines, in fact, refer to "The Dreaming" (not, as we seem to say "The Dreamtime.") The difference is subtle, but important. We think of The Dreamtime as a past time. We think the term means lots of myths and legends. Aboriginal religion, in fact, is not a labeled belief system, but rather life itself. Aboriginal religion IS Aboriginal life; myths and ceremonies and ancestral stories and sacred sites are ALL a part of Aboriginal life. Hence, they prefer the term "The Dreaming".
Australian Aboriginal life has evolved today from about 200 different groupings across Australia, all with different dialects and varying social and cultural values. As they once were all mainly hunters and gatherers, they did "connect" a little with one another. But, to find a single, clear religion, is very difficult. Each clan group evolved different stories of The Dreaming. The Rainbow Serpent is the subject of many stories; there are different versions of how the Milky Way in the night sky came to be; there are different versions of stories about crocodiles, brolgas, possums, spiders, goannas, hawks and cuckoos. Groups in the Northern Territory may have quite different versions from those mainly living in the south eastern regions of Australia - near the coasts of New South Wales and Victoria. But all give stories to the world around them; especially "origin myths".
To further complicate the matter, men have a different "religious focus" from women in the same group. There are separate, sacred rites for men and women. When groups met, often a corroboree was performed; ("was", because this practice, with the pressures of Western society, is now extinct). The corroboree involved a dance of life - especially dramatising a hunt. Cultural practice demanded that men, dressed in ceremonial paint, danced while women watched. To hunt is a sacred rite. To give birth is a sacred rite - often referred to as "secret women's business", because men were not privy to this rite. Rites known as "secret men's business" are still regarded as so sacred that they are not well documented; men's initiation ceremonies are precious, secret. All movements, journeys and natural changes are sacred within the cosmic journey of the Australian Aboriginal.
Religion, then, is very intrinsic to the social and cultural way of life of each group. There are no gods, no heaven and no hell. The Dreaming is an ancestral time for all features of life; from the sun and the rain, to the very ancestors of the Aborigines themselves. And this adds a new dimension to this "living religion". The Dreaming is not a past time; it is a time still evolving now. It is LIVING. Ancestors still live within the Aborigines themselves; just as the sun and rain still perform their natural duties. The aborigines ARE their ancestors and ARE The Dreaming.
Uluru at Sunset
Highly Recommended Reading
- Queensland Aboriginal Cultural Experience and Tours
This is a delightful journey with a Queensland traveller, Greg Hardwick. Beautifully detailed! Go further and experience more of his journeys complete with his own pics!
And then, there is Uluru; that massive monolith of ever-changing colours at sunset, sitting lonely on the plains of the Northern Territory.
"We, the traditional land owners of Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, are direct descendants of the beings who created our lands during the Tjukurpa (Creation Time). We have always been here. It is our duty to look after the land, which includes passing on its history to our children and grandchildren. We call ourselves Anangu, and would like you to use that term for us." http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru/
Uluru is the living, visual symbol of the Aboriginal people, willing that we respect their Dreaming.
Uluru is their sacred site, the heart of all that they believe in and all that they are.
Doonooch Dance Company - incl. explanations of Aboriginal dances
A pocket of The Dreaming in the U.S.
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