A basic understanding of the concept of “the Dreamtime” or Creation period is an important part of recognizing the inextricable bond traditional Aborigines have for the land and their culture.
Traditional Aborigines believe the earth, like the sky, always existed and was the home of supernatural beings. At the beginning of time the earth looked like a featureless, desolate plain. Nothing existed on the surface. The earth was covered in eternal darkness as the sun and moon were still slumbering under the earth’s cold crust. Only beneath the surface of the earth did life already exist in the form of thousands of supernatural beings which lay dormant, along with a vague form of human life that existed in the shape of semi-embryonic masses of half developed infants.[read on or click here to NEXT: 50,000 years of living with MotherEarth]
Time began when the supernatural beings awoke and broke through the surface of the earth. The earth was soon flooded with light as the sun too rose from the ground. The supernatural beings varied greatly in appearance. Some rose in animal shapes resembling kangaroos and emus, other emerged in human guise looking like perfectly formed men and women. There was an indivisible link between humans, animals and plants. Those beings that looked like animals thought and acted like humans, and those in human form could change at will into animals.
After emerging from their eternal slumber, the beings – referred to as totemic ancestors (such as Wallaby Dreaming and Emu Dreaming etc) – moved about the earth bringing into being the physical features of the landscape. Mountains, sandhills, plains and rivers all arose to mark the deeds of the wandering totemic ancestors. Not a single prominent feature was created which was not associated with an episode of the supernatural beings.
The sacred songs of their deeds were compositions by the supernatural beings themselves. It was these compositions which became the subject of the many sacred myths, songs and ceremonies in which Aboriginal religious beliefs were to find expression. Hence, they were sung on ceremonial occasions and body decorations were worn by actors impersonating the totemic ancestors. All sacred ritual was regarded as eternal and unalterable.
The supernatural beings continued to roam until, exhausted by their effort, they fell back into their sleep and returned to the earth. Many vanished into the ground, often from the sites where they first emerged, others turned into physical objects like rocks or trees. The places that marked their final resting places were regarded as sacred sites to be approached only by initiated men. But before their disappearance from the face and of the earth, the sun and the moon and the rest of the earth-born celestial beings rose into the sky, and man was left to wander the earth.