THE ORIGINAL RELIGION OF AUSTRALIA – THE DREAMING

Family, community, land, nature are things that make up the world that surrounds Mibo. A simple man who finds magnificence and spiritual existence in this world of his, Mibo lives close to the elements, fearlessly. And so do his people. It is their ‘Dreaming’.

 

‘The Dreaming’ and ‘The Dreamtime’

‘The Dreaming’ refers to a set of beliefs or spirituality followed by the people who believe in ‘The Dreamtime’ which is the time when all the things of this cosmos were created and it contains within it the past, present and future ‘times’. Dreamtime is the beginning of knowledge from which came the laws of existence and for survival in the cosmos, believers must observe the laws.

The Dreamtime is the beginning of all things. It is also the life and life’s influence of the ancestors, as well as the way of life and death, and the sources of power in life. It is a condition beyond time and space – it is all the things at all the times. It refers to the past, present, and future all together.

The Dreamtime experience considers that every action of ours is important. It forms the future. Similarly, the past actions created the present. All the present life, and even the personal skills and character of tribal members, are a result of the life and actions of the ancestors.

Mibo’s people believe that all the aspects of the physical world around us are part of a system of relationships that maintain the biological diversity of the world. This structure of relationships must be respected because it helps in the survival of all the species and majorly because it is a result of the ancestral spirits’ creation of the Earth.

The Dreamtime is the time which encapsulates all the times and thus, is the ultimate crux of the cosmos, it contains the eternity. Mibo’s people aspire and await their return to this Time. It is a return to the real existence. In this ultimate state, the mind and being are in their most fundamental state. Because of this ultimate return’s promise, they feel connected to all nature, to all their ancestors, and to their own personal meaning and place within the scheme of things. A part of each person’s nature is eternal. This eternal being was always around but becomes a living person by being born physically. After living his time as a human, at death, this eternal part of the being melts back into the eternal life. Death is not considered ‘the end’. Upon death, you return to your eternal true self.

 

Dreaming and Society

The Dreaming is very society/community oriented. The collectiveness of the group is very essential in it. The Dreaming establishes societal structures, rules for social behavior and societal ceremonies. People have to live according to the rules and follow the rituals like initiations, legends and stories, songs, dances, paintings etc.

The Ancestors who created the earth are revered through ceremonial performances of songs, dances, paintings etc. They are the heroes who created the world for the modern people and are very important.

Mibo’s people believe that in our dreams dead people (the Ancestors) communicate their presence to us. They also believe that while sleeping when we dream, we have actually entered the Dreamtime temporarily. We stay in touch with the Dreamtime through our dreams everyday.

Nature

The Dreaming tribes find their existence deeply rooted to their landscape. Landscape is a part of their history, religion and psychology. Since it is believed to be the creation of the Ancestral Beings/Creators and thus, is a scared externalization of the energy they aspire to share with their Creator Gods. Mibo’s people, like most other tribal people, are reliant upon the external factors for their internal/psychological strength about their identity and being. This makes them susceptible to anything which disrupts their landscape as it affects their beliefs, although they are a people, by nature of their culture, who have a stronger spiritual unity of wholeness and identity with their tribe and physical and psychic environment.

It is believed that all the events that take place at any geographical location leave behind their existence in that place, and all of it creates the ‘air’ of that place, the aura of it. It forms something like a vibrational dimension of the place and can be perceived by the wise ones, the ones who can ‘see’.

This aura, which is a result of all the ‘time’ of the place since its creation by the Ancestors, is called The Dreaming of the place and thus, every place is sacred.

 

The Dreaming Beliefs

There are many communities within The Dreamtime and some of the legends and beliefs vary from one community to the other. According to their totem or ancestral stories, these Dreamtime communities have different versions of beliefs behind the existence of various natural phenomena, flora and fauna.

While most other communities in the world still debate about the creation of the world and who created it. Those who believe in The Dreamtime believe with their hearts firmly that Ancestral Beings walked upon the Earth and created everything we have around today. All life on the earth is a part of a complex network of relationships which came into being from the great Ancestors of the Dreamtime.

Most topographical features are a result of some action of the Ancestors or they embody the Ancestors. For example, the Gagudju people of Arnhemland, believe that the sandstone escarpment of the Kakadu National Park was created when the crocodile-man Ancestral Being was burned and jumped into the water to save himself. He turned to stone and formed the escarpment. Some people similarly also believe that all the water bodies were created by the Serpent when he slithered across the earth, creating a track.

Such stories of the earth’s formation and the system of our lives are central to The Dreamtime and every member of the community must venerate it and perform them during ceremonies and rites through symbolic dances and songs.

The Dreaming raises the elegant connection that is and can be found between the souls that inhabit this earth. A veneration and respect between all seems to be all-important in it.

The Origins of the Earth and Our World

It is believed that our Earth was a dead, silent, dark and empty place at first. All forms of life lived below the surface of the land, including our Ancestor Beings. Then the Ancestor Beings broke out of the land and moved around it, changing and creating different structures. These Ancestor Beings are also called Totemic Beings and that is where The Dreamtime gets its totemic nature. These Ancestor Beings are believed to have been half human and in the other half they were forms of different animals or plants. They made all the natural elements. They created the landscape – the mountains, the rivers, the trees, the waterholes, plains, everything. They made the animals – ant, frog, turtle, grasshopper, all the birds, kangaroo, lizard etc, and all the vegetation. They made all the celestial bodies. They made the people, and thus, the believers of The Dreaming believe they are the descendants of the Ancestral Beings who created them.

It is also believed that the souls of humans, animals, and plants existed before they came into being on the Earth. It is the duty of the humans to take care of the natural world, plants and animals, around them. They lived in harmony before coming into existence and will live so now. Dreamtime refers also to this time of the creation of the world.

The Ancestral Spirits then turned themselves into different things…rocks, valleys, ponds etc. Such sites are sites for inspiration for Mibo’s people. These are sites where they are connected to their Ancestors and feel their power alive. And because these are so important for them spiritually, destroying such a site means destroying their spiritual Ancestors.

Totemic significance comes in The Dreaming from the aspect that Ancestral Beings are believed to have been half of the animal spirits (or totemic beings). Having descended from these different part-animal Ancestors, the descendants possess some of the quintessence of the animal spirits. A man from the turtle Dreaming or totem would consider turtles a part of his community and will have a special relationship with turtles. He will never hurt them and would have different ceremonies to venerate this relationship.

 

Legends and Stories

The stories that are handed down the generations in The Dreamtime are the cultural stories that cover the cultural cocoon for these people. These stories cover many themes about various things, like creation of sacred places, animals, plants, climactic phenomena, creation of the respective community and so on.

These stories are as a result a record of history, geography, religion, culture of any place or community. It is a complex network of knowledge, faith, and practices. It informs the believers’ life in every way – his physical and spiritual being and daily life practices. Everything in their lives and around them in their physical surroundings has a deep meaning and is significant.

Most of The Dreamtime believers are today found in the Aboriginal communities of Australia. There are many communities within this, each with a different dialect, name and myths. However, a lot of these myths overlap, giving significance to the stories and beliefs.

 

Some Dreamtime Legends and Fables

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains in Australia also have a dreamtime legend. The three huge rocks formation in the Blue Mountains were once three sisters by the names of Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo. The three sisters fell in love with three brothers from another tribe, the Nepean. They could not marry them because their tribal laws forbade their marriage. The three brothers, nonetheless, did not obey the law and tried to take the sisters by force. This caused a tribal battle and to save the sisters, a witchdoctor transformed the sisters into rocks. He decided to turn them back again after the battle. Unfortunately, he was killed in the battle soon after and the three sisters’ spell could not be turned back ever by anybody. They have thus remained as the beautiful blue rock formations till today. These mountains are still present in Australia and are magnificent.

The Sun

The Sun was a beautiful woman who slept in a dark cave all alone and undisturbed. The Great Father Spirit once woke her up and asked her to light up the earth with her warmth and energy so that all life could stir on the earth. The Earth had the potencies of all life but there was darkness and cold all around. As The Sun opened her illuminant eyes, warm rays of light radiated and glazed the earth. The gentle rays from her eyes and the atmosphere lightened up. The earth looked more beautiful in the light, things shone and started to liven up.

The Sun walked across the land and wherever she went, everything that she looked at, came alive with life. The barren earth grew bountiful as the Sun’s rays travelled across its length and breadth. Soon, shrubs, plants, trees, birds, animals, insects, snakes awoke to life and populated the earth. The earth became luscious green with vegetation and breeze wafted across it, gently kissing everything.

The birds started flying, the insects started buzzing across the fields and the snakes started slithering across the muddy earth’s surface. As the snakes moved they left deep tracks behind them which soon got filled with water and formed the rivers, lakes, ponds, and thus came the aquatic life.

As the earth was now full of happy and healthy well settled life cycle, the Sun decided to create days and seasons. It travelled to the sky and soon sunk away. Darkness fell again but a few hours and a bit of rest later, the Sun shone back again. Thus, she created a measurable pattern in terms of days for activities of life on Earth.

Uluru

Uluru (popularly called Ayers Rock) are huge sandstone rock formations in central Australia. The local aboriginal people have many stories about this site, which is sacred to them.

One story behind the creation of Uluru says that two huge reptiles – a python and a lizard had a terrible fight in this region. As a result of their striking, writhing, and slithering about ferociously during the fight, cracks and bents occurred on this rock, giving it its present form.

 

Understanding Dreamtime in a Modern Context:

The reasoning explained by J.B. Priestly helps the modern man understand a belief system like The Dreamtime by explaining how rationality and rational thinking of man have developed over time, from an undifferentiated or an analogous start to the state of mind. Studies have shown that the idea of individuality was much less in ancient people than it is in the modern man. Our independent state of mind is not what the ancient people lived with. For them, their existence and “identity” lay in their community life, they existed through and with others. Their religious, social, political, private lives were not separate from each other. Their sense of identity lay in all of these with the people they knew. They did not seek to create their identity consciously through independent choices. Hence, their community was very important to them. To be banished from it, meant ceasing of the existence of the self – death. Unlike the modern man, for whom, life is a constant quest for a conscious definition of the self and individuality and an uprooted existence does not traumatize his brain.

To understand this state of mind better, one should understand its likeness to the state of a child’s mind. Nascent. Initially, all that the child lives through are his parents and home. A child is unconscious about the segregations of separateness of people’s lives. The segmentations formed by societies in terms of families, home boundaries, calendar days do not exist for a child. Same is the case with ancient people/ancient belief systems.

The visions of dreams or dream-like states of consciousness were important to the ancient people because they believed in what they saw. There was no concept or felt need for breaking down logically what they had a vision about or the state of mind in which the vision was had. Logical or consequential thinking were not developed concepts. Altering the states of consciousness to feel closer to the visions and feel the psychological existence beyond the present time was thus important and popularly followed. These visions were especially used to reach out to the spiritual sphere during the times of rites. The experience, being the one of visions of ancestors, was used in times of trouble and in times of happiness. A feeling of connection with their ancestors and being guided were achieved through these which definitely held deep spiritual meaning for them.

The sense of being that the modern man feels by insisting upon his individuality is somewhat similar to the sense of being the Dreamtime people feel by being an integral part of their history and community.

Observations: Simplicity can be quite complex. Although I would refrain from terming The Dreaming as simple or simplicity or anything else, it certainly does find its roots in very basic ideas. Most modern men would find that to understand belief systems such as this, they need to step out of their way of thinking and understanding. This makes this belief system complex in its simplicity.  A different state of mind is what this belief system came about in but, beautifully, has survived till date.

The Dreaming is about a connection of the souls – the souls of humans and animals and plants and the nature, everything. It exalts and aspires for the connection even between  the souls of the living and the dead, the soul of a river and its connection with the humans… this is what makes this belief system absolutely beautiful.

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One thought on “THE ORIGINAL RELIGION OF AUSTRALIA – THE DREAMING

  1. another great article. My brother has lived and worked with the Djabugai people in Queensland for years and is full of tales like these.

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