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The aborigines have lived on the vast island of Australia for over forty thousand years and are one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. Each group has its own collection of stories, including Dreamtime (creation) stories, and ceremonies related to their own particular area of land. The stories, passed on orally, are very sacred and many are secret. The following stories have been taken from different groups who have allowed them to be told to outsiders.

We have been told, as our fathers were before us, that there was land, but it was a bare, flat, barren plain. No animals ran there. No birds sang overhead, No trees or bushes grew. No sound of water could be heard. Nor was there any man or woman. Baiame, or the Maker of Many Things as some called him, brought the Dreamtime ancestors from under the ground and over the seas. With them, life came to the barren, flat plain. Some of the Dreamtime ancestors looked like men or women. Others looked like the animals or creatures, which descended from them. But often the Dreamtime ancestors could change their shape. So the Swordfish ancestor could look like a swordfish or a man or woman.
As the Dreamtime ancestors wandered over the land many adventures befell them. They met with other ancestors. Arguments often arose and the ancestors would set out on their travels again. They met strange creatures and fought battles. Each time something happened the very shape of the land changed. Hills arose, plants grew. Where the Barramundi-fish ancestor swam rivers appeared. When a wrong thing was done, when people, ancestors or animals did what they should not, the Rainbow snake would rush down upon them. He would either drown them, making bays and rivers, or swallow them. Then he would spit out their bones to form rocks and hills. From the Dreamtime Rainbow Snake came the feared ngaljod snake, still deadly and dangerous to those who are careless. But the Rainbow Snake is not just vengeful. To some people the rainbow Snake is Old Woman, who in the Dreamtime taught her children - humans - to talk and understand. She taught them to dig for food and what to eat.
And the sun, moon and stars? These also came to be in the Dreamtime. For one day Emu ancestor and Eagle ancestor were fighting. Eagle took one of Emu's eggs and threw it into the air. Soaring up, it burst into flames. Baiame fed the flame with wood. So the sun was made, and is made anew each day with fresh wood. Everything that is was mad in the Dreamtime, how animals and humans should look and behave was fixed for ever. The Dreamtime ancestors taught their tribes, animal and human, how to perform secret ceremonies. Then the ancestors disappeared into caves or waterholes - to remain underground, but ever present.
But Dreamtime is not over. For when ceremonies are performed Dreamtime comes to those who celebrate, and they learn to see this land as Dreamtime sees it - alive.

The most important point made by all the Dreamtime stories is that Dreamtime is not yet over, nor are the Dreamtime ancestors dead. Through the stories and initiation ceremonies, through links wit their own Dreamtime ancestors and sacred land, every Aborigine can learn to enter into the Dreamtime and at death the Aborigines return to the Dreamtime. What may appear to outsiders as barren country is a living, exciting map of life to the Aborigine, part of him or herself, as well as he or she being part of it. Through the power of the Dreamtime, the very environment is sacred and alive.

 


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