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