The Dreaming

The Dreaming is not a creation myth, per se, but a myth of formation. The world existed, but was featureless. Giant semi-human beings, resembling plants or animals, rose up from the plains where they had been slumbering for countless ages.

These ancient heroes roamed the land aimlessly. As they wandered around, they carried out the tasks that the present Aborigines do today including camping, making fires, digging for water, fighting each other, and performing ceremonies. When the heroes became tired of doing these things, Dreamtime came to an end.

Wherever the creators had been active, some form of natural feature now marks the place. The creators made everything with which the aborigines are in daily contact and from which they gain their living. The heroes also established laws that govern all aspects, both secular and sacred, of the tribes.

There are many words that are translated into 'the Dreaming.' Altijiranga, wongar, djugurba, and bugari are some examples. All the words for 'the dreaming' refer to virtually 'the same set of circumstances and phenomena'.

The meanings of these words are distinct, but they all have connected meanings. First, 'the dreaming' is a myth of the shaping of the world. Second, it is an illustration of the power of the ancestors. Third, it is a general way of life, or law. Lastly, it is a way in which an Aboriginal is connected to particular sites.

Dreamtime was in the past, but it is the Aborigines present religion and culture. The saying, 'As it was done in the Dreamtime, so it must be done today,' dominates all aspects of aboriginal behaviour. Because of their beliefs in 'the dreaming,' ceremonies and rituals are held, stories are told, pictures are drawn, and daily life is defined.

In order to understand the religion of the Aborigines, one must have a basic understanding of the organization of the tribes. All men and women belong to small groups, called clans. Each clan posses a distinct body of spiritual properties, or sacred sites.

A clan may have several sacred sites that they claim, and the area surrounded by the connection of these sites forms the clan's estate. Clans are linked by common religious traditions, intermarriage, shared dialects, and overlapping foraging rights.