The Dreaming and “Dreamtime”
As I take a career and life journey’s “Walkabout” around Australia and Europe during the Summer of 2011, during my visit to the Australian National Museum I really for the very first time embrace the concept of the Australian Aborigine “Dreaming” and “Dreamtime” that I was first introduced to during my Anthropology of Religion class I took during my college years at Florida State University. Nevermore did the concept “sink” and “settle” in me more than at this time of my life that I could truly say in a “Stranger in a Strange Land’s” true essence of “grokking” the concept fully and spiritually. “The Dreaming” tells of the journey and actions of the Ancestral Beings when they were creating the natural world. An animistic narrative telling of a “timeless time” of formative creation and perpetual creating. This took place during a mythological era called “Dreamtime”. This is a sacred era when the ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed “The Creation”. The philosophy is infinite and demonstrates how the past and present is linked together to prophesize the future. The concept of “Dreaming” is often used to refer to a person’s or group’s set of beliefs and spirituality. The Australian Aborigine might refer to “Shark Dreaming”, “Kangaroo Dreaming”, or “Eucalypus Dreaming” and this would refer to particular natural items or life forms in their resident area or country, laying down patterns of life from which to follow. This creates their mythos, their creation stories, and their folklore as to why certain things have come to be. They believe that every person exists eternally in the Dreaming and represents both the spirit that existed before physical life began and is the spirit that exists after death as a “Spirit Being” or “Spirit Child”. The Spirit Being can only exist physically by being born from a mother, entering the fetus during the fifth month of pregnancy. Upon birth, that child is to become a special custodian of the land and country to which s/he was born, required to learn the stories, lore, and songlines of that particular place. Our natural world, especially that which is within one’s cultural heritage, race, and species, is what provides the link between the people and “The Dreaming”. The Act of Dreaming and the stories that are within them carry the truth from the past, blended together with the code for the Law, to operate and facilitate the present. Every story within “The Dreaming” weaved as creation through the “Milky Way” is a complete long complex tale, many of which discuss consequences and our future being. During the Dreamtime, the Australian Aborigines believed that the creators were both men and women who took on spiritual forms. These “cultural heroes and heroines” sometimes defined as spirits, other times as “God/desses”, would travel across a formless land, create sacred sites and significant places of interest during their travels weaving story and songlines that would guide the spirit beings they birthed in Creation. They joined together with various spirits to create the land, the waterways, the geographical features of the land, the skies, the seas, the plants, the animals, the stones, and all the other wo/men that exist. Every event that takes place would leave a record in the land. To the Dharawal, “Biami” the Great Spirit, went up into the skies to watch over their people and to make sure they obeyed his rules. Spirits habitating in waterholes, caves, and other spirit places to watch over or affect those people that lived near them. This was one of the reasons that another tribe would not conquer tribal lands for doing so would place them in a land full of strange and potentially hostile spirits. The Australian Aborigines believed in both good and evil spirits they called “Goonges”. Children would be warned not to go to certain areas for the “goonge will get them”. Same for the oceans, for they too contained spirits underneath the waters and explained deaths at sea, getting caught in a rip current, or attacks by various sea creatures. The Creators, or the Ancestral Spirits, were shape-changers who were half-human, both male and female, who used the powers, great wisdom, and intentions to create all of being. They lived and retired in the sky clouds. The Aborigine believed that every living creature were created by the Creators as “spirit-children” and/or “spirit animals” during the Dreamtime and were assigned to live in particular spirit places. They believed that their own birth was the result of a spirit child entering into the mother’s body and was brought into being during conception by the specific actions or designs of the creators to make spirit children in the Dreamtime. They also believed that after death their spirit would return to the spirit-place to await rebirth. It was in Dreamtime that the Creators and ancestral spirits created the world which we all live. The Australian aborigines embrace all of life and the phenemena that affects if as part of the vast and complex system of relationships that go back to the original acnestral Totemic Spirits of the Dreaming. The Dreaming establishes a culture’s and regional country’s laws, taboos, structures, and history in order to ensure the continuity of life and land in that area. Breaking these cause destruction to the areas that one’s spirit is meant to guard or caretake.
The Australian National Museum’s Modern Art view of The Dreaming and Dreamtime: