I have been studying the totem religion of the Australian
Aboriginals to keep a promise to a good Australian friend on one of the news
communities I submit articles to. I am totally fascinated with this very unique
religion of which possible is the oldest active religion known to man. Some
religious historians believe that the Altjeringa (Dreamtime) religion could be
the great grand daddy religion of all other religions.
The expression "Dreamtime" was coined in 1899 by
Gillen (who conducted formative anthropological work on Australian
prehistory) from alcheringa of the
Arrernte language. "Dreamtime" is often used as a collective term for all
the Dreamings of the indigenous peoples, though "The Dreaming" is a synonym
for "Dreamtime" and is culturally preferred by Indigenous Australian peoples.
"The Dreaming" in modern scholarship often refers to the "time before time",
"time outside of time" or "time of the creation of all things", as though it
were the past. But The Dreaming in a real sense is also present and in the
W.H. Stanner preferred "the Dreaming" to "the Dreamtime" and saliently
describes it as "the Everywhen".
This is an apt and evocative approximation to what the Indigenous Australian
Peoples refer to in translation as the "All-at-once" Time which is experienced
as a co-existing confluence of
past, present and
future. This does not counter the Indigenous Australians People's concept
linear time, but it informs and qualifies it. Indigenous Australians
considered the Everywhen of the Dreaming to be
objective, whilst linear time was considered a
subjective construction of
waking consciousness of one's own lifetime. This is in the converse of the
European concept which views dreams as subjective and linear time as
Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia contains an article on Aboriginal
"A mythic map of Australia would show thousands of characters, varying in their
importance, but all in some way connected with the land. Some emerged at their
specific sites and stayed spiritually in that vicinity. Others came from
somewhere else and went somewhere else.
Many were shape changing, transformed from or into human beings or natural
species, or into natural features such as rocks but all left something of their
spiritual essence at the places noted in their stories"
The Aboriginal people have always lived close to the land
and seeming think they are at one with nature their religion is full of
wonderful folk stories that supposedly date back to the very beginning of time.
Their art work is all linked to their religion.
Various land marks are regarded as sacred ground a place
where the spirit children await to be reincarnated. Dreamtime is connected to
real time as with the past, present and future run in conjunction of the
Dreaming" is also often used to refer to an individual's or group's set of
beliefs or spirituality. For instance, an Indigenous Australian might say that
they have Kangaroo Dreaming, or Shark Dreaming, or Honey Ant Dreaming, or any
combination of Dreamings pertinent to their "country". However, many Indigenous
Australians also refer to the creation time as "The Dreaming". The Dreamtime
laid down the patterns of life for the Aboriginal people. "The Dreaming" was the
time of creation
Songs, dreams and dances plus magical arts have been past
down through out the centuries, these people do not build temples, but have
special places to go to dream in and have tribal ceremonies. Some of these
places, caves have very beautiful paintings on the walls that date back
thousands of centuries. Some of the animals depicted within their drawing have
been extinct for thousands of years. One famous picture is that of the Rainbow
The Rainbow Serpent is seen as the inhabitant of permanent
waterholes and is in control of life's most precious
water. He is the underlying
Aboriginal mythology for the famous
He is the sometimes unpredictable Rainbow Serpent, who vies with the
Sun, that replenishes the stores of water, forming gullies and deep channels
as he slithered across the landscape, allowing for the collection and
distribution of water.
Dreamtime stories tell of the great Spirits during creation, in animal and
human form they molded the barren and featureless earth. The Rainbow Serpent
came from beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains and gorges as it
pushed upward. The Rainbow Serpent is known as Ngalyod by the
Gunwinggu and Borlung by the
Miali. He is a serpent of immense proportions which inhabits deep permanent
Serpent stories vary according to
environmental differences. Tribes of the
monsoonal areas depict an epic interaction of the Sun, Serpent and
wind in their
Dreamtime stories, whereas tribes of the central desert experience less
drastic seasonal shifts and their stories reflect this.
It is known both as a benevolent protector of its people (the
groups from the country around) and as a malevolent punisher of law breakers.
The rainbow serpent's mythology is closely linked to
life, social relationships and
I am very intrigued in this religion to a point I want to read and research
all the known fables and one day soon visit some of the dreamtime places. I have
always thought that the Australian Aborigines where a simple race, but it would
seem that they are much more complex than I ever imagined in fact they have a
I know that many Australians even today are mystified when they see a bunch
of these guys sitting down or caring out a dreamtime ceremony in the middle of a
supermarket or market place. Because the structures are built on a sacred site
this of course has caused some amusement and some times trouble.