Dreaming or Dreamtime is a complex and important concept in Aboringinal beliefs and tradition. It refers to the mystical time of creation. Legends from the Dreamtime tell of this creation. They give reasons for the existence of things, like the birth of the first human beings. the existence of different kinds of animals, the formation of the distinctive geographic features, the various phenomena of the sky and the changing climates...According to the Gagadju, life and the natural features of the land only began to take shape during the Dreamtime. They were all created by spirit ancestors. After completing their creative tasks, the spirit ancestors didn't just disappear. They turned themselves into different things...rocks, pools, paintings, rock arts etc. They still retain the power and creative energy within them.

Aboriginal dancers 178.4K
Aboriginal dancers
Courtesy of the NT Tourist Commission
To the Aborigines, these are all sacred places, Dreaming sites which they believe they can draw upon power and energy through singing, dancing and performing rituals. For example, the Gagadju Aborigines believe that their food source can be increased by painting flying foxes on the rocks and performing ceremonies around the site. More flying foxes will be created.* It explains why the land, the animals and the plants are so important to the Aborigines. There is mystical bond between men, the environment and the spiritual life of Dreaming. Because of the spiritual significances of the sacred sites, destroying a sacred site means destroying the spiritual inhabitants and the well-being of life and this is unacceptable to the Aboriginal culture. It is the duty of the Aborigines to maintain and protect the sites so the spiritual ancestors will not be offended and continue to protect the Aborigines. Traditional punishment is severe if they don't abide by the rules.

Each Gagadju has several totems which are of his Dreaming. They can be Dreaming animals or plants. They believe they are descended from the same spirit and possess some of their life essence of the Dreaming species in them. For example, if a man belongs to the Wallaby Dreaming, by painting Wallaby design of his body during cerenomy, he becomes a wallaby. In his life time, he has a special relationship with the wallaby and become very close to it. The wallaby can guide him to good hunting grounds and warn him of any danger. And he will not eat them.*

Each Aboriginal group has its own legends which are related to the land they occupy. Therefore, Aborigines in different parts of Australia will tell you different origins and how their mountains and rivers came to be. Members of an Aboriginal group believe they all came from a common ascentral being who left behinds rules and regulations to govern the correct behaviour.

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Written byHelen Lam
Created: December 15, 1996
Updated: March16, 1997

*S. Breeden and B. Wright, Kakadu, Looking After the Coutry-the Gagadju Way (Brookvale, NSW: Simon & Schuster, 1989)

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