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The Dreamtime

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Dreamtime

The concept of dreamtime is alien to most people from western civilisations. The Aboriginal genesis is not one of an ideal existence and mans fall from this state of perfection (as in the Christian faith). Theirs is one composed of many legendary tales which describe how the world was made by their mighty progenitors.

In the beginning there was no life upon the world. There were no creatures, no trees, no plants, not even mountains or watercourses. The world was a huge plain extending level and featureless as far as the eye could see. At some time, long long ago, the men of the dreamtime came. They were giant semi-human creatures, who seem to have thought and acted like human beings, but resembled in appearance various animals, birds, plants and insects. These ancestral men travelled extensively over the countryside and wherever they performed their daily tasks - making a fire, camping, digging for water or gathering food - some natural feature rose out of the bare flat land.

Everything in the world, exept the level Mother Earth, is a result of the activities, wandering and fighting of these giant beings.

For example (Mountford, Brown Men and Red Sand) a large waterhole at Ayers Rock (Uluru) was the place where huge snakes had camped; the gorge at Nirunya had been torn out in mythical times by Milbili the Lizard in his pursuit of the woman of Kutunga; the immense domes of Katatjuta (the Olgas) were once the camps of the man eating Pungalungu men. Those great creators of the lands of the aborigines were, at the same time, forebears of the tribe. Thus in Aboriginal tribes of today there are snake men, emu men, ant men and so on - all of whom believe they are directly descended from one or other of the Ancestral beings in the long distant past. The stories of these ancestors, their travel, battles and tribulations are portrayed these days as the dot-art we recognise from the Western Desert.

Since everyone in the tribe claims descent from one or other of the mythical beings, and each in turn lives in the land created by them, it naturally follows that each man, woman and child is closely linked by both lineage and legend with their surroundings - the ranges, rocks, trees and watercourses. They are his, the work of his ancestors, and proud he is to show them and to care for them to ensure they are there for future generations.

Only those that can understand this close link between the people and the land can start to realise the heartache and sorrow they suffer when driven from their homes and the homes of generations before them, all because the land is wanted by white men for his sheep and cattle and mining operations.

When considering the dreamtime and the legends and stories portrayed in Aboriginal art it must be rembered that these stories and legends cover huge tracts of land and the dreamtime ancestors may travel overland or underground or may fly between sites. Activities such as road making/construction may interrupt or disturb dreamtime stories or their paths and mining may destroy the underground routes travelled.

Destroying sacred or ceremonical sites or "interrupting" the connections between the sites is akin to someone turning up at your house and mining in your backyard or putting a road through your property. Think about how you would feel and you may have some sympathy with the anger felt by the Aboriginals when white fellas damage or interfere with Aboriginal "property".