In the mythology of the Australian Aborigines, Dreamtime, or The Dreaming, is the period of creation when the world took shape and all life began. During Dreamtime, ancestral beings created the landscape, made the first people, and taught the people how to live.
Spirits of Past, Present, and Future. The Aborigines believe that the spirits of ancestral beings that sleep beneath the ground emerged from the earth during Dreamtime. As they wandered across the land, the ancestral beings took on the forms of humans, animals, plants, stars, wind, or rain. During their epic journey, they created hills, plains, and other natural formations. Some of the beings brought forth rain. Some created the first people, and some established the laws by which people would live.
When the ancestral beings lay down upon the wet and still soft rocks, they often left impressions of themselves. The Aborigines believe that the ancestral beings continue to live in the places that bear their mark. There, deep down in the earth, they left various forces, including "child-spirits," which take on human form through a father and a mother on earth. One of the ways in which humans trace their origin to the ancestral beings of Dreamtime is through the child-spirits.
Dreamtime did not end at the time of creation because the ancestral beings and the child-spirits are eternal. When a life ends, the child-spirit returns to the earth and remains there until it comes back again in another human form. Moreover, by participating in certain rituals, individuals can reenact the journeys of their ancestors. Ancestral beings and human beings are thus closely and forever linked.
ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern
Dreamtime Stories. Different Aboriginal groups tell various Dreamtime stories about their ancestral beings. One group of northern Australia describes how an ancestral being in the form of a snake sent bats for humans to eat during the Dreamtime. However, the bats flew so high that the people could not capture them. The snake gave up one of his ribs to create the boomerang. Using this weapon, the people could hunt and eat the bats.
The Arrernte people of central Australia speak of a great lizard ancestor. They describe how the lizard created the first people in Dreamtime and gave them tools for survival, such as stone knives and spears. The Arrernte, who consider the lizard sacred, believe that certain waterholes and rock formations mark the places where the great lizard did his work.
See also Australian Mythology .