Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dreamtime, or the Big Bang Theory...

As it is the case in every civilisation, men have always wondered where they come from. In Australia, the Aboriginal tribes have thought of different stories in order to explain their origins. The period of creation has different names according to the Aborigines (Tjukurpa, Alcheringa, Lalai…), the most common one being “The Dreamtime”. But where does the name come from? In those tribes, dreams are a very important part of the culture.  According to the Aborigines, their dreams can be interpreted as memories of the genesis. 

Dreamtime is thus referred to as “ the time when the first people were created” (from the OALD). All physical realities can be traced back to this period.  In other words, the different tribes think that this moment is the origin of all things (animals, plants, landmasses, stones, humans…) in the world.  The dreamtime can be divided in four parts:
-       the story of the things that have happened
-       how the universe appeared
-       how human beings were born
-       how the Creator decided upon the place of human beings in the cosmos
According to their beliefs, their ancestors’ spirits, considered as deities, are the ones who created the Earth. They do not only take human form, but can also be present as plants, animals, stones…In this way, after a person’s death, his or her soul may return in human, animal or plant form.  This is one of the reasons why the Aborigines are very respectful towards nature in all its manifestations and do not want to change or spoil it in any way.
In another version of the myth, the Great Rainbow Serpent is supposedly the one who gave birth to the first Australian Aboriginals and is therefore considered as THE “original creator”. He is the one who created the landscapes, the stones, the sun and the human beings.


The Aboriginal culture is filled with legends and stories about the foundation of the world.
Those stories are told from generation to generation in order to preserve the Aboriginal cultural heritage.  This heritage is still visible in their current society through rituals, ceremonies, songs, dances, stories… For instance, during their ceremonies (also called coroborees), they dance and sing, while being accompanied by typical Aboriginal instruments, such as didgeridoos and clap sticks.  They enable them to recall the first ages. 
The “dreamtime” phenomenon is also found in many different forms, such as media, literature, sport… There are many films that are based on this concept.  For example, “The Last Wave” tells the story of a man who has a dream connection with Aborigines who are charged of murder. The well-known singer, Kate Bush, also wrote on this subject in her song “the Dreaming”. Another sign of the impact of Dreamtime is that the name is used for one of their Rugby Teams, which has some of the best players of Australia.

In conclusion, we can say that dreamtime is an icon of Australian culture, especially for the Aboriginal tribes.  Their culture and religion rely on it, as can be seen in their rituals and ceremonies, which are still practiced today. Furthermore, the concept is spreading more and more in the current society and is not limited to the Aboriginal people of Australia any longer.

Example of coroboree
 Andrew Denis and Céline Van Gysel

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