Dreaming and The Dreamtime of Australian Traditional Lore

Painting DreamingThe concept of the Dreamtime is often for some a difficult concept to understand. Dreaming, that wonderful state between reality and fantasy is a place most of us know and enjoy, but the Dreamtime is a place very different. Some would affiliate it with the concept of heaven and hell when arriving at a perception of what manner of place the Dreamtime is.

The Dreamtime is a combined state of both heaven and hell, indeed the only separations made between heaven and hell are those made within the tenets of the religions scattered around the world, which is a recent development given the timeline of man.

Heaven and Hell, it can be argued logically and within the religious context, is not a physical realm but a spiritual one. The Dreamtime is this also and religion and lore have this in common. Also in common are the Creator and the lesser beings, the angels and the spirit creatures.

The Dreamtime however is not a place that requires a ‘state of grace’ as with the concept of heaven found within the religions. The concept of the ‘state of grace’ is strongly related to the ongoing worship of the Creator/God/Devil depending on your affiliation. It is viewed as an achievable state which is awarded to a ‘sidekick’ on merit, given that their particular belief, or religion or faith is adhered to or practiced. The common belief withIn religion is that heaven is also a place which you can negotiate your way into or, effectively it is a item of trade. Many religions have long upheld that you can purchase or achieve this ‘state of grace’ either by cash or deed.

The Dreamtime on the other hand however is a place that has no admittance fee or prerequisite for entry, it simply belongs to all including the lesser animals in creation. The responsibility in being evil or good is one for the community and punishments are meted out within Lore, including expulsion from the community which is viewed as the harshest of punishments.

After death in order to be return to the cycle of life you must be cleaned of all evil by the Spirits and this one of their roles. Babies are considered to be born without sin within the Lore, whereas within religion babies are commonly born sinners or carrying the burden of sin that is life. What is important in Lore as opposed to religion is that there is a balance maintained in life and that this is acceptable to those with wisdom or knowledge. These I have found in my research are the differences between the Dreamtime and the Heaven/Hell combination.

As I emerged from childhood some years ago I understood that the Dreamtime was indeed a place, a place without time and I begun to understand a new concept where the Dreamtime was a place of history also, it was a beginning and an end. Tales are told in traditional Aboriginal Lore where the world was born and amazing creatures of the Spirit ranged across the realm shaping not only the land, but the people. These stories represent creation and are tales told around campfires to imprint upon the minds of children and adults alike, their own place in their world.

WarrambungleMnts NSWThe Dreamtime concept that exists today in our world is unique to our ancient Australian Lore. I have wondered often if it is the vastness of the continent, the immense distance in the horizons or perhaps even the uniqueness of our creatures which fostered the concept of the Dreamtime. Unlike religion which was born and structured some 4000 – 5000 years ago. Religion moved from being a lore to a religion when there was a commercial base in our evolving social development for it to become a embedded part of many societies.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 10.19.24 AMThe Dreamtime emerged in its histories and development as a lore and was maintained as a spiritual practice and lore which it still largely is today. It never developed into a instrument of trade or tradable ‘grace’. It is because of this that it is seen by the world as a primitive Lore but you are left wondering if this is a positive or negative thing. Perhaps it is the majesty born of the electric storms of the Outback and Top End, or perhaps it is the red desert winds that sweep across the land or just maybe it is the Spirit places hidden in plain sight that kept this Lore largely divorced from trade. What was traded or shared were the songs, the stories and the knowledge and dance.

For those of you who dislike the above statement concerning trade within the structure of religion, I would like to remind you that one of the first acts of the prophet Jesus in the Christian faith was the overturning the tables of commerce and trade practiced in the temples of his day. He too found this ‘trade’ aspect abhorrent and yet it continues to survive today in all organized religions.

In coming to know my land Australia as an adult and given the opportunity to visit other lands, I found the differences  between the Aussie traditional lore and the religions of the world became a tangible thing to me. The spirituality in the sacred places I found in Australia became tangible after a time, particularly  if you allow your spirit to touch the vastness and visit the truly ancient places of this land. It leaves you with questions ad it provides you with answers. It is not that you come to compare modern religion and ancient lore, that would be like comparing a child with a grandfather, there are no comparisons.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 9.24.42 amLore is a ‘way of life’ and religion is ‘the belief in a way of life’. Aboriginal Lore is like an old man who will know his way and religion, still in the throws of its development is like a child who is materially possessive and will still be arguing with their siblings over the little things and their toys.

Wandjina figuresAustralian traditional Lore is some 50,000 years old, a Lore developed and matured in one place by one people in a continuous thread and in an isolated environment. Possessions to our ancient tribal Australians had no meaning and were of little value aside from those things that are spiritual and entirely practical. While modern religion is at its most only 5,000 yrs old and developed in a number of places producing a number of religions with different tenets and even different prophets generally in a commercial and material environment.

This truly is like comparing a 50yr old with a 5yr old… there is no comparison. You leave the 5yr old playing with its toys and fighting with its siblings while the 50yr old can tell you the best stories and more about life, and perhaps teach you some spiritual values.

Within the structure of Australian Aboriginal Lore, the Dreamtime is the place where all things began. It was the beginning, akin to the creation in other religions. Where Aboriginal traditional Lore primarily differs from creation account of other faiths is that given a world without features or form it was the Spirit Animals, the Spirit Creatures and Creators of legend who formed the mountains, sloughed through the valleys and formed the great river that cross the continent of Australia, they were the Spirits of creation. These things are told in poetic and epic tales, recounted while sitting around a campfire across time. The stories change but the morals remain the same. The tales live and breathe for their listeners gaining a relevance. They are not tales etched in stone with text or written on papyrus and they are tales never meant to be so fixed or fixated over.

The Dreamtime is truly a place without time as with the Dreaming, but one where all time exists and continues to exist today. The “present” being a convergence of the past and the future, for it to exist with all time all at once, it simply is and always has been. It has similarities with the concept of Heaven, only perhaps it is a more practical place.

Eagle dreamingYet Dreaming and the Dreamtime are different concepts and it is the Dreamtime that is the realm of the Spirits, the Creator spirits and those who formed the land and bought knowledge to the people of the land. It is the place of God and angels, and devils perhaps in more colloquial terms, or the place of the Serpent as with the serpent in the garden of Eden which bought knowledge to man.

The Dreaming on the other hand is where the stories are created, where tales are born and nurtured and where lessons are learnt. It is where the spirit creatures visit and where the Oruncha or Spirit Men, the teachers and Shadows are to be found. These are things which govern and teach, or guide and lead a way towards the Dreamtime. The Dreaming is the land, the country and the animals and it belongs to man, a gift from the Creator. The Dreamtime is a realm of the Spirit and belongs to the spirits and the Creator.

Food for thought. It is my belief that we can find the Dreamtime within us all, it is an intrinsic part of our very existence. Our responsibility to our kind and to our world which above all, is something that should be remembered and the tales of Aboriginal Lore remind us of this.



Fictional Contemporary Tales of Australian Lore

2 thoughts on “Dreaming and The Dreamtime of Australian Traditional Lore

  1. thank you! I feel like your explanation of Dreamtime has helped my soul in some way. I’m still so confused and hope to learn more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s