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  • Subject Name : Arts and Humanities

Significance of The Dreaming in The Spiritual, Economic, and Social Life of Pre-Contact Aboriginal Societies

For the Aboriginal Australians, the Dreaming holds a lot of significance in their spiritual, economic, and social life. It is a complete worldview in itself that provides these people with an understanding of the time when the Earth first saw the existence of humans, animals, geographic formation, vegetation, and more. The Dreaming interprets the period when the Ancestral Spirits of the Aboriginal Australians first walked over the land and gradually gave life to the different forms of beings. It is not be considered one of the ordinary words and should only be spelt with a capital ‘D’. The Dreaming is where one can view how the universe was formed and how nature shaped various geographies.

This Worldview offers a sense of reality in terms of how the universe came into existence and showing the process of creation. It shows the model of the different life forms that the Dreaming created hundreds of thousands of years ago. The Worldview also has the laws of living created simultaneously by the Ancestral Spirits while creating the life forms. These guidelines apply for all economic activities, social life, art, and religious activities. There are several language groups and each of them has its own terms to understand the Worldview. The Dreaming is the meaning of everything in the Indigenous cultures.

The Aboriginal groups in Australia strongly believe that their Aboriginal Ancestors were the first people to walk on the planet. This means that the Aboriginal people have been living in Australia from the time the life-form came into existence. It is their belief that their Ancestral Spirits appeared from the sky and emerged from the ground to create the Earth’s nature; its water bodies, deserts, mountains, volcanoes, and more. All that was going to be a part of the land eventually came into existence. The Dreaming makes them understand that the true source of their rituals, ceremonies, languages, dances, and codes of conduct were all presented by the Aboriginal Spirit Ancestors. After they had completed their ‘work’, they dived back into the water bodies, disappeared into the forests, mountains, and in everything that they created.

For the Aboriginal people, the Dreaming is an extremely valuable resource as it contains an enormous amount of information about the time everything started. Hence, they want future generations to gain Ancestral knowledge and learn about fundamental cultural views. The Aboriginal people were successful in preserving their cultural heritage and maintained a linked with their past for hundreds of thousands of years. They have used the same customs and belief for sustaining a rich cultural inheritance. Among the hundreds of Aboriginal languages spoken across Australia, none of them has a word for ‘time’. It is that period that represents their past and is better known by the word ‘Dreaming’, which has been with them since the beginning.

The Dreaming is not just the codes of ethics, rules, or guidelines that the Aboriginal Australians follow but it is also the entire environment where the Indigenous population have been living and growing till date. It exhibits a number of places and each of its importance in the lives of the Aboriginals. The relationship between the land, water, sky and the Indigenous people was established and nurtured by their Ancestors. The Aboriginals, even today, have beliefs that their Ancestors remain at the sacred locations across the continent and clearly did not vanish from the Earth.

They believe that the spirits will live as long they want to and were then passed on to their successors of any life form such as ant, elephant, whale, and among thousands of them. The Aboriginal people consider these totems as sacred and are also extremely protective of them. These totems are believed to possess the spirits of the Ancestors. Every spirit has travelled on a different part of the land and interacted with the life forms that exist there including other Ancestral Spirits. When that happened, all the life forms that interacted with the Spirit became associated with it. This means that one life form had communicated with several spirits and thus got linked with each of them. It ultimately led to all the life forms to get connected with all the spirits and each other as well. The Dreaming environment has a number of families and individuals and each of them represents a unique Dreaming. It is like their own identity with which they can freely communicate their spirituality. They also get to know whether or not there is another Aboriginal family or an individual that is closely related to them and shares similar Dreamings.

The essence of the Dreaming in the lives of Aboriginal people is that it offers an animistic spirituality. This means everything that is a part of this environment is alive, for example, animals, water bodies, plants, and enlivened by a spirit. They are also interconnected with each other and work in a highly interactive and synchronised manner. In the very same world, where sacred spirits exist, there may also be unknown spiritual forces. The Aboriginals believe that the Dreaming has the power to control nature and foster natural growth. Similarly, Aboriginal Ancestors were powerful beings and had limitless creative abilities.

The first example is the Rainbow Serpent, also known as the Rainbow Snake, which is an immortal being associated with the Aboriginal Australians living in Western Arnhem Land. They believe that it is the protector of the land and has powers that give birth to all the water bodies on the Earth. In the Dreaming, the Rainbow Serpent represents unity, peace, cooperation, as well as destruction. It swallowed people and animals during floods and made storms as a punishment for not respecting the laws. The second example is Wandjina, that is deeply spiritual to the three Aboriginal groups, Worrorra, Ngarinyin, and Wunumbal and which are found only in the Kimberley region of Australia. They believe that Wandjina represents rain and fertility. Their heads radiate lines that depict lightning foreshadowing the seasonal rains. The Aboriginals living in this area believe that Wandjinas are mouthless Spiritual Ancestors otherwise that will make them extremely powerful.

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