Sacred Aboriginal Spirituality and Beauty
'Aborigine' is the name given by the first Europeans to Australia's people meaning 'original inhabitant'. Aborigines themselves use the names applicable to their territory group or their language. The Australian census estimates the Aboriginal population around 400,000. Before the British arrived and started slaughtering them in 1788, it's guessed they were 500,000 to a million.
Spirituality for Indigenous Australians takes varied forms. Some share the religious beliefs and values of religions introduced into Australia from other cultures arounds the world, particularly Europe. But for most Aborigines, spiritual beliefs are derived from a sense of belonging-to the land, to the sea, to other people and to one's culture. The form and expression of spirituality differs between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders located off Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland. Aboriginal spirituality mainly derives from the stories of the Dreaming, while Torres Strait Islander spirituality draws upon the stories of the Tagai.
Arnhem Land, Aboriginal Homeland:
This is the Aboriginal homeland where the Dreamtime lives in song and dance, legend, myth and history. A special place where innumerable sacred sites are forever hidden from any non-aboriginal person. No white man is allowed to enter except with express permission. This homeland still carries its European name after a Dutch ship which made the first European sighting of this region in 1623. Arnhem Land is about 97,000 square kilometres of forests and spectacular rivers and gorges, east of the Northern Territory capital of Darwin and East Alligator River.
For more than 20,000 years the Aborigines have been hunters and gatherers in this tropical region of swamp and dense bushland. They believe they came from mythical Baralku Island, unknown to living man. Ironically like the Havasupai Tribe inside the Grand Canyon, the Australian government wants to take away the land to mine uranium. Many Aborigines, like the Native Americans, have turned to alcohol, drowning their sorrows as they watch their precious culture, land and spirituality be torn apart by ignorant, profit hungry white men. They know they must stay together, away from the cities and the corruptions of white society so as to stay strong, powerful and to preserve their ancient spirituality, culture and way of life.
Families tend to stay within their own sacred clan territory. Men hunt game such as geese, lizards and kangaroos. They discuss politics, paint and practice magic from long ago. Women gather nuts, yams, shellfish and other foods. They weave bags of pandanus leaves, cook, hold their own sacred ceremonies, nuture and raise the children. The children (like the Havasupai Tribe in America), sometimes go away to boarding school to be educated, however, they too, return home to Arnhem Land as health workers and teachers. The Aborigines pick and choose from modern conveniences, but when all is said and done, they prefer to live in the open, unenclosed, at one with the land they know and love better than anyone, accountable for every sacred sites upkeep.
Boomerang from the Dharuk language of Sydney, originally meant throwing stick and was used to injure a target so it could then be captured. Over time, intricate designs began to appear which allowed them to curve around objects, skip the ground with force and swirl skybound in a large arc, returning to the thrower. The Aborigines have used boomerangs for thousands of years for hunting, tribal warfare, to clear grass, as a fire poker and for cutting. A specimen of a preserved boomerang was found at Wyrie Swamp in
South Australia and is dated at 10,000 years old. Boomerangs have not always been known throughout all of Australia, being absent from the west of South Australia, the north Kimberley region of Western Australia, north-east Arnhem Land, and Tasmania.
Traditionally fashioned from Mulga or Black Wattle, returning boomerangs were made from the roots of trees which already had the desired shape. This is because the tips of a boomerang will break off when it hits the ground unless the grain of the wood follows the shape. Fighting boomerangs, also called killer boomerangs, are larger, heavier and have a distinctive hook shape. They were originally used in tribal warfare, sometimes inflicting serious wounds and were also used to bring down medium size prey such as wallabies and goanas. Ceremonial boomerangs are richly decorated with Aboriginal artwork, relating specifically to the corroboree
or ceremony they are being used in.
History and The Dreamtime:
"They say we have been here for 70,000 years, but it is much longer. We have been here since time began. We have come directly out of the Dreamtime of our creative ancestors. We have kept the earth as it was on the first day. Our culture is focused on recording the origins of life. We refer to forces and powers that created the world as creative ancestors. Our beautiful world has been created only in accordance with the power, wisdom and intentions of our ancestral beings."
"During the creation of our world, the ancestors moved across a barren land, hunting, camping, fighting and loving and in doing so shaped a feartureless landscape. Moving from Dreams to actions, the ancestors made the ants, the emus, the crows, the possums, the wallabies, the kankaroos, the lizard, the goanna, the snakes and all the food and plants. They made the sun, the moon and the planets. They made the humans, tribes and clans. Each could transform into the other. A plant could become an animal, an animal a landform,
a landform a man or a woman. Everything was created from the same source. Everything was created in our Dreamtime. As the world took shape and was filled with species and varieties of the ancestral tranformations, the ancestors tired and retired into: * the earth * the sky * the clouds * and the creatures to live within all their created * in our Dreamtime."
~ Source unknown
Earth Dying, Earth Reborn - Dreamtime Story:
Once, the earth was completely dark and silent; nothing moved on its barren surface. Inside a deep cave below the Nullabor Plain slept a beautiful woman, the Sun. The Great Father Spirit gently woke her and told her to emerge from her cave and stir the universe
into life. The Sun Mother opened her eyes and darkness disappeared as her rays spread over the land; she took a breath and the atmosphere changed; the air gently vibrated as a small breeze blew.
The Sun Mother then went on a long journey; from north to south and from east to west she crossed the barren land. The earth held the seed potencies of all things, and wherever the Sun's gentle rays touched the earth, there grasses, shrubs and trees grew until the land was covered in vegetation. In each of the deep caverns in the earth, the Sun found living creatures which, like herself, had been slumbering for untold ages. She stirred the insects into life in all their forms and told them to spread through the grasses and trees, then she woke the snakes, lizards, and other reptiles, and they slithered out of their deep hold.
As the snakes moved through and along the earth they formed rivers, and they themselves became creators, like the Sun. Behind the snakes mighty rivers flowed, teeming with all kinds of fish and water life. Then she called for the animals, the marsupials, and the many other creatures to awake and make their homes on the earth. The Sun Mother then told all the creatures that the days would from time to time change from wet to dry and from cold to hot, and so she made the seasons. One day while all the animals,insects and other creatures were watching, the Sun travelled far in the sky to the west and,as the sky shone red, she sank from view and darkness spread across the land once more. The creatures were alarmed and huddled together in fear.
Some time later, the sky began to glow on the horizon to the east and the Sun rose smiling into the sky again. The Sun Mother thus provided a period of rest for all her creatures by making this journey each day.
~ Story from Karraur Tribe
Every single facet of Aboriginal life comes from the Dreamtime. Aboriginal land ownership is based on spiritual beliefs and ties formed in the Dreamtime. Totems represent the link between Aborigines and the ancestrial creative beings. Humans receive spiritual identification from these totems at birth or just before pregnancy in the form of a dream or a physical experience. Spiritual values, law and education is of extreme importance and still passed down from generation to generation, encoded within the Dreamtime stories. The Australian landscape stands as testimony to every Dreamtime saga. The land IS the Aborigine... every rock, every pool, every stone and every sandhill IS the Dreamtime. Without the land, there is no culture.
In the bush are galleries of beautiful rock art, the history of the land and the people. No written form of ancestral law exists. Each clan has their own sacred stories and can only tell the part of the great creation journey that occurred on their land. The traditions and sacred law are transferred by word of mouth, through chanting, song-poems and dance. Today, there are a number of world famous, outstanding Aboriginal artists, musicians, singers, athletes and writers. The full significance of certain art designs and the secret meanings, just like the deep spirituality of the stories, will never be fully revealed to the public.
Recent cave paintings found in the Northern Territory show that the Aborigines lived in Australia for over 175,000 years ago, yet Aborigines were not recognized as citizens until 1967! Until then, they were not counted in the census and could not vote. The national referendum giving them citizenship, passed with a landslide victory.
David Malangi is a painter of worlwide recognition who comes from a settlement near Ramangining. His country is called Milmildjark. One of his paintings was reproduced on the Australian dollar bill, depicting funeral rites for a legendary hunter, Gurrumirringu who was killed by a snake at a water hole as he was preparing kangaroo meat. Water holes, or billabongs as they are called, are considered special places as they play an important part in the cycle of human life from birth to death.
Walangari Wangardi Karntawarra Jakamarra, also known as Colin McCormack, was born in Alice Springs in 1961. Walangari sees his paintings as a form of communications between cultures. It was the legacy of his famous great grandfather, Albert Namatjira and the inspiration of his grandfather Clifford Possum that encouraged him to paint. While his paintings tell the traditional stories of his people and feature the iconography of the desert, Walangari uses a fuller colour spectrum and splash effect to forge a striking path within modern Aboriginal art. In his paintings he uses the Jukurrparange of Global Colour Paints which he
personally helped to create. His paintings are widely acclaimed and he has exhibited extensively both in Australia and overseas.
"Aboriginal culture is a spiritual culture. It is always important to pay your respects to the land and to honour our Ancestors and Dreaming spirits. It is just as important to pay respect to the living. That law is Caring and Sharing for all peoples!"
The ancestral creative being Kuniya, the carpet snake, camped and hunted by a waterhole on a large flat sandhill. The sandhill turned to stone and became the magnificent Uluru which rises 1,100 feet (348 meters), above the Mulga Plain, at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The base is about 5.5 miles (nine kilometers) in circumference and is actually the tip of a subterranean sandstone mountain which eons ago was part of an inland seabed. The red sandstone constantly changes colour with the light, intensifying the magical atmosphere. Nearby is Kata Tjuta's 36 steep-sided domes rising to 1,640 feet.
The Aboriginal athlete and Olympic gold medalist Nova Peris-Kneebone was the first runner to bear the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch in Australia, on the Outback settlement of Yulara, near Uluru.The torch was not carried to Uluru's summit because the site's traditional owners, the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjajara people of the Western Desert, discourage ascents. They consider the rock a sacred place, vital to Aboriginal ritual life. Please honor and respect the Aborigines by not climbing Uluru.
Beginning in the 1870's thousands of Aborigine groups were massacred, segregated, put into missions and governmental reserves. Until the late 1960's, children of mixed race ancestry were forcibly taken away from their Aboriginal mothers in a tragic attempt to assimilate them into Euro-Australian society. Aborigines today, are battling the government and society for reconciliation of these horrific crimes and severe abuse. They are demanding equal rights with 'white' Australia plus atonement and compensation for the usurpation of their lands and the destruction of their cultural traditions and spirituality. Their greatest hope is self-management which empowers them to take control over their own clans, communities, businesses and personal affairs.
Cathy, an Aborigine, not only lit the Olympic 2000 flame before the world, but also won a gold medal in track. She is a huge, beloved national hero and inspiration to millions of Australians and Aborigines. This very shy and beautiful lady, has become a symbol of freedom and strength, as an athlete, a woman and for her people. Because of her prescence and actions, she has moved reconciliation closer to a happier outcome. However, the struggle and the debate is not over yet.
Charles Perkins dedicated his life to reconciliation and made a huge impact which he created through his love, passion and devotion, to ending the abuse, injustice, violence and ignorance towards the Aborigines. He is a hero too, proving yet again, that ONE man CAN make a difference.
The Didgeridoo or Yidaki, as it is called in the Yolno language, is the traditional instrument played by the aborigines.The Didgeridoo is actually created by termites who eat away the inner-cores of the "Stringybark" trees, leaving behind the hollowed-out trunks. By tapping on fallen trees, the aborigines selectively determine their suitability and hollowness, cut off both ends of the chosen stick, and clean it out. Bees-wax is added for a mouthpiece thereby creating the oldest wind instrument in the world, used for thousands of years to accompany singing, dancing and to alter the state of consciousness of both player and listener. Traditionally aboriginal children are given the Didgeridoo and encouraged to take it out into the Bush to let nature be the teacher. After a few hours the Didgeridoo will teach you how to play it.
"This exciting band of Yolngu (aborigine) people, come from the Gumatji and Rirratingu clans, in the coastal communities of Arnhem Land. Yolngu people deal as an intrinsic part of their daily lives, with cultural responsibilities handed down from generation to generation. Yolngu society has a complex and elaborate world view, a sophisticated system of kinship and rich ceremonial and religious behaviour. By attributing human qualities to all natural species and elements, Yolngu people live in spiritual harmony with nature. This is communicated in ceremonial song and dance."
~ Andrew McMillan, 'Tribal Voice' 1992
If you visit Australia, buy an album by David Hudson, another superb aboriginal muscician.
These ancient people have lived outside the matrix for thousands of years, in tune with Great Spirit and Mother Nature. The white man entered into their lives only 200 years ago and committed atrocities against them beyond belief, in the name of 'civilisation'. The Aborigine of today is struggling to remain outside of the matrix. Many succumb and become hopelessly lost and destroyed within the system. Many refuse to bow down and give up 175,000 years of freedom and spirituality. Thank God for those who dare.
What the PM should have said:
"We, the people of the great "stolen" land are proud to live in a democracy where it is possible for a government to assume power with less than 50% of the vote. We are an unpretentious society, more comfortable in boardies and stubbies that show a good inch of bum crack, instead of the Guccci suits of an ex-PM who lost power for giving the blacks their land back. That's the power of our democracy that we love so much.
We the people do not generally understand the concept of cultural appropriation and will buy anything with dots painted on it and call it Aboriginal art. And we believe that land rights should simply mean that they (Aboriginal people) have the right to buy land at auctions like the rest of us. And we really can't comprehend this "relationship with the land thing".
We as a people might appear to support policies of self-determination, reconciliation and racial vilification, but we cannot say we're "Sorry" or agree to native title."
~ Anita Heiss. Aboriginal author, satirist and social commentator having a dig at white-Australia.
Aboriginal stories of the Dreamtime
Learn about these very special, sacred people
Aboriginal Art On Line
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