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Dreamtime

Wikipedia can be so dry sometimes, to whit:

Dreamtime (also dream time, dream-time) is a term for the animist framework and symbol system of Australian Aboriginal mythology, introduced by anthropologist A. P. Elkin in 1938 and popularised by anthropologist William Edward Hanley Stanner and others from the 1970s for a concept of “time out of time”, or “everywhen”, inhabited by ancestral figures, often of heroic proportions or with supernatural abilities, but not considered “gods” as they do not control the material world and are not worshipped.

The term is based on a rendition of the indigenous (Arandic) word alcheringa, used by the Aranda (Arunta, Arrernte) people of Central Australia, although it appears that it is based on a misunderstanding or mistranslation, and the word has a meaning closer to “eternal, uncreated”. However, “Dreamtime” and “the Dreaming” has acquired its own currency in 1980s popular culture based on idealised or fictionalised conceptions of Australian mythology. Since the 1970s, “Dreaming” and “Dream time” has also returned from academic usage via popular culture and tourism, and is now ubiquitous in the English vocabulary of indigenous Australians in a kind of “self-fulfilling academic prophecy”.

I like to think that story and myth enrich our lives and our understanding of the cosmos. So, with apologies to indigenous Australians, and in full recognition that spatial terminology like “across” has no meaning when applied to “formless void” (this is story and myth after all), let us suppose that…

Creation is the work of the eternal, uncreated Dreaming, who sent spirit beings across the formless void. As the spirit beings traversed the void, sacred sites and significant places of interest and all natural phenomena became reality. The Dreaming and travelling trails established songlines snaking across the land. They have not been forgotten by the people. The songlines exist in memory and oral tradition. They are recorded in songs, stories, dance, and painting. And by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena, the people can navigate throughout the land. The people have a deep knowledge and understanding of the land. They know the land’s needs, and how the land cares for them. They are kin to the land, their kith.

Some individuals have forgotten the songlines. They have become alienated from the land and cannot bear too much reality. They travel too quickly and their attention is on other things. They have stopped noticing the sacred sites, and wondering at natural phenomena. They have stopped singing of the land, stopped caring for it, and stopped letting it care for them. But not all is lost. The Dreaming is still with them. They can re-learn the songlines from the stories, dance and painting. They can let the land teach them. They can still themselves, and wait and look and listen for the songs. They can move slowly, and as they listen re-make the songlines. They can share their songlines with others who have forgotten. They can sing once more.

dreamtime