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The Dreaming, also referred to as Dreamtime, is a term devised by early
anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology and philosophical anthropology study the norm ...

anthropologist
s to refer to a religio-cultural worldview attributed to Australian Aboriginal beliefs. It was originally used by Francis Gillen, quickly adopted by his colleague
Baldwin Spencer Winston Baldwin Spencer (born October 8, 1948) is an Demographics of Antigua and Barbuda, Antiguan politician who was the third List of Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda from 2004 to 2014. Spencer led ...

Baldwin Spencer
and thereafter popularised by A. P. Elkin, who, however, later revised his views. The Dreaming is used to represent Aboriginal concepts of ''Everywhen'', during which the land was inhabited by ancestral figures, often of heroic proportions or with supernatural abilities. These figures were often distinct from gods, as they did not control the material world and were not
worship Worship is an act of usually directed towards a . For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a God. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated . Such a ...

worship
ped but only revered. The concept of the Dreamtime has subsequently become widely adopted beyond its original Australian context and is now part of global popular culture. The term is based on a rendition of the
Arandic
Arandic
word '' alcheringa'', used by the Aranda (Arunta, Arrernte) people of
Central Australia Central Australia, also known as the Alice Springs Region ( aer, Mparntwe Ampere), is one of the five regions in the Northern Territory of Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign ...
, although it has been argued that it is based on a misunderstanding or mistranslation. Some scholars suggest that the word's meaning is closer to "eternal, uncreated". Anthropologist William Stanner said that the concept was best understood by non-Aboriginal people as "a complex of meanings". Jukurrpa is a widespread term used by
Warlpiri people The Warlpiri, sometimes referred to as Yapa, are a group of Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Mainland Australia, Australian mainland and many of its islands, such as Tasmania, Fraser Is ...
and other peoples of the
Western Desert cultural bloc The Western Desert cultural bloc or just Western Desert is a cultural region in central Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (co ...
. By the 1990s, Dreaming had acquired its own currency in
popular culture Popular culture (also called mass culture or pop culture) is generally recognized by members of a society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and ...
, based on idealised or fictionalised conceptions of Australian mythology. Since the 1970s, Dreaming has also returned from academic usage via popular culture and
tourism Tourism is travel Travel is the movement of people between distant geographical location In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of th ...
and is now ubiquitous in the English vocabulary of Aboriginal Australians in a kind of " self-fulfilling academic prophecy".


Etymology

The station-master, magistrate, and amateur ethnographer Francis Gillen first used the terms in an ethnographical report in 1896. With
Walter Baldwin Spencer Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer (23 June 1860 – 14 July 1929), was a British-Australian evolutionary biologist, anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans w ...

Walter Baldwin Spencer
, Gillen published a major work, ''Native Tribes of Central Australia'', in 1899. In that work, they spoke of the ''Alcheringa'' as "the name applied to the far distant past with which the earliest traditions of the tribe deal". Five years later, in their ''Northern Tribes of Central Australia'', they gloss the far distant age as "the dream times", link it to the word ''alcheri'' meaning 'dream', and affirm that the term is current also among the Kaitish and Unmatjera.


Altjira

Early doubts about the precision of Spencer and Gillen's English gloss were expressed by the German
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Jesus Christ and was founded by Martin Luther, a 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology ...
pastor and missionary
Carl Strehlow Carl Friedrich Theodor Strehlow (23 December 1871 – 20 October 1922) was an anthropologist, linguist and genealogist who served on two Lutheran missions in remote parts of Australia from May 1892 to October 1922. He was at Killalpaninna Mission ...
in his 1908 book ''Die Aranda'' (''The Arrernte''). He noted that his Arrente contacts explained ''altjira'', whose etymology was unknown, as an eternal being who had no beginning. In the
Upper Arrernte language Arrernte or Aranda (; ) or sometimes referred to as Upper Arrernte (Upper Aranda), is a dialect cluster in the Arandic language group spoken in parts of the Northern Territory The Northern Territory (NT; formally the Northern Territory ...
, the proper verb for 'to dream' was ''altjirerama'', literally 'to see God'. Strehlow theorised that the noun is the somewhat rare word ''altjirrinja'', which Spencer and Gillen gave a corrupted transcription and a false etymology. "The native," Strehlow concluded, "knows nothing of 'dreamtime' as a designation of a certain period of their history." Strehlow gives ''Altjira'' or ''Altjira mara'' (''mara'' meaning 'good') as the Arrente word for the eternal creator of the world and humankind. Strehlow describes him as a tall strong man with red skin, long fair hair, and emu legs, with many red-skinned wives (with dog legs) and children. In Strehlow's account, ''Altjira'' lives in the sky (which is a body of land through which runs the
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Milky Way
, a river). However, by the time Strehlow was writing, his contacts had been converts to Christianity for decades, and critics suggested that ''Altjira'' had been used by missionaries as a word for the
Christian God God in Christianity is seen as the God and eternity, eternal being who Genesis creation narrative, created and Divine providence, preserves all things. Christianity, Christians believe God to be both Transcendence (religion), transcendent (wholl ...
. In 1926, Spencer conducted a field study to challenge Strehlow's conclusion about ''Altjira'' and the implied criticism of Gillen and Spencer's original work. Spencer found attestations of ''altjira'' from the 1890s that used the word to mean 'associated with past times' or 'eternal', not 'god'. Academic Sam Gill finds Strehlow's use of ''Altjira'' ambiguous, sometimes describing a supreme being, and sometimes describing a totem being but not necessarily a supreme one. He attributes the clash partly to Spencer's
cultural evolution Cultural evolution is an evolutionary theory Evolution is change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the Gene expression, expressions ...

cultural evolution
ist beliefs that Aboriginal people were at a pre-religion "stage" of development (and thus could not believe in a supreme being), while Strehlow as a Christian missionary found presence of belief in the divine a useful entry point for proselytising. Linguist David Campbell Moore is critical of Spencer and Gillen's "Dreamtime" translation, concluding:


Other terms

The complex of religious beliefs encapsulated by the Dreamings are also called: * ''Ngarrankarni'' or ''Ngarrarngkarni'' by the
Gija people Gija, also spelt Gidja and Kija, alternatively known as the Lungga, refers to Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Mainland Australia, Australian mainland and many of its islands, such as Tas ...
* ''Jukurrpa'' or ''Tjukurpa''/''Tjukurrpa'' by the
Warlpiri people The Warlpiri, sometimes referred to as Yapa, are a group of Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Mainland Australia, Australian mainland and many of its islands, such as Tasmania, Fraser Is ...
and in the
Pitjantjatjara dialect Pitjantjatjara (; or ) is a dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of Linguistics, linguistic phe ...
* ''Ungud'' or ''Wungud'' by the Ngarinyin people * ''Manguny'' in the language Martu Wangka * ''Wongar'' in North-East
Arnhem Land Arnhem Land is a historical region of the Northern Territory The Northern Territory (NT; formally the Northern Territory of Australia) is an states and territories of Australia, Australian territory in the central and central northern region ...
* ''Daramoolen'' in
Ngunnawal language Ngunnawal or Gundungurra is an extant Australian Aboriginal language The Australian Aboriginal languages consist of around 290–363 languages belonging to an estimated 28 language families A language is a structured system of commun ...
and
Ngarigo language Ngarigo (Ngarigu) is a nearly extinct Australian Aboriginal language The Australian Aboriginal languages consist of around 290–363 languages belonging to an estimated 28 language families A language is a structured system of communica ...
* ''Nura'' in the
Dharug language The Dharug language, also written Darug and Dharuk and also known as the Sydney language or Eora language, is an Australian Aboriginal languages, Australian Aboriginal language of the Yuin–Kuric languages, Yuin–Kuric group that was tradit ...


Translations and meaning

In English, anthropologists have variously translated words normally understood to mean Dreaming or Dreamtime in a variety of other ways, including "Everywhen", "world-dawn", "ancestral past", "ancestral present", "ancestral now" (satirically), "unfixed in time", "abiding events" or "abiding law". Most translations of the Dreaming into other languages are based on the translation of the word ''dream''. Examples include in French ("dream spaces") and in Croatian (a gerund derived from the verb for 'to dream'). The concept of the Dreaming is inadequately explained by English terms, and difficult to explain in terms of non-Aboriginal cultures. It has been described as "an all-embracing concept that provides rules for living, a moral code, as well as rules for interacting with the natural environment ... provides for a total, integrated way of life ... a lived daily reality". It embraces past, present and future. Another definition suggests that it represents "the relationship between people, plants, animals and the physical features of the land; the knowledge of how these relationships came to be, what they mean and how they need to be maintained in daily life and in
ceremony A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious ...
". According to Simon Wright, "''jukurrpa'' has an expansive meaning for Warlpiri people, encompassing their own law and related cultural knowledge systems, along with what non-Indigenous people refer to as ‘dreaming’". A dreaming is often associated with a particular place, and may also belong to specific ages, gender or skin groups. Dreamings may be represented in artworks, for example "Pikilyi Jukurrpa" by Theo (Faye) Nangala represents the Dreaming of Pikilyi (Vaughan Springs) in the
Northern Territory The Northern Territory (NT; formally the Northern Territory of Australia) is an Australian territory in the central and central northern regions of Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, ...
, and belongs to the Japanangka/ Nanpanangka and Japangardi/ Napanangka skin groups.


Aboriginal beliefs and culture

Related entities are known as ''Mura-mura'' by the
Dieri The Diyari (), alternatively transcribed as Dieri(), is an Indigenous Australian group of the South Australian desert originating in and around the delta of Cooper Creek to the east of Lake Eyre. Language Diyari language, Diyari is classified as ...
and as ''Tjukurpa'' in
Pitjantjatjara The Pitjantjatjara (; or ) are an Aboriginal Aborigine, aborigine or aboriginal may refer to: * Indigenous peoples, ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area **List of indigenous peoples, including: ***Aborigi ...
. "Dreaming" is now also used as a term for a system of totemic symbols, so that an Aboriginal person may "own" a specific Dreaming, such as Kangaroo Dreaming, Shark Dreaming, Honey Ant Dreaming, Badger Dreaming, or any combination of Dreamings pertinent to their country. This is because in the Dreaming an individual's entire ancestry exists as one, culminating in the idea that all worldly knowledge is accumulated through one's ancestors. Many Aboriginal Australians also refer to the world-creation time as "Dreamtime". The Dreaming laid down the patterns of life for the Aboriginal people. Creation is believed to be the work of culture heroes who travelled across a formless land, creating sacred sites and significant places of interest in their travels. In this way, "
songline A songline, also called dreaming track, is one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) within the animist Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo- ...
s" (or ''Yiri'' in the
Warlpiri language The Warlpiri ( or ) ( wbp, Warlpiri > waɭbɪ̆ˌɻi language is spoken by about 3,000 of the Warlpiri people in Australia's Northern Territory. It is one of the Ngarrkic languages of the large Pama–Nyungan languages, Pama–Nyungan fami ...
) were established, some of which could travel right across Australia, through as many as six to ten different language groupings. The dreaming and travelling trails of these heroic spirit beings are the songlines. The signs of the spirit beings may be of spiritual essence, physical remains such as
petrosomatoglyph A petrosomatoglyph is a supposed image of parts of a human or animal body in rock. They occur all over the world, often functioning as an important form of symbolism, used in religious and secular ceremonies, such as the crowning of kings. Som ...
s of body impressions or footprints, among natural and elemental simulacra. Some of the ancestor or spirit beings inhabiting the Dreamtime become one with parts of the landscape, such as rocks or trees. The concept of a life force is also often associated with sacred sites, and
ceremonies A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious ...
performed at such sites "are a re-creation of the events which created the site during The Dreaming". The ceremony helps the life force at the site to remain active and to keep creating new life: if not performed, new life cannot be created. Dreaming existed before the life of the individual begins, and continues to exist when the life of the individual ends. Both before and after life, it is believed that this spirit-child exists in the Dreaming and is only initiated into life by being born through a mother. The spirit of the child is culturally understood to enter the developing
fetus A fetus or foetus (; plural fetuses, feti, foetuses, or foeti) is the unborn offspring that develops from an animal embryo An embryo is the early stage of development of a multicellular organism A multicellular organism is an organism tha ...

fetus
during the fifth month of pregnancy. When the mother felt the child move in the womb for the first time, it was thought that this was the work of the spirit of the land in which the mother then stood. Upon birth, the child is considered to be a special custodian of that part of their country and is taught the stories and songlines of that place. As Wolf (1994: p. 14) states: "A 'black fella' may regard his totem or the place from which his spirit came as his Dreaming. He may also regard tribal law as his Dreaming." In the ''
Wangga Wangga (sometimes spelled Wongga) is an Aboriginal Australian genre of traditional music and Aboriginal ceremony, ceremony which originated in northern areas of the country from Alligator Rivers, South Alligator River south east towards Roper Rive ...
'' genre, the songs and dances express themes related to death and regeneration. They are performed publicly with the singer composing from their daily lives or while Dreaming of a ''nyuidj'' (dead spirit). Dreaming stories vary throughout Australia, with variations on the same theme. The meaning and significance of particular places and creatures is wedded to their origin in The Dreaming, and certain places have a particular potency or Dreaming. For example, the story of how the sun was made is different in
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and in
Western Australia Western Australia (abbreviated as WA) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Western Australia
. Stories cover many themes and topics, as there are stories about creation of sacred places, land, people, animals and plants, law and custom. In
Perth Perth () is the list of Australian capital cities, capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia (WA). It is Australia's list of cities in Australia by population, fourth-most populous city, with a population of 2.1 mi ...

Perth
, the
Noongar The Noongar (, also spelt Noongah, Nyungar, Nyoongar, Nyoongah, Nyungah, Nyugah, Yunga) are Aboriginal Australian Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aborigi ...
believe that the
Darling Scarp The Darling Scarp, also referred to as the Darling Range or Darling Ranges, is a low escarpment running north–south to the east of the Swan Coastal Plain and Perth, Western Australia. The escarpment extends generally north of Bindoon, Western ...
is the body of the ''
Wagyl The Wagyl (also written Waugal and Waagal and variants) is the Noongar manifestation of the Rainbow Serpent in Australian Aboriginal mythology, from the culture based around the south-west of Western Australia. The Noongar describe the Wagyl as a ...

Wagyl
'' – a serpent being that meandered over the land creating rivers, waterways and lakes and who created the Swan River. In another example, the Gagudju people of Arnhemland, for which
Kakadu National Park Kakadu National Park is a protected area Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary ...
is named, believe that the sandstone escarpment that dominates the park's landscape was created in the Dreamtime when ''Ginga'' (the crocodile-man) was badly burned during a ceremony and jumped into the water to save himself.


See also

*
Dreaming (Australian Aboriginal art) In Australian Aboriginal art, a Dreaming is a totemistic design or artwork, which can be owned by a tribal group or individual. This usage of Stanner's term was popularised by Geoffrey Bardon in the context of the Papunya Tula artist collective ...
*
Aboriginal mythology Australian Aboriginal religion and mythology is the sacred spirituality represented in the stories performed by Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Mainland Australia, Australian mainla ...
**
Rainbow Serpent The Rainbow Serpent or Rainbow Snake is a common deity often seen as a Creator deity, creator god, known by numerous names in different Australian Aboriginal languages, and a common Motif (visual arts), motif in the art and religion of Indigeno ...
**
Tjilbruke Tjilbruke (also Tjirbruki, Tjilbruki, Tjirbruke, Tjirbuk or Tjirbuki,) is an important creation ancestor for the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains in the Australian state of South Australia South Australia (abbreviated as SA) is a States ...
*
Apeiron ''Apeiron'' (; ) is a Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is app ...

Apeiron
, the concept of the eternal or unlimited in Greek philosophy *
Wuji (philosophy) Wújí (; literally "without ridgepole") originally meant "ultimate" but came to mean the "primordial universe" prior to the Taiji "Supreme Ultimate" in Song Dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that beg ...
and
Taiji (philosophy) ''Taiji'' () is a Chinese cosmological Cosmology (from Greek κόσμος, ''kosmos'' "world" and -λογία, ''-logia'' "study of") is a branch of astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the scie ...
, concepts of the eternal or limitless in Chinese philosophy * ''
The Dreaming The Dreaming, also referred to as Dreamtime, is a term devised by early anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societie ...
'' (1982 album by Kate Bush)


Notes


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * *("Into the Crystal Dreamtime", promotional pamphlet, late 1980s; "Crystal Woman: isters of the Dreamtime" 1987; p. 36:"the prescriptive New Age genre, which sells one-hundred-proof ethnological antimodernism without overmuch worry about bothersome ethnographic facts") * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Dreaming, The Australian Aboriginal mythology Creation myths