A long time ago, in Altjeringa, or the Dreamtime, ancestral spirits formed The Creation. These spirits and cultural heroes took several forms and shapes and started walking, to bring to life new places with their singing. Lands opened up as they sang, and they kept singing along the way, adding each place and its forms to their song. These trails traversed through time and were repeatedly sung by the children of the spirits who revered these trails as Songlines. The songlines guided them on the form of the land as they went walkabout, told them where they would find water and irrigation, marked for them their spiritual places.
Each spirit formed its own trail, and established a dreaming which set the rules and values of its society. Each child conceived into the dreaming, became a custodian for the part of trail and was governed by the spiritual beliefs of that dreaming.
These dreamings stay with the tribes even today, and form an important part of their being. The millions of songlines scan through the entire land of Australia, traveling thousands of kilometers, each of them sung in more than one language and carried through land and time. These songlines confer the title of land to the people, but at the same time lure them to follow the songlines to distant lands.
That, anyway, is what I have learned. About the beliefs of Australian aborigines. It was taught to me by a simple and haunting tale of the nomad in man – The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. A lovely book – which made me a little more curious about Australia and all that is original in it.
(The pictures are from some of the artistic mementos that I purchased there.)