A Beginners Guide to the Australian Aboriginal Dreaming

Every culture has creation stories that inform the way that they see and interact with the world around them, and Aboriginal people in Australia are no different. The creation story of the various Aboriginal groups around Australia is called the Dreaming, and it encompasses how and why the world was created and in many cases is also used as a cultural framework to demonstrate how their lives should also be lived. The Dreaming is a beautiful, complex web of fascinating stories that are often demonstrated in both traditional and modern Aboriginal artwork, but for outsiders, understanding this art can be very difficult. For this reason, in this article we take a closer look at what the Dreaming is about to give you a clearer understanding of what these artworks might represent.

How the Dreaming functions in Indigenous culture

If you’ve at some stage looked over a piece of Aboriginal art, there’s a good chance that you might have inadvertently gazed on Aboriginal dreamtime artwork and haven’t realised it. Although modern artwork forms – such as those depicted on canvases with traditional Western paints – can give us a better understanding of the Aboriginal Dreamtime, the Dreamtime is not a simple series of established artworks. The Dreaming offers Aboriginal people a meaningful explanation of how exactly the world came to be and how everything in it – whether rock, human or tree – came to exist. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the establishment of laws for living, such can inclue things such as rules for social relationships, religious activities and rituals.

The Dreaming doesn’t mean what you think it means

It is important to note that Aboriginal Dreaming stories are not simple mythology, and have little to do with dreaming as we know it. These perceptions cause people to dismiss this ideology all too quickly, which is a complete shame, as it is an origin story that is quite complex in nature. For Aboriginal people, it all started with the ancestral spirits that emerged from the earth at the dawn of history. From here they fell from the sky and began their habitation of the land, where they singlehandedly produced all of its rivers, mountains, forests and deserts as they travelled the lands. After the creation of all these geographical features, they began work on all of the humans, animals and vegetation that makes up Australia. These knowledgeable ancestral spirits didn’t just stop at flora and fauna, though – they also created the lore, customs and codes of conduct that still underpin Aboriginal culture to this day that we can see demonstrated through songs, dance, language, ritual and art.

Explore what the Dreaming has to offer

the Dreaming is an utterly unique and captivating worldview that underpins a variety of important cultural beliefs among Australian Indigenous tribes. It is out hope that you now have a better understanding of how the Dreaming works, as being able to see it properly depicted in art can be a very inspiring and exciting experience. This is because the Dreaming is much, much more than an origin story – for Aboriginal people, it gives the world meaning. If you want to learn more about these interesting meanings, perhaps its time you delved a little deeper to discover some of the interesting nuances we haven’t covered, or perhaps even specific origin stories!

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