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Down under all is still and dark, the spirits of the Earth are sleeping. There are many different Dreamtime stories that vary from region to region and from people to people. Mostly they are stories that explain life and its peculiarities but there are those that stretch out into the cosmos and talk of stars and supernatural beings. Dreamtime is a difficult concept for many of us to deal with as it is not a linear passage of time but rather an all-encompassing state of being, and so the Dreamtime is both past, present and future all at the same time.
Indigenous Australian art. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Father of all the Spirits and Sun Mother
All was still in the darkness until the great Father of all Spirits woke the Sun-Mother. As she opened her eyes so the sunlight washed away the darkness that covered the entire Earth. The Earth was a bare flat circular body covered with a concave sky which reached down to the horizon. The sky was the earth of another world above this one, a rich land with a plentiful water supply where many ancestral beings dwelt. The stars are said to be their campfires. The Father of all Spirits told the Sun-Mother to wake the Spirits. She came down from the sky and as she walked around so she gave life to all the plants and grasses. After her work she rested until the Father of all the Spirits told her to go into the caves and wake the Spirits there.
The Sun-Mother went into the caves in the mountains and there her light awakened all the insects. The Father of all Spirits wasn’t finished and he called the Sun-Mother to carry on. This time she went into a very deep cave and there her golden light melted the ice and so were created all the streams and rivers of the world. Then she created fish and frogs, lizards and snakes, then she woke the spirits of the birds and the animals. The Father of all Spirits saw that all was good with the world and he allowed the Sun-Mother to become the Sun.
Sunset, Maralinga, Australia ( CC BY 2.0 )
All the living creatures watched the sun cross the sky and as she disappeared below the western horizon so all the animals became afraid, afraid that she would not return. Eventually morning came and the Sun returned and all was well again with the new children of Earth. After a long while these same children began arguing with each other and the Sun-Mother had to return to Earth to sort it all out. She decided to allow each creature to change its shape but that went wrong too and the world was overrun by bats and giant reptiles. Afraid that the Father of all Spirits would not like what he saw the Sun-Mother decided the world needed new creatures and so she gave birth to two new children, a God and a Goddess; The God was the Morning Star and the Goddess was the Moon. The Morning Star and the Moon had two children and the Sun-Mother sent these two to Earth to be the ancestors of all mankind.
Sculpture of an Aboriginal Australian man. ( CC BY-SA2.0 )
Baiame, the All-Father, is perhaps the most important deity of the present-day Aboriginal communities in the south-eastern region of Australia.
The Rainbow Serpent Dreamtime Story
The Rainbow Serpent is considered one of the most powerful and widespread Ancestral Beings of Aboriginal Australia. Rock art featuring this great Ancestral being dates as far back as 6,000 years, making it one of the oldest continuous religious beliefs in the world.
The specific Dreamtime story depends on the climate and culture of the Indigenous group telling it, but there are some common threads present. The story describes a time long ago when the Earth was flat. The serpent was one of the Dreamtime creatures who held great powers and gave shape to the Earth. The serpent emerged from under the ground to awaken different groups of animals.
The movement of its body formed physical features like hills, gorges, creeks and rivers into the once-featureless terrain.
It slithered all over the country, occupying waterholes and providing nourishing water. Once it grew tired with shaping the Earth, it coiled into a waterhole where it lays to this day.
Aboriginal people are very careful not to disturb water sites that it inhabits. They show great respect to it as its powers are immense. The Ancestral Being can also at times be unpredictable, causing great destruction in the form of drought, cyclones and floods.
During heavy rainstorms the serpent&rsquos waterhole can be disturbed. After the rain, when the sun has touched its coloured body, it can rise up from beneath the ground and travel through the clouds. Flying across the sky to another waterhole.
Rainbows are believed to be the serpent snaking from one watering hole to the next, replenishing waterholes around the country. This is the explanation given as to why some sources of water never dry up even during times of great drought.
It represents the life-giving value of water as well as the cycle of the seasons. Great creation stories of the serpent vary across the country. Tribes of the monsoonal areas describe an epic interaction between the Sun, Serpent and Wind in their Dreaming stories. Whereas tribes of the central desert experience less drastic seasonal shifts and their stories reflect this.
The Rainbow Serpent
Long ago in the Dreamtime when the earth lay sleeping and nothing moved or grew, lived the Rainbow Serpent. Then one day the Rainbow Serpent awoke and come out from beneath the earth. Refreshed from her long slumber she travelled far and wide leaving winding tracks from her huge body and then returning to the place she had first appeared.
On her return she called to the frogs "come out!" The frogs came out slowly as their bellies were full with water which they had stored during their long sleep. The Rainbow Serpent tickled their stomachs and when the frogs laughed, the water spilled out all over the earth to fill the tracks of the Rainbow Serpent. This is how the lakes and the rivers were first formed.
With water, grass and trees began to grow which woke all the animals who then followed the Rainbow Serpent across the land. They were happy on earth and each lived and gathered food with their own tribe. Some animals lived in rocks, some on the vast plains, and others in trees and in the sky. The Rainbow Serpent made laws that they were all to obey but some began to make trouble and argue. The Rainbow Serpent said "Those who keep my laws will be rewarded I will give them human form. Those who break my laws will be punished and turned to stone & will never to walk the earth again". Those who broke the law became stone and were turned into mountains and hills and those who were obedient were turned into human form and were each given their own totem of the animal, bird or reptile from when they began. The tribes knew themselves by their totems - kangaroo, emu, carpet snake, and many, many more. So no one would starve, the Rainbow Serpent ruled that no man should eat of his totem, but only of other totems. This way there was food for everyone.
The tribes lived together on the land given to them by the Rainbow Serpent or Mother of Life and knew the land would always be theirs, and no one should ever take it from them.
Michael J Connolly
Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories
Here are Dreamtime stories from Aboriginal Australia:
The Rainbow Serpent
At the beginning of the Dreamtime, the earth was flat and dry and empty. There were no trees, no rivers, no animals and no grass. Then the Rainbow Serpent started to move…
Tiddalick the Frog
Tiddalick the Frog tells the story of a greedy frog who drank all the water in the billabong and how the other animals got their water back.
Aboriginal Creation Story
All over Australia, Dreaming stories tell of the ancestor spirits who created the land and everything on it. This story, from the Ngiyaampaa of western New South Wales, tells how the Darling River was created, long ago.
Eaglehawk and Crow
Long ago, many of the birds and animals were in human form. This story is about two warriors from the Ngiyaampaa people of western New South Wales. It is told for us here by Aunty Beryl Carmichael.
Emu and the Jabiru
From the Marrkula clan in Arnhem Land comes this story of greed between two brothers-in-law and the creation of the Emu and the Jabiru. It also offers an insight into the life of the Gapuwiayk people.
Emu and the Jabiru Story Explanation
Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, is rich in Dreaming stories, art and dance. Here, Bangana Wunungmurra explains some of the background to Aboriginal, or Yolngu, life. He also discusses the importance of land within Yolngu culture and of the role that education plays in encouraging respect for other cultures.
One of the younger storytellers featured on the site, Warren Foster, tells the story behind the creation of two mountains and an island. Warren is from the Yuin-Monaro people, on the far south coast of New South Wales and the main mountain-Gulaga-holds deep significance for his people.
How the water got to the plains
When travelling through the arid regions of Australia, Aboriginal people would move from waterhole to waterhole. The Butchulla people of Fraser Island have a story that tells how the water first got to the plains, and it is told for us here by Olga Miller.
How the water got to the plains story explanation
Olga Miller and her sister first heard the Dreaming stories of her people – the Butchulla – on Fraser Island, off the Queensland coast. Here she gives the background to the tale of how fresh water first reached the arid plains of central Queensland, and recalls childhood holidays by the beaches and rainforest of Fraser Island.
Illawarra and the five islands
When Koala, Starfish and Whale were still people, they shared an island together. But a shortage of food led to a fight between them. Barry Moore tells the story to a group of children and adults participating in one of his Bush Tours.
When two young boys go camping by the river with their Uncle, they learn more than they bargained for. With a twist in its tail, the story of Koockard, the river Goanna, comes from western New South Wales and is told for us here by Aunty Beryl Carmichael. This is a story of the Ngiyaampaa people.
Min-na-wee (Why the crocodile rolls)
Peace and harmony are essential in any community. Find out what happens when someone is determined to cause trouble. The story of Min-Na-Wee and why the crocodile rolls contains a powerful message for youngsters about the effects of their behaviour on others.
Min-na-wee Story Explanation
Frank Martin’s grandfather, Jiller-rii, knew a great deal about ‘traditional’ Aboriginal life. He knew where to find kangaroos and turkeys and he also passed on his Dreaming stories. Here, Frank Martin gives us the background to the story of Min-Na-Wee and why the crocodile rolls. The story is from the GWINI people who come from the Broome area in Western Australia.
Barry Moore conducts bushwalks, bush tucker tours and storytelling at Wreck Bay on the south coast of New South Wales. This dreatime story was filmed around the campfire, with a group of children and adults. The story tells of a time when all the Waratahs were white and how they became red, back in the Dreamtime.
The Two Wise Men And the Seven Sisters
A creation story from the WONG-GU-THA, people of the desert near Ooldea, South Australia. Discover how the hills and valleys, the rivers and oceans were made and how the earth was beautified. Find out why the desert people have such respect for the stars and the universe.
The Two Wise Men and the Seven Sisters story explanation
Many Dreaming stories are associated with specific objects and landmarks. For Josie Boyle, there is a real sadness that the landscape around the area where the Seven Sisters spent their time on Earth has been changed so drastically. A reminder of the importance of storytelling in keeping the culture alive.
In this story from the lower River Murray area of South Australia, two fishermen are delighted with their huge catch of fish. The trouble begins when they refuse to share it. A cautionary tale about greed, from the Ngarrindjeri people.
Thukeri story explanation
Veena Gollan is active in keeping alive the Dreaming stories of the Ngarrindjeri people of Lake Alexandrina, South Australia. Here she gives us the background to the Thukeri story and outlines the importance of teaching the stories in schools.
Toonkoo and Ngaardi
A creation dreamtime story from the Yuin-Monaro people of the far south coast of New South Wales. Warren Foster relates how the rivers and creeks were formed, where the boomerang originated and the origin of the red waratah. The Yuin-Monaro people operate a cultural centre near Narooma and this story was filmed nearby, on the shores of Wallaga Lake.
Back in the old days, when the people used to live around here, a lad named Merriman had his totem called Umbarra the black duck.
Why the stories are told
By Warren Foster
The YUIN-MONARO people have lived on the far south coast of New South Wales for thousands of years. Today, there is a Koori Village and Cultural centre based around Wallaga Lake. Warren Foster wants to keep his culture alive and here he explains the significance of Dreamtime storytelling. Warren represents the next generation of storytellers, passing on the stories of his people.
Why the stories are told
By Aunty Beryl Carmichael
Aunty Beryl Carmichael comes from Ngiyaampaa country in western New South Wales. She is a custodian of many Ngiyaampaa stories and incorporates these into her work at Broken Hill and Menindee, where she runs camps for Aboriginal youngsters. Here she talks about the importance of storytelling in educating Aboriginal children.
The Rainbow Serpent or Rainbow Snake is an immortal being and creating God in Aboriginal Mythology. It is a popular image in the art of Aboriginal Australia. It is the shape of a rainbow and a snake.
The connection between snake and rainbow suggests the cycle of the seasons and the significance of them and water in human life. When a rainbow is seen in the sky, it is supposed to be the Rainbow Serpent traveling from one waterhole to another.
This is meant to explain why some waterholes never dry up when drought strikes. There are countless names and stories connected with the serpent. They all illustrate the importance and dominance of its presence within Aboriginal traditions.
It is said to be the giver of life, due to its connection to water, however it can be a destructive force if enraged.
The Rainbow Serpent (Snake) has a significant role in the beliefs and culture of the Aboriginals in western Arnhem Land. Today it is associated with ceremonies about fertility.
Aboriginals in the Kimberley regions believe that the Rainbow Serpent places spirit-children throughout waterholes in which women will become impregnated if they wade in the water.
It is also connected to the abundance of food through propagation of plants and animals, as well as the governing of the community and the keeping of peace. The Rainbow Serpent is part of the philosophies of Aboriginal people in various parts of Australia, but is best known in Arnhem Land.
The Rainbow Serpent or Rainbow Snake is creator of human beings. It has life-giving powers that send conception (fertility) spirits to all the watercourses, such as billabongs, rivers, creeks and lagoons as it is in control of producing rainfall.
The Rainbow Serpent is the protector of the land, its people, and the source of all life. However, the Rainbow Serpent can also be a destructive force if it is not properly respected. In times of anger or rage it causes storms and floods to act as punishment against those who disobey the laws.
In times of the floods the Rainbow Serpent swallows and consumes people and regurgitates their bones, which turn into stone. They can also enter a man and give him the gift of magical powers, or leave ‘little rainbows’, their progeny, within his body which will make him ail and die.
The Rainbow Serpent is the considered the regenerative and reproductive power in nature and human beings and is therefore the main character in the region’s major ceremonies.
The Rainbow Serpent or Snake is portrayed as a long mythical creature made of different parts of animals such as a kangaroo’s head, crocodile’s tail with a huge snake body.
Buy story book
Australian Aboriginal story book, Gadi Mirrabooka. With 33 dreamtime stories retold by Pauline McLeod, June Barker, and Francis Firebrace to Helen McKay. Contains chapters on mythology, culture, legends. Contains illustrations including colour plates created by Francis Firebrace. Each book sold here will be autographed by Helen McKay.
Australian Aboriginal stories contain many life lessons useful in and out of school classrooms.
Gadi Mirrabooka, which means “below the Southern Cross,” introduces wonderful tales from the Dreamtime, the mystical period of Australian Aboriginal beginning.
Through these 33 stories you can learn about customs and values, animal psychology, hunting and gathering skills, cultural norms, moral behavior, the spiritual belief system, survival skills, and food resources. Includes the famous Rainbow Serpent story and many others.
This story book is purchased by colleges, high schools, primary schools, pre-schools, teachers and students, cultural organisations and a prison, parents and grand-parents. This classic has been selling around Australia and the world since 2001.
Published in hard cover format in the World Folklore Series 2001, by Libraries Unlimited division of Heinemann. Pages: xviii, 135p. + 8p. Colour plates, Size: 7 x 10 inch, Cloth. ISBN 9781563089237 and 1563089238
The period of creation before time as we know it existed, is known to the Aboriginal people as The Dreaming. This is when the very essence of human nature came to be understood.
The lessons of this period of enlightenment and the ability to live in peace and harmony, are encapsulated within The Dreaming and passed on to the next generation in the oral traditions. As there was no known written language, information was passed on orally.
Dreamtime is a word, first used by a European anthropologist, in the early 1900’s, to define what he perceived, as a religion. He used this word to describe the all-encompassing mystical period of Aboriginal beginning.
However, the Aboriginal people do not worship any single Deity or other Gods. They built no monoliths, memorials or idols, nor did they have an organized religion. They lived by the lores of the Creator and Ancestral Spirits of the diverse landscapes, sky, creatures and plants of Australia.
The art, stories, songs and dances, became well known as part of the Dreaming, but it is still little understood. The Dreamtime is part of the oral tradition, and is only one aspect of a very complex spiritual belief system – the Dreaming.
The Dreamtime stories, are the oral form of the spiritual Dreaming, which comprises: Art – the visual form, Dance – the physical form, Customs – the practical form, Music – the acoustic form, Totems – the spiritual forms, Lore – the cultural form, Lands – the physical forms.
Altogether, they form an all-encompassing, mystical whole. Over the last 220 years, since colonization of Australia, non-indigenous people have perceived these art forms as separate entities, rather than as part of a whole. The result has been a fragmented overview of the Aboriginal culture.
The Stories of the Dreaming are more than myths, legends, fables, parables or quaint tales. They are definitely not fairytales for amusement of children. Down through generations, the Aboriginal people’s stories, were told orally, but were never written down. They were the oral textbooks, of their accumulated knowledge, spirituality, and wisdom, from when time began.
The structure and form of a traditional Dreamtime story is quite unique and cannot easily be copied. An oral Dreamtime story of ten minutes’ length, can cover several topics and subject matters, and be suitable for all age groups. They are structured with valuable lessons for children, or for bringing a renewed understanding to older people.
For instance: twenty or more lessons can be found in one story, teaching such topics as: The spiritual belief system, Customs, Animal behaviour, Animal psychology, Land map of the region, Hunting and gathering skills, Cultural norms, Moral behaviors, Survival skills, Food resources.
In the book, Gadi Mirrabooka, the stories: “Brolga” and “First Platypus” are excellent examples of Stranger Danger and “The Murray Cod”, is a Creation Map story. The Min MinLight is a Space storyl
Every genre of storytelling and hundreds of categories are used, within the Dreaming stories, such as:
- Babies’, older children’s and adult stories,
- women’s stories – both public and secret.
- men’s stories – both public and secret,
- love, comedy, tragedy and horror stories,
- parables, sacred stories – both public and secret
- and mystical stories.
The Dreaming stories are not specifically related to time, as time was not important for the story to become part of the oral tradition. The important issue is the event which occurred, and affected the people, the land and the culture.
Research into animals, described in traditional Dreaming stories, corroborates the existence of these creatures of the Creation and megafauna, which existed in other periods of world history. Many of these animals are now extinct, but their remains are currently being discovered and studied by archaeologists.
Some examples of these are:
- The Giant Lizard stories, of the Dinosaur Period.
- The Birth of the Platypus story, of at least 1,000,000 years ago.
- The Giant Kangaroos of at least 15,000 years ago.
- The Dreaming story of the Devil Dingo, of at least 5000 years ago,
- The invention of Weapons – the Boomerang – of at least 15-25,000 years ago,
- The Dreaming story, of how Death came into the world. (date unknown)
- The Dreaming story, of the Birth of the Sun. (date unknown)
Many of the `Dreaming stories refer to an Aboriginal group’s creation time, for instance `Rainbow Serpent Dreaming’ or ‘Honey Ant Dreaming’. Their ancestor spirits arrived here at the time of creation in human and animal spirit form, and are now encapsulated in the Stories of the Dreaming, associated with that group of people.
New Dreaming stories are being continually added to those already in existence. Stories of islands, pushed along by clouds, were of the sailing ships of the 1700’s, with their strange men from across the seas. The Aboriginal people perceived them as ghosts, or evil spirits, but, in fact, they were the colonists of 1788 to the 1950’s.
Tales abounded of hoofed, four-footed, monstrous creatures – with two heads – that stank like bunyips (water demons) and defiled nature — men on horses. Stories of other objects were told, that could only be described by the sounds they made. There is no word in any Aboriginal language that could describe such a creature. They were known as `chuggasshhhh-chuggashhhhhh’, and were the early paddle steamers on the Murray River.
The stories of the `flying ships’ of sixty years ago – airplanes of the 1940s – totally amazed and terrified those people of the interior, who had never seen them.
The most recent Dreaming stories are of `the black cloud of Maralinga’ – the atomic testing grounds of the 1950’s, `deaths in custody’ and `removed or stolen children’ – a time, better known to the Aboriginal people, as the’ Scream-time – Nightmare’ period of history.
The lessons within a Dreaming story are not taught directly, but are assimilated by repetition. Understanding of the story is acquired from life experiences, as a person grows to maturity. When the time comes for that person to keep the oral tradition alive, by passing the stories on in their entirety, to the next generation, it can be done correctly and without distortion.
As the Aboriginal culture was an oral one, the written word was unknown to these people, so the storyteller’s role was not just to entertain, but also to preserve their culture, while educating the growing generation of children and young adults, in the history, traditional values and lore of their people.
Symbolic languages, such as the map-like dot pictures and cave paintings and carvings, were used throughout Aboriginal Australia to record information. A written language was never developed or used.
There is no universal Aboriginal language, as there are approximately 700 Aboriginal groups – each with their own dialect. On top of this, there are regional languages, common to many groups or clans within a region, such as the Murray River basin region, Northern Territory or Kimberley.
According to the land regions and the creatures’ habitat, there are as many different versions of a core story, as there are clans. These may differ in that, the animals or other creatures in the story, may be changed to fit the regional landscape of swamps, rivers, mountains, plains or coastal land areas.
The Aboriginal people do not believe in land ownership. Rather, they see themselves as custodians of the landmass, known as Australia. They believe, the time has now come for the Aboriginal people, who have survived many changes – both natural and man-made – to share, not only their culture, but also the wisdom and experience of The Dreaming. The elders have given permission for stories, including some previously secret stories from The Dreaming, to be disseminated.
Through these stories, which teach us to care for the land and one another, we catch glimpses of the great diversity within Australia — of its people, animals, and landforms. The stories in this book offer a comprehensive glimpse of the Dreamtime.
Some early European anthropologists who’d arrived to study the Aboriginal people, brought some of the “secret men’s and secret women’s stories”, and “secret, sacred stories”, back with them and published them. An unfortunate lack of understanding, by outsiders, of the significance of these special stories, which the Aboriginal people regarded as sacred and part of their cultural property, greatly offended the Aboriginal people. They had shared their deepest secrets with these men and their permission to share, or publish them, had not been sought!
Note: It is courteous, if you find an Australian Aboriginal story you wish to tell, to always attempt to find the source and ask permission from the Aboriginal Elders, to tell it.
Aboriginal Art Dreaming Stories - The Emu in the Sky
The Emu in the Sky is the dark patch between the stars which is known to the Aboriginal people as Wej Mor.
L ong ago in the Dreaming there was a cat called Jooteetch who was married to an Emu called Wej. One day, Wardu the wombat paid a visit to Wej while Jooteetch was out hunting. Wardu was secretly in love with Wej and she was tempted by his charms. At sundown, Wej told Wardu to leave before Jooteetch returned as he would kill them both in a jealous rage. However, before Wardu left he painted Wej with a precious red ochre that was used for special ceremonies.
When Jooteetch returned he asked Wej why she was decorated with this precious ochre and who gave it to her? She told him that she found it but he knew she was lying as he had recognized Wardu's tracks leaving their camp. Jooteetch pretended to believe her and asked her to build a fire for the cold night ahead. When the fire was ablaze he grabbed Wej and threw her into the flames. With the strength of her powerful legs she jumped so high into the sky that she never ever returned.
Now on a dark night, if you look up at the Milky Way, you can see her as the dark patch between the stars which is known to the Aboriginal people as Wej Mor.
The 'Milky Way' highlighting the shape of 'The Emu in the Sky'
A stronomy plays a big part in Aboriginal culture. Many Aboriginal groups use the movement of the planets and stars as a calendar to calculate the seasons and fix the date of certain tribal activities. They also attribute religious or mythological significance to certain celestial forms. The 'Emu in the Sky' is a spectacle which is visible in the Autumn sky. Dark nebulae (interstellar dust and gases) contrast with the bright stars of the Milky Way to form the shape of an emu.
Babinda Boulders near Cairns took on this spooky name thanks to a runaway bride named Oolana who leapt to her watery grave when she was separated from her would-be husband. Indigenous legend has it that she’s been luring men into the dangerous swimming hole ever since. Devil’s Pool has claimed 17 lives since 1959, and it’s now fenced off with the eerie epitaph ‘He came for a visit … and stayed forever’.
Nyitting Yarn - Cosmological or Dreaming Stories
Nyungar Katitjin is people&rsquos knowledge based on cosmological stories from the Dreamtime, known as Nyitting to Nyungar, on which cultural knowledge is founded.
The Nyungar word &lsquoyarn&rsquo has a similar but deeper meaning to the English word &lsquoyarn&rsquo. In Nyungar, a yarn is not just a story: it suggests an inquiry, sometimes a conversation, that answers the questions &ndash why and how?
Waugal by the late Shane Pickett
Click the sound files to hear the Nyungar words on this page.
Traditional Owner, Trevor Walley shares his thoughts on what the Dreamtime means to him:
I think songs and dance and stories and Dreamtime made us what we are. So Dreamtime is who we are and we must embrace our Dreamtime to understand our future&hellipI don&rsquot have all the answers, but the Dreamtime gives us some understanding of where we are now. Every piece of the boodjar, the earth, is connected to the Dreamtime, so if you go to the bobtail dreaming, you go to the emu dreaming, you go to the frog dreaming, you go to the djidi-djidi, the Willy Wagtail dreaming, every bird and every tree and everything is related to the Dreamtime, and so the Dreamtime comes from the earth, the boodjar, the mother earth. 1
Nyitting (or Dreamtime) yarns are cosmological stories about events within and beyond the living memories of the Nyungar people. There are many significant Nyitting stories relating to Derbal Nara or Cockburn Sound.
Nyitting literally means &lsquocold time&rsquo, and refers to the time of creation. At the centre of Nyungar cosmology is a huge Waarkal (rainbow serpent) that created the land (Boodjar), people (Moort), and knowledge (Katitjin).2
The Waarkal, or Rainbow Serpent, is the pre-eminent creative ancestral spirit. In Whadjuk country, the rivers, wetlands and coastal lakes are the Dreaming tracks (or story lines) made by the Waarkal and are held to be sacred by Whadjuk Nyungar. Throughout the southwest, the waterways are interconnected with the Dreaming tracks of other ancestral spirits who travelled across the country. These ancestral spirits encountered each other and the course of these encounters created the features of the landscape such as hills and even the stars.
One account of the creation of the Nyungar Boodjar by the Waarkal and other creative ancestors is given by storyteller Dr Noel Nannup. Click on the link below to download the story.
Carers of Everything
Sylvia Hallam points to the rich complex of associations between the Waarkal and the chief physical elements of nature &ndash fire, water, the sky, the earth &ndash saying that, &lsquothe connection of the serpent with water and also with dark caverns, are themes seen as recurring within and without the South-west of Australia&rsquo (Hallam 1975:82). Descriptions of the Rainbow Serpent have a common core of beliefs about its qualities. It dwells deep within watercourses, waterholes, rivers and rock pools, and maintains the quantity and the quality of the drinking water. If a site closely associated with the Rainbow Serpent is desecrated in any manner &ndash and that includes virtually all places where there is water in significant quantities or, in arid areas, water courses albeit dry for most of the year &ndash the persons responsible are in literal physical danger and the land itself is depleted, for the Rainbow Snake will go away.3