Aboriginal Spiritual Life

The spiritual life of Aboriginal people centres on the Dreaming which provides the great themes of art. It is an English term used by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to describe the natural and moral order of the universe, and not a state of dreams or unreality.

The Dreaming relates to the period from the genesis of the universe to a time beyond living memory. Essentially, it focusses on the activities and epic deeds of the supernatural beings and creator ancestors who, in both human and non-human form travelled across the unshaped world creating and shaping everything in it, laying down the laws of social and religious behaviour.

The entire continent of Australia is covered by an intricate web of Dreamings. Some Dreamings relate to a particular place or region and belong to those who live there, others travel over vast distances and connect those whose lands they cover. Among the major Dreamings are Ancestral beings such as the Wandjina and Rainbow Serpent; all figure in major ceremonial cycles.

The powers of these supernatural and ancestral beings are present in the land and in natural species, and also reside within individuals. They are activated by ceremony and nourish generation after generation of human descendants. 

An individual’s links with the ancestral beings in the Dreaming and his or own spiritual identity are expressed through totemic associations with natural species and phenomena, ritual songs, objects, dances and graphic designs.