Aboriginal Spirituality is the foundation of our culture and our community. Our belief systems guide our morals, values, traditions and customs to ensure a healthy and balanced relationship with the world around us.
Our practices are some of the oldest in the world and many are still continuing today.
The Dreaming goes by many different names throughout Australia but they have a similar meaning. The Dreaming refers to the ‘Spirit World’ that accompanies our physical one.
It is believed that our Creator Spirits and Ancestors reside there and that we too will eventually go there when we pass away. The Dreaming is the basis for all the beliefs and Lore that we as Aboriginal people chose to live our lives by.
You can read more about the Dreaming here.
Image Source: Yubu Napa Art Gallery. The image above was painted by Denise Johnson, a Warlpiri artist from Ali Curung. Here she paints her traditional Water Dreaming.
Nature and Connection to Land
Our spirituality and beliefs are tied heavily to the land and how we live on it and around it. Everything is about balance – we never take more than we need to ensure the land continues to thrive in spite of us being there.
Our connection to Country is also very unique. Many of us will go to country when we feel overwhelmed or need to think. When we don’t have the ability to out on Country many people will find somewhere peaceful like a park or a river to relax by.
Nature and the land are important to us and our culture as we see our physical selves as having been born from the land and therefore it is our job to care for and protect it.
It is believed that our Ancestors watch over us for the entirety of our lives. This includes in the physical world in the form of a spirit protector/totem or in the Dreaming (spiritual world) where ancestors reside with our Creators. They guide us when we need it and answer our questions in unique ways when we least expect it.
Spirits and Creators
Just as our creation story/stories are different across Mobs, it is the same with our Creator Spirits and other ‘mythical’ beings. We honour them in different ways as well, some may ‘pray,’ while others may focus on the changes around them as messages from the creators/dreaming. No matter how you honour them, these beings hold major roles in our lives and culture and the stories that surround them often influence and guide our morals, values and decisions.
Well-Known Spirits and Beings
Due to the changing nature of our culture and community as a result of colonisation and forced assimilation, not all stories, Creators and Beings are known. There are however, a few that you will commonly hear in Community as our stories are shared with everyone. Most beings are seen in multiple Mobs but may be known under different names with slightly varying stories.
Below are some well-known/common beings you might hear about:
Bunjil is a Creator Spirit and Ancestral Being that takes the form of the Wedge-Tail Eagle. Bunjil is one of two Moiety Ancestors of the Kulin Nation.
Waa is an Ancestral Being that takes the form of a Raven/Crow. Waa is the other Moiety Ancestor of the Kulin Nation.
Image Source: Goobalathaldin Roughsey, Turramulli the Giant Quinkin
The Rainbow Serpent is a Creator Spirit and Ancestral Being of many different Mobs. The Rainbow Serpent has many different names and depending on the Mob may take the form of various types of snakes.
Doolagahs/Hairy Men/Little Men/Tall Men
These are beings that roam the bush and can be found across many different Mobs. Some are said to be small and hairy while others are extremely tall and hairy. Some say these beings are trickers and mischievous while others say they are bad spirits that try to take children who wonder off on their own.
The Bunyip is a large being that lurks in swamps, waterholes, rivers and other wetlands. It takes various forms but is generally believed to be a bad spirit.