Religion HSC NOTES

Topics: Indigenous Australians, Native title, Religion Pages: 22 (6218 words) Published: February 10, 2015
Religion and Belief Systems in Australia post-1945

1.1 Contemporary Aboriginal Spiritualties

Kinship and the Dreaming

The Dreaming is the key concept underpinning all aspects of Aboriginal spirituality and, indeed, all facets of traditional Aboriginal life. At its basis is an ancient event whereby the ‘sky heroes’ (ancestral spirit beings) formed everything upon the earth (oceans, mountains, rocks, insects, animals etc) from a featureless, never-ending plain. Yet the dreaming exists in the present and future also.

It is an eternal, timeless cycle of metaphysical (supernatural) existence where humankind, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing Kinship is the fabric of traditional Aboriginal society, which is essentially one large extended family. Everybody is related through the complex web of the dreaming


Tribes are made up of clans, each descended from a spirit ancestor denoted by a totem (a kind of emblem, often an animal or bird). The totem is considered to be a natural part of the region the clan originated from (their ‘belonging place”) and will be painted on their sacred objects These objects represent the ongoing life force of the Dreaming and will be used at ceremonies The totem unifies the clan under the leadership of the spirit ancestor and thereby creates a metaphysical connection with other clans bearing the same totem Individuals also have their own specific totem

Aboriginal society believes the procreation was a dreaming event It is held that human spirits inhabit the air and are ‘dreamt’ into a woman’s body at the behest of a totem This creates a transcendent bond between a human and his/her totem as well as a dreaming kinship with other individuals bearing the same totem

Spirit ancestors

The spirit ancestors expect the members of these kinship groups to fulfill certain obligations They are expected to obey the tribal laws and beliefs and to subordinate individual interests to the greater good of the community Thus, Aboriginal kinship groups have a reciprocal network of giving and receiving, of rights and obligations The ancestors also expect that esoteric knowledge will be passed down through the tribe

1.1.1 Ceremonial life and the Dreaming

Aboriginal ceremonies always re-affirm the Dreaming in some way They are vital because, although the Dreaming event happened in the remote past, it is believed to be also happening in the present via the ceremonial activity itself Ceremonies will usually recreate, via ritual, an eternal moment of the Dreaming Aboriginal people are obliged to take part in such ceremonies, both to acknowledge the Dreaming creation event and to show the ongoing metaphysical presence of the parallel Dreaming world

Death and Burial

Although death and burial ceremonies vary considerably, all give emphasis to the ongoing reality of the Dreaming It is believed that, upon death, a person’s spirit reintegrates into the world of the Dreaming and merges with their totemic being

1.1.3 Obligations to land and people and the Dreaming

Aboriginal peoples consider land, the people and the Dreaming to be all part of one symbolic (mutually dependent) relationship. One element cannot function properly without the other two
Although land formations and people are yet necessary for the recreation of these events via ceremony, art, music and storytelling etc Humans have a sacred trust to assist the land in ‘living’ to its potential, via the performance of ceremonies and rituals If the cyclic system of ceremonies, all of which recreate and affirm Dreaming events, is not observed, then the power of the land to renew itself will inevitably fail. Disasters such as droughts, floods and fires will occur

Aboriginal Spiritualties and the Effect of Dispossession

1.1.4Separation from the land

Terra Nullius (empty land)

With the arrival of European settlement and the forced dispossession of Aboriginal people from the land, Aboriginal...
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