Australia–The Dreamtime, Songlines and a Walkabout


“The Dreaming”/”Dreamtime” is an expansive Aboriginal Australian concept that refers at the same time to:

— the sacred era of the world’s creation

— the before-life and after-life state in which all people exist
until they’re born into the world through their mother, and

— an individual or group’s set of spiritual beliefs (Wikipedia’s entry on Dreamtime says, “an indigenous Australian might say that he or she has Kangaroo Dreaming, or Shark Dreaming, or Honey Ant Dreaming, or any combination of Dreamings pertinent to their ‘country.'”)

In Aboriginal lore, everything essential originated in Dreamtime–the society’s structure and rules for interaction, all laws and cultural cues, the most important rituals and ceremonies
and, not the least, the actual land on which we all live. During the Dreaming each Aboriginal ancestral being who created the earth developed its own physical path across the land which Aborigines recount and recall in their song, dance and visual art. Aboriginal Australians call these ancient trails “Songlines.”

When an Aboriginal Australian male (almost always, if not always, a male) is ready to transition between being an adolescent and an adult, tradition dictates he embark on a “Walkabout,” a solitary exploration that may last for a period of weeks or months and could cover up to a thousand miles of Australian bush. During this Walkabout, the walker will connect spiritually with his creator-being ancestor by listening to the ancestor’s Songline and will use it as a literal map to follow the path that ancestor traveled across Australia. Fortunately for those on Walkabout the Songlines clearly describe the physical marks (“footprints”) the ancestor-beings left on the land. For example, again according to Wikipedia, “in Perth, the Noongar believe that the Darling Scarp is said to represent the body of a Wagyl–a serpent being that meandered over the land creating rivers, waterways and lakes. It is taught that the Wagyl created the Swan River…” Most Songlines occur in different Aboriginal languages that those on Walkabout may learn so they may understand the path, though the more important skill is to listen to the sequential, almost symphonic rhythms and melody of the song and follow instinct to go from one sacred landmark to the next.

In class we’re going to embark on a mini-Walkabout, following a Songline to connect with our Dreamtime creator-beings as we find our way across the desolate, foreboding landscape of our classroom.

More information:

Tourism Australia’s overview of the Walkabout |’s introduction to the Dreamtime (includes Dreamtime stories)Â | The Basement Geographer’s, “Songlines: How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography” | An L.A. Times reporter goes on a Walkabout

Enjoy some Dreamtime stories on YouTube:

The Rainbow Serpent/Tiddalick the Frog/Waatji Pulyeri (the Blue Wren)/How the Birds Got Their Songs

How to sing with Jay each week in your home or classroom Support All Around This World on Patreon Enjoy interactive All Around This World lessons in your home or classroom

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