Ancient Australia




The First Australians

Aboriginal Culture

The Dreamtime

Australian History: Dreamtime

Dreamtime“This was way back, at the very beginning. The land and the people were created by the Spirits. They made the rivers the water holes the hills and the rocks and all the thing living. They gave us hunting things, they gave each tribe its land, they gave us our totems and they gave us our Dreaming”

Aboriginals believed that the world was made by the Ancestors, back in the Dreamtime. The Ancestors made everything – the rocks, mountains, plants and animals. They made the Aboriginals too. The Ancestors left certain sights to show which places were to be sacred. The Aboriginals performed ritual songs and ceremonies near the sacred sites to keep the spirits of the Ancestors alive. Different tribes had different ideas about the Ancestors who made the world. Others believed that they were animal-spirits. In parts of Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, the Ancestors were huge snakes. In other places the spirit who created the world was Wanadjina.

Dreamtime legends form a part of Australian literature and was the basis for Aboriginal religion and culture. It dated back to 65,000 years and contains many parts: It is the story of things that have happened, how the universe came to be, how human beings were created and how the Creator intended for humans to function within the cosmos.

One such dreamtime story that was provided to us is about how the sun was made.


How the Sun Was Made

For a long time there was no sun, only a moon and stars. That was before there were men on the earth, only birds and beasts, all of which were many sizes larger than they are now.

One day Dinewan the emu and Brolga the native companion were on a large plain near the Murrumbidgee. There they were, quarrelling and fighting. Brolga, in her rage, rushed to the nest of Dinewan and seized from it one of the huge eggs, which she threw with all her force up to the sky. There it broke on a heap of firewood, which burst into flame as the yellow yolk spilled all over it, and lit up the world below to the astonishment of every creature on it. They had been used to the semi-darkness and were dazzled by such brightness.

A good spirit who lived in the sky saw how bright and beautiful the earth looked when lit up by this blaze. He thought it would be a good thing to make a fire every day, and from that time he has done so. All night he and his attendant spirits collect wood and heap it up. When the heap is nearly big enough they send out the morning star to warn those on earth that the fire will soon be lit.

The spirits, however, found this warning was not sufficient, for those who slept saw it not. Then the spirits thought someone should make some noise at dawn to herald the coming of the sun and waken the sleepers. But for a long time they could not decide to whom should be given this office.

At last one evening they heard the laughter of Goo-goor-gaga, the laughing jackass, ringing through the air. "That is the noise we want," they said.

Then they told Goo-goor-gaga that, as the morning star faded and the day dawned, he was every morning to laugh his loudest, that his laughter might awaken all sleepers before sunrise. If he would not agree to do this, then no more would they light the sun-fire, but let the earth be ever in twilight again.

But Goo-goor-gaga saved the light for the world.

He agreed to laugh his loudest at every dawn of every day, and so he has done ever since, making the air ring with his loud cackling, "Goo goor gaga, goo goor gaga, goo goor gaga."

When the spirits first light the fire it does not throw out much heat. But by the middle of the day, when the whole heap of firewood is in a blaze, the heat is fierce. After that it begins to die gradually away until, at sunset, only red embers are left. They quickly die out, except a few the spirits cover up with clouds and save to light the heap of wood they get ready for the next day.

Children are not allowed to imitate the laughter of Goo-goor-gaga, lest he should hear them and cease his morning cry.

If children do laugh as he does, an extra tooth grows above their eye-tooth, so that they carry the mark of their mockery in punishment for it. Well the good spirits know that if ever a time comes when the Goo-goor-gagas cease laughing to herald the sun, then no more dawns will be seen in the land, and darkness will reign once more