SOR1: Aboriginal Spirituality As Determined By The Dreaming

  • The Dreaming is a fundamental concept that underpins all aspects of Aboriginal spirituality
  • The Dreaming refers to Aboriginal spiritual beliefs about creation and existence
  • According to Aboriginal spirituality, all life is part of a larger network that can be traced back to the ANCESTOR BEINGS of the Dreaming
  • The Dreaming involves all knowledge and understanding in Aboriginal societies
  • The Dreaming incorporates an explanation for the origins of the Universe
  • The Dreaming is INEXTRICABLY CONNECTED TO THE LAND as the Land is the physical medium through which the Dreaming is expressed, and since the Ancestor Spirits are said to continue to reside within the Land
  • The Dreaming is METATEMPORAL, meaning it incorporates the past, present and future as a complete and present reality
  • The Dreaming is embedded in all aspects of Aboriginal life, because every part of Aboriginal life is derived from the Dreaming


  • Kinship identify a system of belonging and responsibilities within a clan
  • Kinship is not only based on family, but also one’s totem, usually a plant or an animal, which represent a person’s or group’s connection with the Ancestor Spirits
  • Kinship ties govern all interactions with other people (such as who you can marry, who you can talk to, etc.), as well as responsibilities (such as educating younger generations, etc.)


  • Art is a very important method of communicating the Dreaming because it illustrates the actions of the Ancestor Spirits in the Land
  • Aboriginal art has multiple layers of meaning:
    • At face value, they are merely a depiction of the land, similar to a map or cartography chart
    • At a deeper level, they portray the actions of the Ancestor Spirits
    • To the initiated, more subtle, profound meanings are visible, further educating them on the actions of the Ancestor Spirits


  • Stories from the Dreaming describe Aboriginal Law and Lifestyle
  • The Dreaming is often described through stories which dictate the Ancestor Spirits moved through the land, creating features that are visible today
  • These stories provide a foundation and explanation of various aspects of Aboriginal tradition and law by explaining the creation of the Natural World and how the Dreaming shapes the day-to-day life of people and animals
  • Learning the Dreaming stories is a lifelong process, and is important for teaching Aboriginal people the moral conduct of their people and of society


  • Rituals from the Dreaming relive the actions of the Ancestor Spirits
  • Derived from important aspects of the Dreaming
  • Important because they are understood as reliving an event in the present moment
  • Ancestor Beings are “made present” through the people, objects, words, and movements used during the ritual
    • Example: The Smoking Ceremony, in which smoke is used to cleanse and heal. The ritual is performed symbolically at public events, but also during other traditional uses such as smoking ceremonies
  • Totems carry ceremonial responsibilities known as balance rites
    • Aim to assist the proliferation (growth, spread or increase) of a particular species, which embody an individual’s ancestor spirit as they existed during the Dreaming
    • For example, if a particular tribe was part human and part echidna in the Dreaming, that tribe would have ritual responsibilities towards echidnas

Obligations to the Land and People

  • The Land is of Paramount importance in Aboriginal spirituality
  • Aboriginal people regard the Land as their mother and have worked to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the Land
    • The Land is the physical medium through which the Dreaming is expressed
  • The Land provides the foundation for Aboriginal beliefs, traditions, rituals and laws because the stories of the Dreaming are embedded in the land
  • The Land is the dwelling of the Ancestor Beings, and is regarded as the mother of all people
    • The identity of the individual is inextricably linked to the Land
    • Quote: “I belong to the Land, and the Land belongs to me” – Patrick Dodson, 1976
  • Aboriginal people are the caretakers, owners, inhabitants and custodians of the Land
    • This is the origin of the Acknowledgement of Country used at formal events in Australia
  • Aboriginal people have ritual responsibilities based on their totem
Pranav Sharma
Pranav Sharma
Site Owner

UNSW Student, site owner and developer.