Aboriginal Religion

Having spent 6 weeks living in Darwin with an Aboriginal. I find their culture and history of particularly interesting, especially as they may have the first form of Religion known on earth, dating back possibly 60,000 years. They are beautiful people with kind hearts, it is unfortunate that those who are kicked out of their communities for being alcoholics give the rest a bad name. This was my first perception of the people when i arrived at Sydney, it wasn’t until i spent time venturing in the outback that i got the opportunity to meet the real aboriginal…….

It was a disgusting travesty by Great Britain for what our ancestors did to them. I’m glad the recent Australian Prime Minister apologized unlike the old TWIT Prime Minister John Howard. (Slightly off topic but did anyone else notice that every picture of John Howard he looks like he is taking a shit!)

So I was told by an aboriginal tracker form Kakadu National Park

‘ The Aboriginal has something very special to teach the white man, but he is just not ready to learn yet.’

I hope some day we are ready to learn

I hope you find the following information of interest.

Aboriginal religion, like many other religions, is characterised by having a god or gods who created people and the surrounding environment during a particular creation period at the beginning of time. Aboriginal people are very religious and spiritual, but rather than praying to a single god they cannot see, each group generally believes in a number of different deities, whose image is often depicted in some tangible, recognisable form. This form may be that of a particular landscape feature, an image in a rock art shelter, or in a plant or animal form.
Wandjina bring the Wet Season rains to the people of the Kimberley. Wandjina bring the Wet Season rains to the people of the Kimberley.

Landscape features may be the embodiment of the deity itself, such as a particular rock representing a specific figure, or they may be the result of something the deity did or that happened to the deity in the Creation Period, such as a river having formed when the Rainbow Serpent passed through the area in the Creation Period, or a depression in a rock or in the ground representing the footprint or sitting place of an Ancestral Being.

Aboriginal people do not believe in animism. This is the belief that all natural objects possess a soul. They do not believe that a rock possesses a soul, but they might believe that a particular rock outcrop was created by a particular deity in the creation period, or that it represents a deity from the Creation Period. They believe that many animals and plants are interchangeable with human life through re-incarnation of the spirit or soul, and that this relates back to the Creation Period when these animals and plants were once people.

The Lightning Brothers in the Victoria River District, Northern Territory. The Lightning Brothers in the Victoria River District, Northern Territory.

There is no one deity covering all of Australia. Each tribe has its own deities with an overlap of beliefs, just as there is an overlap of words between language groups. Thus, for example, the Wandjina spirits in the northern Kimberley of Western Australia belong to the Ngarinyin, Worora and Wunambal tribes. These Wandjina are responsible for bringing the Wet Season rains, as well as laying down many of the laws for the people. As one travels east, this function is taken over by Yagjagbula and Jabirringgi, The Lightning Brothers of the Wardaman tribe in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory, then by Nargorkun, also known as Bula, in the upper Katherine River area, and by Namarrgun, the Lighning Man in the Kakadu and western Arnhem Land regions.

Aboriginal deities have many roles and no single description or term can describe all of these. Based on their primary role, they fall into three main categories, and any one deity may belong to one, two, or all three of these categories:

Namarrgun, the Lightning Man in the Kakadu region. Namarrgun, the Lightning Man in the Kakadu region.

(a) Creation Beings (also: Creation Figure). Many are involved with the creation of people, the landscape, and aspects of the environment, such as the creation of red, yellow or white pigments, so can be called “Creation Figures” or “Creation Beings”.

(b) Ancestral Beings. In many examples, these deities are regarded as the direct ancestors of the people living today and so they are “Ancestral Figures”, “Ancestral Beings”, “Ancestral Heroes”, or “Dreamtime Ancestors”. Here, the one term “Ancestral Being” is used to describe these deities.

Ancestral Beings have taught the first people how to make tools and weapons, hunt animals and collect food, they have layed down the laws that govern their society, and the correct way to conduct ceremonies.

Even though regarded as ancestors of the people, such deities may not appear in a human form, but may be plant or animal, for example. In Aboriginal religious belief, a person’s spirit may return in human, animal or plant form after death. So an Ancestral Being may have the appearance of a plant or animal, but have done deeds similar to a human in the past.

(c) Totemic Beings. / Totemic ancestors. A Totemic Being represents the original form of an animal, plant or other object (totem), as it was in the Creation Period. The concept of a Totemic Being overlaps with that of a Creation Being and an Ancestral Being because the Totemic Being may create the abundance of species, and people see themselves as being derived from the different Totemic Beings.

Society is divided into two groups, called moieties, each with specific Totemic Beings belonging to it. Every person belongs to one or the other moiety. These moieties are further divided into sections or subsections, sometimes based on totemic beings. Every individual has come from at least one Totemic Being, and these help define a person’s origins and connections with the world, their relationships with the past, present and future.

For example, a person connected with a yam (native potato) totem might believe that he was a yam in a previous life, that some yams are his relatives, and that a particularly prominent rock feature in his clan estate represents the embodiment of his yam ancestor. This, or another area nearby, might also be an “increase centre” where rituals are performed to ensure the maintenance of this food supply. Each clan will have several totems, so this person will have a close human relative living on the same clan estate who is not of the yam totem. That person might belong to the kangaroo totem and similarly be related to kangaroos and have another feature of the landscape representing their kangaroo totem.

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