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Australian Aborigine Beliefs | What A Thousand-Year-Old Religion Looks Like


a photo of an australian aborigine with a boomerang siting on a rock

The Aborigines of Australia have been living on the continent for thousands of years. They have a long history in Australia, but they also have interesting beliefs, refined through centuries of isolation from everybody on Earth.


You can read more about Aboriginal history (and Australian history) here


Aboriginal beliefs were passed down through word of mouth, and there were over 250 distinct tribes before the Europeans came. This makes it somewhat difficult to know exactly what the ancient Aborigines believed. So here are some common beliefs and practices that were probably a part of life for most Aborigines…




an old photo of australian aborigines dancing in the outback

The Passing of Beliefs

As mentioned before, beliefs were passed down through word of mouth. Although this sounds primitive, information was passed both in a formal and informal way. Informally, beliefs were passed by talking to other people on a daily basis. Formally, people went through a secret, isolated event described as "going through the Law." After going through the Law, people would graduate as people of a higher status.


australian aborigine artwork showing "the dreaming"

The Dreaming

The Dreaming refers to the creation of the world but is also an ongoing process. The story usually begins with a flat land, the Earth was without light, but the world was filled with hidden, mythical, and spiritual beings. Eventually, these beings manifested and took the form of humans, animals, or a combination of both. They then used their creativity to create the Australian landscape we know today, including the Aboriginal people. Then, when it was all done, they absorbed themselves back into whatever they had created. As a result, the Aborigines have strong ties to the land in which they live.


Ceremonies

The beings that created the world also left behind rules and beliefs for humanity. For the Aborigines, these rules and beliefs were passed on through an initiation ceremony. Men and women would be separated. The ritual initiation would be performed at specific sites where the beings were considered to still be. If any non-initiated person went to these sacred sites, they were most likely punished. This initiation is typically called "going through the Law," which we talked about in The Passing of Beliefs section. Other ceremonies took place to bring fertility to the land and to transition the dead into the afterlife.



a sunset over the australian outback

Aborigines on Death

Aborigines believed that the land was their mother, since they’re from the land, and their ancestor’s spirits were a part of that land. So when their death was approaching, they would go back into the land to return their spirit to where it belonged.


photo of an australian aborigine playing the didgeridoo

Aboriginal Music

Music would typically be played at ceremonial events, mainly funeral rituals or rites of passage. Usually only men would participate in playing music, but women would sometimes play too. Singing was accompanied by the didgeridoo, the clapping of sticks, or clapping boomerangs together.


Here’s a video by Radio Bardejov that shows an example of what Aboriginal Music and Dancing would’ve looked like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhyKsEn6_So


Conclusion

So, the Aborigines have developed and refined their beliefs over the last few thousand years. And they’ve created a unique culture, one created in separation from the rest of humanity.


Personally, I’ve learned that although their ideas seem primitive to us, looking into it, you could see how you could logically come to the same beliefs. Also, I think it's pretty cool how they've passed down these beliefs through the generations, and how they have elaborate ceremonies to pass knowledge on to the next generation.



What Will You Discover Today?

 

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