By Rachael Funk
Australian Aboriginal mythology has survived tens of thousands of years. Considered one of the oldest surviving cultures on the planet, the Aborigines of Australia have been able to preserve their heritage over the course of 300 generations of oral history, art, and tradition. Here are a few of the stories which have stood the test of time.
Before jumping into Australian Aborigine mythology and folklore, the concept of the Dreamtime is important to explore first. Simply put, the Dreamtime is what existed before the world came to be and what will exist after the earth is gone. Though not always well understood by non-indigenous people, it is generally accepted to refer to the beginning of time, when land, people, animals, and nature were created by the Aboriginal Ancestors. Much of Aboriginal mythology occurs in the Dreamtime, and explains how the universe and all the things in it came to be. Instead of being a flat timeline that has a beginning and an end, the Dreamtime is a cyclical timeline which progresses constantly without starting or stopping.
One of the world’s oldest instruments, the didgeridoo is a crucial part of Aboriginal storytelling. Earning a role in many of the Dreamtime stories it helps to tell, it is believed the didgeridoo was invented by the gods and used as a tool in the creation of the world. The instrument is used as accompaniment in storytelling along with chants, singing, and dancing.
The Rainbow Serpent
A common deity known as wuagyl (among other various spellings), the Rainbow Serpent is so named for his shape, rather than his color. When rainbows appear in the sky, it is said to be wuagyl moving from one watering spot to another. He is known as a giver of life, but displays terrible rage when crossed.
How the Kangaroo Got Her Pouch
Biami is an “all-father deity” and considered one of the most important Spirit Ancestors in Southeastern Australia. During the Dreamtime, the Rainbow Serpent gave Biami his spirit form and Biami walked the earth, protecting the people. Known as a sky god, he is thought now to watch the earth from above.
Tiddalick the Frog
The Water-holding Frog, Litoria platycephala, is found all over Australia. It has a flat head, webbed toes, and a dark, stout body. The frog earned its name because it can store water in its body to drink when it is thirsty as well as holding water in its skin pockets for absorption when water is harder to find. The frogs spend much of their time underground and emerge after it rains in order to breed.
The Emu in the Sky
The story of the Emu in the sky takes place during the Dreaming, when a blind man lived with his wife in the bush. Plagued by an insatiable hunger for emu eggs, he would tell his wife every day to go find him some. Each day, she would return with eggs and each day, he would tell her the eggs were too small. One day on her search, the wife found giant emu tracks. She tracked the bird, determined to please her husband, but was killed when she tried to get at the eggs.
The blind man grew hungry and concerned for his wife. Feeling around, he found a bush with berries on them. When he ate the fruit, he was suddenly able to see and immediately set off to find his wife. When he followed her tracks and discovered her lifeless body, he killed the emu and banished its spirit to the Milky Way, where it can still be seen today.