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The ancient time of the creation of all things by sacred ancestors, whose spirits continue into the present, as conceived in the mythology of the Australian Aborigines.
As Aborigines track the Songlines and chant the stories of the first dawning, they become part of the Ancestors and enter Dreamtime, which is neither a dream nor a measure of the passage of time
. It is the very realm of the ancestors, a parallel universe where the ordinary laws
, space, and motion do not apply, where past, future, and present merge into one. It is a place Europeans can only approximate in sleep, and thus . it became known to early English settlers as the Dreaming, or Dreamtime. But the term is misleading. A dream by Western definition is a state of consciousness
divorced from the real world.
Dreamtime, by contrast, is the real world, or at least one of two realities experienced in the daily lives of the Aborigines.
To walk the Songlines is to become part of the ongoing creation
of the world, a place that both exists and is still being formed. Thus the Aborigines are not merely attached to the earth, they are essential to its existence. Without the land they would die
. But without the people, the ongoing process of creation
would cease and the earth would wither. Through movement and sacred rituals, the people maintain access to Dreamtime and play a dynamic and ongoing role in the world of the Ancestors.
A moment begins with nothing. A man or a woman walks and from emptiness emerge the songs, the musical embodiment of reality.
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Everything on earth is held together by Songlines, everything is subordinate to the Dreaming, which is constant but ever changing. Every landmark is wedded to a memory of its origins, and yet always being born. Every animal and object resonates with the pulse of an ancient event, while still being dreamed into being. The world as it exists is perfect, though constantly in the process of being formed. The land is encoded with everything that has ever been, everything that ever will be, in every dimension of reality. To walk the land is to engage in a constant act of affirmation
, an endless dance of creation
“I came to realize, simply by being with Otto and his family, that in a sense the Aboriginal peoples had never been truly nomadic. To the contrary, they lived locked within the territories delineated by their ancestors. They had concentrated on a single set of tasks, focused exclusively on knowing a particular piece of ground, not only the plants and animals but every ecological, climatic, geographic detail, the pulse of every sentient creature, the rhythm of every breath of wind, the patterns of every season. This was the norm in Aboriginal Australia.
What linked the clan territories was not the physical movement of peoples but rather the strength of a common idea, a subtle but universal philosophy, a way of thinking. This was the Dreaming. It refers on one level, as we have seen, to the first dawning, ‘when the Rainbow Serpent and all the ancestral beings created the world. And it is remembered in the Songlines, which are the trajectories that these ancestors traveled as they sang the world into being. “
Wade Davis – from ‘Wayfinders’