Aboriginal Spirituality

Aboriginal spirituality is the belief that all objects are living and share the same soul or spirit that Aboriginals share. It is inextricably connected to the land which “owns” the Aboriginal people. No distinction is made between the secular and spiritual life. Aboriginal spirituality is a total way of life. The fundamental tenet that underpins Aboriginal spirituality is a concept known as the Dreaming. The Dreaming is a term referring to Aboriginal spiritual beliefs about origins of the universe and existence of all life and objects.

It determines all relationships and responsibilities for Aboriginal people. The Dreaming is inextricably connected to the land as the land is the physical medium through which the Dreaming is communicated – through art, song, dance, story and ritual It is a metatemporal concept – incorporates the past, present and future into a complete and present reality. It involves all knowledge and understanding in Aboriginal societies.

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According to Aboriginal belief, all life as it is today – human, plant and animal – is a part of a vast unchanging network of relationships which can be traced to the ancestral spirits of the Dreaming. The process of Dreaming is a life-long pursuit. The Dreaming is embedded in all aspects of life and is intrinsically connected to kinship, obligations to land and people and ceremonial life. Kinship is a complex system of belonging and responsibility within a clan. It is not only based on familial relations but also totem relations.

Kinship ties govern day to day activities as they govern basic rules such as assigning the responsibility to transmit the knowledge of the Dreaming from the elders to the younger generation. Rituals: Rituals are a moment of reliving in the present moment, the creative activities of the ancestor spirits. The ancestors are made present through the people, objects, words and movements of the ritual. For example, the smoking ceremony is used to heal and cleanse. Totems are the embodiment of each individual in their primordial state. They re links between an individual and the ancestor spirit of the land. Totems carry with them, ceremonial responsibilities known as balance rites. The land is of paramount importance to Aboriginal spirituality. Aboriginal people have traditionally regarded the land as their mother and hence have worked to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the land. The land provides the foundation for Aboriginal beliefs, traditions, laws and rituals because the stories of the Dreaming are embedded in the land. Furthermore, the lands serves as the dwelling place for ancestral spirits.

Since the land is revered as the mother, the identity of Aboriginal people in inextricably connected to the land. At the commencement of many formal public events in Australia, acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land indicate this significant link between the Aboriginal people and the area they lived in for more than a 1000 years. Every social event in Aboriginal culture has spiritual significance. Sacred sites or ritual estates have a special significance as they are connected with particular events of the Dreaming.

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