According to the Australian Aborigines, the topography of aboriginal Australia evolved from the travels of mythic creation beings. Long ago, in the beginning of time, ancestral figures journeyed across Australia and infused the land with a power that still exists today. When the ancestors emerged from and descended into the earth they left behind portions of their supernatural powers. Presently, the Aborigines go to sites of ancestral emergence and descent to perform rituals. At the sites, Aborigines receive and perpetuate the invisible potency left behind by their predecessors. The period of ancestral travel is called the Dreamtime. The flexible and inclusive nature of the Dreamtime allows Aborigines to still feel its presence. Although the events happened in the past, the Dreamtime continues to exist because it is located in renewable resources like nature and human beings. Nature and humanity reflect the fluid movement of the Dreamtime through their cyclical processes of birth, growth, and death. Aborigines relate their mythic past to one another through myth and ritual. By discussing their origins in the form of a story, and then reenacting the tale through ritual, the Aborigines assure themselves of a heritage. Besides confirming the past, myth and ritual also acknowledge the present. It is important for the Aborigines to continue portraying the deeds of their ancestors through activities like myth and ritual or future generations will not be able to live harmoniously with the environment. Myth and ritual afford Aborigines the opportunity to thank ancestors for their past creations, increase sources of plant and animal life, as well as maintain a balance in society. Aborigines balance their lives according to the environment. Since components of the environment change, so does aboriginal religion. However, Aborigines must be careful of change or the uniqueness of their religion may suffer. It is important, then, that the Aborigines maintain their links to the land and hence, the Dreamtime, through both verbal and visual expression. This thesis illustrates the function of myth and ritual in perpetuating the Dreamtime, as well as highlights some of the other elements responsible for the continued existence of aboriginal religion.


Smith, Robert


Religious Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150



© Copyright 1991 Christina Witt