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DREAMTIME MYTHS & LEGENDS


For the Australian Aborigines, the sky was a textbook of morals and stories retold around campfires. They had their own zodiac made of birds, fishes and dancing men and it was the backdrop to their existence for tens of thousands of years.

In winter the bright stars we call Arcturus and Vega appeared and the Arnhem Land tribes knew that it was time to make fish traps. Also at that time, tribes in Victoria would look for the pupa of the wood ant. The appearance of the stars we call the Pleiades - or the Seven Sisters - was the sign of the start of the dingo-hunting season.

Aborigines saw Magellanic clouds as an old man and woman The Aborigines knew about the white, blue and red stars and had explanations for all of them. They understood the concept of circumpolar stars, that is, those that never dip below the horizon.

Eclipses and exploding stars were never regarded as good or bad omens - they were merely part of nature.

The Aborigines made bark paintings of the sky as well as rock carvings.

Dr Ragbir Bhathal


Australian Aboriginies represented our Milky Way Galaxy as a ladder


THE LEGENDS


Two Brothers & The Pointer Stars

How The Sun Came To Be

How The Moon Came To Be

The First Fire


More Dreamtime Stories.....



Two Brothers & The Pointer Stars

This is a legend from the Dreamtime about two young brothers
who went up into the Northern Fliders Ranges of South Australia to hunt

There were two young brothers of the tribe who were known as very clever hunters. The tribe desperately needed meat so the brothers decided to make a hunting trip up into the mountains that we now call the Flinders Ranges.

Soon after they had begun to climb they spotted an emu hiding among the boulders and they quickly caught and killed it. They carried it with them as they continued on up into the mountains. However by midday the emu was covered in flies. The brothers tried to drive them away but whatever they did the flies kept returning and increasing in numbers. The brothers became worried that the meat would be spoiled so they eventually decided to light a fire, hoping that the flames and smoke would drive the flies away. It did, but a strong wind blew up and fanned the fire so that it quickly began to spread through the dry grass that was all around. In a short time the whole side of the mountain side was on fire and the two young brothers were trapped.

There was no way they could get back down onto the plains so they scrambled onto a rocky ledge and watched terrified as the fire grew stronger and more widespread. The flames coming closer and closer to them. The brothers were frantic, they could barely breathe because of the smoke and with a great effort they began to climb higher up the cliff until they reached the uppermost tip. Even here they were not safe. The fire reached out to them and the flames burned their skin. There was nothing they could do, there was nowhere else to go. In desperation they began to scream and suddenly they discovered they could fly. They flew up high over the flames and smoke of the fire. Higher and higher into the distant world of the night sky.

The ancestors, who had been watching, had taken pity on them and given them the power of flight to escape the flames. With relief the two men realised they were at last safe and they made their camp in the sky world where they remain till this day. At night their camp fires can still be seen as 'The Pointers', the two bright stars that point to the 'Southern Cross'.

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How The Sun Came To Be

All tribes have their own stories of how the sun first came to be.
This tale comes from Central Victoria

Early in the Dreamtime, before the sun had begun to shine, there was a young woman who decided to leave her group because the elders would not allow her to marry the lover of her choice.

She went a long way from the tribe and hid in a dry, rocky area. There was very little food and water here and no safe place to sleep. The young woman was hungry, thirsty and tired but she would not give up and return to her people. Then she saw that a group of men from her tribe were coming to take her back by force. She ran even further into the most barren part of the land.

Soon she was exhausted and bruised by branches and rocks, she was near to death but somehow she managed to keep going. Eventually her ancestor spirits became so concerned for the young woman, they lifted her gently away in to the sky world, where she slept peacefully for a long time.

When she awoke she found plenty of food and water and lit a camp fire. She was all alone but not afraid and grateful that she was at last warm and safe. She was as determined as ever to live alone forever rather than return to her tribe but as she looked down on them she saw that most of the men and women were sad that she had gone and her heart began to soften. After a few days she found she was feeling very homesick but now she belonged to the sky world and was unable to return home.

As she watched her people she saw that they were cold. Being occupied with the chores of daily life, they could not sit by their camp fires and keep warm as she now could.

The young woman decided to build up her camp fire and make it so big that it would warm all the people down below as they went about their day. So all day long she built up her fire to give warmth to her people and as night came she let her fire die down as they were then able to sit by their own camp fires.

When she saw how happy this made her people, she made up her mind to light her camp fire afresh each day. Soon her people began to look each morning for her sky-world fire. They were very grateful for the warmth it gave them and they called it 'The Sun'.

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How The Moon Came To Be

One of the best known stories of Moon creation,
this tale comes from the Northern Territory

Japara lived in the Dreamtime and was an excellent hunter. He had a wife and a little son whom he loved dearly. One day, when Japara was out on the plains hunting, a man called Parukapoli visited Japara's wife. He was a lazy man who preferred telling stories to hunting. That day he told many stories to Japara's wife and told them so cleverly that she forgot everything else as she listened and laughed. She even forgot her baby son who crawled out to a nearby stream and toppled in to the water. Japara's wife heared the splash and ran to the water, pulling the boy out, but it was too late, the child had drowned.

For many hours she sat by the stream, holding the little dead body in her arms and sobbing as she waited for Japara to return home. When Japara at last arrived and heard the story he was at first very sad but then he became extremely angry with his wife, blaming her for the loss of his precious boy. He took up his hunting weapons and in a blaze of anger, killed his wife. Then he had a fierce fight with Parukapoli. They fought for a long time but at last Parukapoli was also killed.

Japara was left with many painful wounds from his fight and a great sadness for the death of his child. The rest of the tribe saw that Japara was badly wounded and distressed but they were very angry with him. They gathered around shouting "You should not have killed your wife. She loved your boy very much and did not mean for such a terrible accident to happen."

Dispite his great distress, Japara slowly began to listen to his people and realised that was they said was true. He became very sorry for what he had done. He hurried to where he had left his poor dead wife and son but their bodies had disappeared. Immediately he understood that kind spirits had taken them away to finish their lives in some better place. He called to the spirits to forgive him for being so cruel and told them that he really loved his wife and wanted nothing more than to be with her and their little boy again.

The spirits heard his pleas and they knew he was telling the truth. They assured him that his wife and boy were safe with them in the sky world. They would allow Japara to leave the earth world too but as punishment for his cruel deeds he must search the lonely sky world until he found his family.



The story tellers say that the moon is the reflection of Japara's camp fire. The lines that are visible on the moon are the reminder of his scars. Some say the moon changes because Japara is forever changing camp as he moves across the dark sky world still searching for his family. Others believe that he has now found his wife and son and that they are exploring the mysterious sky world together.

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The First Fire

All cultures have legends to explain how fire was first discovered.
This legend comes from the Aboriginal people who lived on the
north coast of New South Wales

Long ago, before even the Dreamtime, there was a tribe of people who did not live on the earth. They lived in the sky world and their camp was near the two brightest stars so that they could light their fire-sticks from them. They were the only people anywhere who had the use of fire. The people on earth had to manage without it.

As even in the sky world, life is not always perfect, there came a time when there was not enough food. Some of the most adventurous of the sky world people decided to come down to the earth world to hunt.

"We will hunt possums and collect nuts and berries. It won't take long and we can bring back enough food for everyone," they told their companions.

Two brothers, named Kanbi and Jitabidi, brought their fire-sticks down to earth with them and left them smouldering while they went off hunting. Hunting possums turned out to be a lot more difficult than they had expected and the time drew out and the land was very quiet. The fire-sticks became bored and began to play 'chase'. They were very clever at this game, running from place to place, and everywhere they touched the dry grass it caught alight. Gradually all the little fires grew together into one big fire and the smoke could be seen from a long way off. As soon as the sky brothers saw the smoke they left the hunting party and hurried back to put out the fires.

The Aboriginal people who lived in the area had also seen the smoke and had come to see what was going on. They had never seen fire before and at first they were very afraid. It did not take them long, however, to realise that this strange phenomonon could be extremely useful to them, providing them with light and warmth. They also noticed that some possums the sky brothers had caught had been cooked by the fire and smelled wonderful and savoury. They realised that they too could make their food more tender and tasty with fire.

Before Kanbi and Jitabidi could finish putting out the fires, several of the Aboriginal men lit fire-sitcks for themselves and hurriedly carried them back to their camps.

"We must watch over these fire-sticks and carefully keep them burning forever," they old one another.

Kanbi and Jitabidi quckily gathered up their playful fire-sticks and returned to their campsite in the sky. They were trerribly afraid the earth people would inflict some punishment on them for having caused such a disturbance. But the earth people were in awe of their sky visitors and rather than being angry about the burnt grass were excited and grateful for the wonderful gift of fire.

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Refs:
'From The Dreamtime' by Jean A Ellis
BBC News Online
Dr. Ragbir Bhathal of the University of Western Sydney Macarthur.



More Dreamtime Stories

How The Sun Was Made

The Southern Cross

Fish Moon




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