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Creation from the Dreamtime

Adapted from an Aboriginal creation story from Australia.

When the earth was new-born, it was plain and without any features or life. There were no rivers or mountains, no trees, no grasses, only flat red earth as far as the eye could see—except that there were no eyes for seeing. Waking time and sleeping time were the same. There were only hollows on the surface of the Earth which, one day, would become waterholes. Around the waterholes were the ingredients of life.

Underneath the crust of the earth were the stars and the sky, the sun and the moon, as well as all the forms of life, all sleeping. All the tiniest details of life were present, yet not awake or alive: the head feathers of a cockatoo, the thump of a kangaroo's tail, the gleam of an insect's wing, the rustle of eucalyptus leaves in the wind.

A time came when time itself split apart and sleeping time separated from waking time. This moment was called the Dreamtime. At this moment everything started to burst into life.

The sun rose through the surface of the Earth and shone warm rays onto the hollows, melting ice which became waterholes. Under each waterhole lay an Ancestor, an ancient man or woman who had been asleep through the ages. The sun filled the bodies of each Ancestor with light and life, and the Ancestors began to give birth to children. Their children were all the living things of the world, from the tiniest grub wriggling on a leaf to the broadest-winged eagle soaring in the blue sky.

Rising from the waterholes, the Ancestors stood up with mud falling from their bodies. As the mud slipped away, the sun opened the Ancestors' eyelids. They saw the creatures they had made from their own bodies. Each Ancestor gazed at their creation in pride and wonderment. Each Ancestor sang out with joy: "I am!" One Ancestor sang "I am kangaroo!" Another sang "I am Cockatoo!" The next sang "I am Honey-Ant!" and the next sang "I am Lizard!"

As they sang, naming their own creations, they began to walk. Their footsteps and their music became one, calling all living things into being and weaving them into life with song. The ancestors sang their way all around the world. They sang the rivers to the valleys and the sand into dunes, the trees into leaf and the mountains to rise above the plain. As they walked they left a trail of music.

Then they were exhausted. They had shown all living things how to live, and they returned into the Earth itself to sleep. We don't see them, but they are still present in every sacred place, and their music still hums through the world. In honor of their Ancestors, the Aborigines still go Walkabout, retracing the steps and singing the songs, connecting this waking time to the Dreamtime.

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Last updated on Thursday, August 16, 2012.

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