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Bruce Chatwin - Australian aboriginal - Songlines



Type of Spiritual Experience


The song lines of Australia are straight, come in star burst patterns and bear all the hallmarks of a physical landscape marking a spiritual landscape.  Except that they don’t.  There are no physical markings on the Australian landscape, instead the map is held as song. So there is a map, but it is a song map.

By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous peoples could navigate vast distances (often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior). The continent of Australia is a system of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through disparate terrain and lands of many different indigenous peoples — peoples who may speak markedly different languages and champion significantly different cultural traditions.
An interesting feature of the paths is that, as they span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of the song are said to be in those different languages. Thus the whole song can only be fully understood by a person speaking all the relevant languages

A description of the experience

The Songlines-  Bruce Chatwin

"...the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as 'Dreaming-tracks' or 'Songlines'; to the Aboriginals as the 'Footprints of the Ancestors' or the 'Way of the Law'.

Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path- birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes- and so singing the world into existence."

The source of the experience

Australian aboriginal

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps