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Australian aboriginal

Category: Indigenous people

 

Australian Aborigines are more correctly and legally called Indigenous Australians, however, as the term Aboriginal, from the Latin ab origine (from the origin), is instantly recognisable, I have used this term in this section.  Eve Fesl, a Gabi Gabi woman, in the Aboriginal Law Bulletin described that she and other Australian Aborigines prefer to be identified as ‘Aborigines’:

The word 'aborigine' refers to an indigenous person of any country. If it is to be used to refer to us as a specific group of people, it should be spelt with a capital 'A', i.e. 'Aborigine'.”

Some Aboriginal Australians, for example Lowitja O'Donoghue AC CBE, even object to the use of indigenous, partly because many people are starting to call themselves indigenous just because they were born in Australia:

“I really can't tell you of a time when 'indigenous' became current, but I personally have an objection to it, and so do many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. [...] This has just really crept up on us ... like thieves in the night. [...] We are very happy with our involvement with indigenous people around the world, on the international forum [...] because they're our brothers and sisters. But we do object to it being used here in Australia”.

So in the description I have used Australian and Aborigine with a capital A.  Having said this, because of the quirks of the software package we are using to do the linking on this site, the heading has to use a small 'a'!

As a nation or group of people, they live in most of the Australian continent—that is, mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania - and make up about 2.3% of Australia’s current population.  By far the largest number of Australian Aborigines now live in the Northern territories – a sort of safe haven for them.

 

Brief history

The following is not so brief, but needs to be explained to understand the context of the rest of this description.

Aboriginal culture can be traced back 50,000 years.  As you know, white anthropologists have a theory that people migrated to places, rather than evolved in situ, but they have some difficulty fitting this theory into the Australian facts.

In a genetic study in 2011, researchers found evidence from the DNA of Aboriginal hair strands that the Aboriginal population ‘split off’  from the European and Asian population between 62,000 and 75,000 years ago. It makes the Aborigines the oldest continuous population outside Africa, the people who have longest occupied their traditional territory. Archaeological findings of human remains near Lake Mungo have been dated to 45,000 years ago. The Jardwadjali people of Victoria have evidence of occupation in Gariwerd many thousands of years before the last ice-age. One site in the Victoria Range (Billawin Range) has been dated from 22,000 years ago.

In those areas of Australia where aboriginal people are still leading a traditional way of life, their history, even as far back as this time, has been preserved. They can recall many of the great geological changes that took place over this time period – the Ice age, the rising of the sea at the end of the ice age, the changes from lush vegetation to the current desert landscape, the eruption of volcanoes and the changes in fauna and flora.  In their early history, the second large ice age was drawing to a close and the ocean was as much as 400 to 600 feet lower than it is now.  Their legends describe a ‘flood’ in which sea levels rose dramatically.  In these  Pleistocene times giant animals inhabited the continent and the stories and legends that Aborigines can relate describe the fear  - even terror -  they experienced from giant kangaroos [over 10 feet tall] giant emus and massive crocodiles.  All these giants disappeared around 15,000 years ago, but folk memories were retained.

Their history and beliefs, laws and customs have always been passed on by word of mouth, however, they have been made more memorable by the use of allegory and symbolism and by relating some history to the landscape.  The rock drawings are also an aide memoire.

Australian aborigines incidentally have no stories about land bridges or migration from Asia, although the ones in the south of Australia do have stories that say they travelled from the north west of Australia.

On the whole a white historian is usually told the more general stories and myths, whilst the inner beliefs and more sacred knowledge ‘sacred law’ is not divulged – partly one suspects because the average historian would not understand and would simply distort the facts according to his own beliefs, or may [and there is plenty of precedent for this] disparage the beliefs.  Some of the descriptions I have read by academics of the belief system is so inaccurate, offensively condescending  and sullied with Christian preconceptions, that it is hardly worth bothering with.  A person who has never had a spiritual experience is not in a position to write about those who have.  And a person whose beliefs are as limited as those in the current Judaic/Christian/Islamic view i.e. all there is in 'heaven' is a God and a few angels, is also pretty ill equipped to understand more advanced, accurate and symbolically sound systems.

For 40,000 plus years of their history, Australian Aborigines led very much the same sort of life – shamanic, largely hunter gatherer communities. It was not without its problems.  They have memories of the spread of tribes across the continent, the divergence of languages and tribal warfare as the climate and landscape changed.  So conflict was not unknown.  

Then along came the white man and institutionalised Christianity and the problems really started.

At the time of first European contact, it is estimated that between 315,000 and 750,000 people lived in Australia, with upper estimates being as high as 1.25 million.   In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook claimed the east coast of Australia in the name of Great Britain and named it New South Wales. British colonisation of Australia began in Sydney in 1788. The most immediate consequence of British settlement – within weeks of the first colonists' arrival – was a wave of European epidemic diseases such as chickenpox, smallpox, influenza and measles. Proximity to settlers also brought venereal disease.  The worst-hit communities were the ones with the greatest population densities, where disease could spread more readily.

British treatment of the indigenous peoples was shameful. Not quite as shameful as the Americans’ treatment of the Native Americans, but a close second….

Aboriginality Under The Microscope: The Biological Descent Test In Australian Law"  - de Plevitz, Loretta & Croft, Larry (2003) QUT Law & Justice Journal

In the era of colonial and post-colonial government, access to basic human rights depended upon your race. If you were a "full blooded Aboriginal native ... [or] any person apparently having an admixture of Aboriginal blood", a half-caste being the "offspring of an Aboriginal mother and other than Aboriginal father" (but not of an Aboriginal father and other than Aboriginal mother), a "quadroon", or had a "strain" of Aboriginal blood you were forced to live on Reserves or Missions, work for rations, given minimal education, and needed governmental approval to marry, visit relatives or use electrical appliances.

British settlers – remembering that many early settlers were criminals deported from the UK –  [Australia was treated like a penal colony] - appropriated both land and water resources. The settlers took the view that Indigenous Australians were nomads with no concept of land ownership, so could be driven off land wanted for farming or grazing. In fact the loss of traditional lands, food sources and water resources was usually fatal, particularly to communities already weakened by disease.

Additionally, Indigenous Australian groups had a deep spiritual and cultural connection to the land, so that in being forced to move away from traditional areas, cultural and spiritual practices necessary to the cohesion and well-being of the group could not be maintained. What was taking place was the clash of a largely innocent trusting spiritual people, with immoral, scheming, far from innocent egoists – a total disaster for the innocents.

There was what would now be called genocide – massacres on quite a large scale of men, women and children.  For example…….

George Robinson, Chief Protector of Aborigines - Journal 1841:

"The settlers at the Bay spoke of the settlers up the country dropping the natives as coolly as if they were speaking of dropping cows. Indeed, the doctrine is being promulgated that they are not human, or hardly so and thereby inculcating the principle that killing them is no murder."

The Convincing Ground massacre of Gunditjmara [1833-34]: on the shore near Portland, Victoria was one of the largest recorded massacres in Victoria. Whalers and the local Kilcarer clan of the Gunditjmara people disputed rights to a beached whale carcass. Reports vary with from 60 to 200 Aborigines killed, including women and children. Only two members of the Kilcarer clan survived.

Edmund Denny Day, local magistrate
Describing the wars waged all along the Gwydir River in mid-1838.

'Aborigines in the district were repeatedly pursued by parties of mounted and armed stockmen, assembled for the purpose, and that great numbers of them had been killed at various spots’.

The combination of disease, loss of land and direct violence reduced the Aboriginal population by an estimated 90% between 1788 and 1900. Entire communities in the moderately fertile southern part of the continent simply vanished without trace, often before European settlers arrived or recorded their existence.  The Palawah, or Indigenous people of Tasmania, were particularly hard-hit. Nearly all of them, apparently numbering somewhere between 2,000 and 15,000 when white settlement began, were dead by the 1870s.

What this means is that the shamanic traditions and practises of this culture are extremely hard to piece together.  From their pictures and paintings and their stories, their spiritual understanding and practises were extremely advanced and well preserved, whether they are now remains a moot point.  If they have been lost, it must  rank as a tragedy of catastrophic proportions, to them and the rest of us.  These people KNEW.

Belief system

Aboriginal Men of High Degree - A. P. Elkin

Aboriginal medicine-men, so far from being rogues, charlatans or ignoramuses, are men of high degree; that is, men who have taken a degree in the secret life beyond that taken by most adult males – a step which implies discipline, mental training, courage and perseverance . . . they are men of respected, and often of outstanding, personality. . . they are of immense social significance, the psychological health of the group largely depending on faith in their powers . . . the various psychic powers attributed to them must not be too readily dismissed as mere primitive magic and 'make believe’, for many of them have specialized in the working of the human mind, and in the influence of mind on body and of mind on mind.

 

There is an odd parallel one can see between Australian Aborigines and the Native Americans.  Their history is not at all dissimilar. 

The decimation of the population of Australian Aborigines means that there are very very few people left who know anything of the system that once was the means by which the Australian Aborigines obtained spiritual experience.  Given the number of tribes and the richness of their culture, there is every reason to state that there would once have been any number of very effective systems, it is noticeable that from the accounts given by the remnants of that once gifted nation, there was a common set of techniques with tribal variations.

There is also reason to believe that the need to resort to drugs and alcohol is a direct consequence of the massacre of the line of shamans.  Drugs are a mechanism of last resort.  Lose your line of shamans and you lose the inherent ability to have spiritual experiences.  Shamanic ability is largely inherited so any form of massacre or decimation of a people is more than likely going to pretty well remove shamanic ability.

The little remnants of Australian Aborigines are roundly criticised for resorting to alcohol, but I will use a quote from a Native American to show the problem.

Lame Deer Seeker of Visions – John Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes
I figured out a few reasons for our drinking.  They may not be the right ones; I'm just speculating.
We call liquor mnji wakan – holy water.  I guess visions were so important and sacred to us that having our minds altered and befuddled by whisky impressed us in the beginning like a religious experience, a dream, a vision.  It didn't take much to make us drunk; it still doesn't.

There were, and presumably still are, both good medicine/holy men and bad shamans – sorcerors.

The good medicine men who were negotiators, peace makers, and non violent sages, were called the Munkumbole.  They were also experts in astronomy, geography and zoology.  Their shamanic skills varied but could include clairvoyance and telepathy skills, weather prediction and weather [usually rain] making; past perception recall and out of body experiences – used to scout search for water and in hunting.

Concept

Systems use of concept

Energy

Maban or Mabain is one name given to the fundamental energy from which all things are made, by Australian Aborigines.  The definition provided in the main section is identical with that given by the Australians. 

 

Spirit and System

The term used by Australian aboriginals for spirit with this definition is ‘The Dreaming’.  Or at least that is how white society has translated it.

Bruce Chatwin – Songlines

‘Any functions’ [Arkady] said ‘can be a Dreaming.  A virus can be a Dreaming.  You can have a Chicken pox Dreaming, a rain Dreaming, a desert orange Dreaming; a lice Dreaming….

In Australian aboriginal society it has numerous names because each tribe has a different language.  For example, the Anangu who speak Pitjantjatjara use the word Tjukurpa and those who speak Yankunytjatjara use Wapar;  Alcheringa is another term or  Alchera.

The Dreaming is not a bad translation, because when we dream we do indeed experience the spirit world, but it hardly conveys the full extent of what is meant. 

 

The Trinity

The symbolism and names used for the Trinity – which is recognised – varies enormously amongst tribal groups, which makes it somewhat difficult to unravel.  Sun and Moon, Mother and Father as well as the Morning Star are all applied symbolically.  The Moon is symbolically used as the Created ‘Mother’ figure, however, the Morning star can symbolically be used as the Creator.  In mythological terms the children of the Moon and the Morning Star were the Ancestors – in effect Intelligences.

 

The Intelligence hierarchy

It is relatively difficult to generalise on the names and positions of the Intelligence hierarchy of Indigenous Australians simply because they speak so many languages.  It is possible, however, to say that one exists and is in a general way called the Spirit Ancestor hierarchy.

See also observation 003082 

 

Big foot, lameness

In several of the Aboriginal cultures of south-east Australia such as Wiradyuri, Kamilaroi, Eora, Darkinjung, and Guringai, Daramulum (“one legged”) is a son of Baiame and his emu-wife Birrahgnooloo.  He is often depicted in Sydney Rock Engravings in semi-profile, with one arm, an emu-back (i.e. pointed buttocks), and a club foot.

The name is better rendered Dharramaalan (dharra 'leg, thigh' + maal 'one' + -an suffix). The "dh" is a dental consonant, pronounced like the 'd-th' in English "hid them". In the Sydney region it is often spelt Daramulan. It is also spelt Dhurramoolun.

 

God

In all tribes there is one overall all powerful spiritual Intelligence that might equate to the definition of ‘God’– the ultimate being, all function, all power.  As an example, the Kulin nation call this being Bunjil and the bird that represents Bunjil is the eagle hawk [a very high flier and very powerful bird – a sort of king of birds]

See also observation 003083.

 

Levels and layers

Lawlor (1991)  - The Aborigines seek quartz crystals with internal fractures that produce vivid rainbow light refractions. These fractures signal that the stone resonates powerfully with the primordial energies of the Rainbow Serpent.

Levels and layers are recognised and symbolically represented by the rainbow

See also observation 003084 

 

The Egg

What should be apparent from all Australian paintings is that they perceive that we are made of Atoms – see The Atom – which is always represented in their art as blobs of paint.  Everything is made of atoms.  What also is apparent is that they also believe in the existence of the ‘Egg’ as the container for all atoms – this too is shown in their painting see observation above

 

Activity dependencies and Songlines

The Songlines-  Bruce Chatwin - 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."

See also observation 003085 

 

Higher spirit

Recognised but I don’t know the name

See observation 003086 

 

Spiritual path

The Australian Aborigines have a spiritual path that is intended to be a lifetime’s journey.  The path is that of the ‘hero’ and covers various stages which may start with initiation and then continue with various stages of further development.

Initiation ceremonies plus numerous other types of ceremony are used to progress each person along the spiritual path.  Many Initiation ceremonies are no picnic……………

In a few months time they [the mothers] would see their boys  return minus a front tooth and with some extra scars”

The boys were brought to a place in the bush with rugs over their heads so that they did not know where they were going or what was going on.  [The lead shaman or Ancestor ] would hit a boy on the back of his head, which caused one of his front incisors to fall out.  He would then throw the youth in the fire and scorch all his hair off.  Sometimes he would even burn a boy to ashes and by the power of his sorcery bring him back to life again.  He fed the boys on a species of small wood lizard which they ate raw”

This should not all be taken literally a part of it is a description of a rebirth experience  - see Types of Spiritual Experience.

Again, as in many of these older systems decimated by the loss of shamanic ability and knowledge, trying to piece together the techniques used was not easy, more especially because the people are very secretive about their beliefs and customs [with just cause].

At one time, if their legends are a clue, they could have fairly spontaneous spiritual experiences, but their abilities gradually left them and they were forced to start searching for new ways to keep in contact with the Ancestors.

The techniques range from relatively benign methods – bull roarers, clapsticks; to slightly less benign -  fasting,  walkabout ; to downright fearsome – drugs.

What appears to me very strange is that there are no mythical records, obtuse allegories or symbolic stories that I could find of the use of sexual stimulation techniques.  These techniques are almost universal in comparable societies, so it is highly odd that they are not mentioned.  Are these techniques so secretive that not even the myths cover them?  There are a number of subtle hints that they may be known, but absolutely no evidence that I could find that really constitutes ‘proof’ and certainly no indication of which techniques if any were deployed.  But they knew kundalini energy and although kundalini energy can be invoked via other methods and may arise spontaneously, it is a direct by product of many sexual practises.

References

  • Aboriginal Men of High Degree – A P Elkin
  • Dreamtime Aboriginal Stories – Oodgeroo
  • Songlines – Bruce Chatwin
  • Yowara - Foragers of the Australian Desert – Richard Gould
  • The Native Tribes of South East Australia – A W Howitt
  • A Black Civilisation:  A Social Study of an Australian Tribe – W Lloyd Warner
  • The Arunta:  A Study of a Stone Age People – Walter Spencer and F J Gillen
  • Myths and legends of the Australian Aborigines – W Ramsay Smith

Observations

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