Australian Aboriginal Creation Myth

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have a rich and diverse range of creation stories. Groups share legends of how the Creator Spirits brought life to the land, some referring to one god or spirit, and others mentioning several Spirit Gods. Part of the beauty of these creation myths is how many share common events or features and yet highlight the diversity and contrasts between First Nations people and their beliefs, often linked to differences in the local landscape. 

These topics and many more, such as the ‘Kanyini’ meaning, are explored in greater detail within Journey Into Dreamtime, one of the most respected Dreamtime books, published by Elder Aunty Munya, co-founder of Evolve Communities.

How Do Indigenous People Believe People Were Created?

Over generations, ancient Aboriginal culture and its beliefs have been passed down through story, song, dance, and music rather than written texts or documents. Sharing stories and myths is an important and respected custom, and often takes place as part of spiritual ceremonies.

Dreamtime stories and the wisdom and knowledge they share naturally differ between tribes, regions, and people, acknowledging that before colonisation, there were as many as 260 diverse languages and 500 dialects spoken by First Nations people across what we now call ‘Australia.’ Many mention Songlines–the journeys the Creator Spirits took in the Dreaming across the sky or land. 

These Songlines cover great distances and often feature specific landmarks relevant to the events within the local creation myth, such as lakes, areas of rich soil, or the highest mountains. Therefore, there isn’t one singular creation myth but a collection of stories, legends, and tales that represent how Indigenous communities believe the world came to be and how people, plants, animals, rivers, and mountains were created.

What Are the Most Popular Aboriginal Creation Myths?

As we have discovered, each Indigenous tribe or group may have its own version of the creation myth, yet all believe that humans and the natural world were created by ancestral and spiritual beings or one being. 

Wandjina: The Creators

One story tells of Wandjina, a group of rain and cloud spirits who transported the Ancestors from within the Earth, bringing them through the seas and over the land where life first began. Some Ancestors are represented as humans, whereas others are often depicted as animals. Other creation myths tell of Ancestors who could take on any appearance and are shown in stories as both people and animals.

Wandjina can be one spiritual being or several. Rain spirits are shown in paintings as covered in small dots similar to rainfall, and sacred images are still preserved in some caves within this region in north-western Australia.

The Creation Myth of Baiame

Baiame is another Creator Spirit referred to in stories shared by many Aboriginal groups and communities throughout southeast Australia. Baiame is said to have arrived on Earth from the skies with his wife, the goddess of fertility.

With Birrahgnooloo, Baiame had a son called Darramulum, and the spirits created people and lived alongside them, helping them learn how to live, communicate, and care for one another. Some ancient sacred sites that Baiame is said to have visited are open only to men and the name of the Ancestor is, in some regions, never spoken publicly. 

Aboriginal Creation Myths and the Rainbow Serpent

The Rainbow Serpent is a Creator Spirit who appears in many creation stories and is called by several names, such as Kajura and Borlung. The Rainbow Serpent is said to have come to Earth from the sky and created water and all life associated with water. 

Some Indigenous communities tell of the Rainbow Serpent living within large expanses of water and creating all the landscapes and animals. In some versions of the creation story, the Rainbow Serpent tries and fails to eat a kangaroo and, in rejecting the animal, creates Uluru.

The Father of All Spirits

Our final example of a creation myth begins with a time when the spirits slept, and the Earth was still. The Great Father of All Spirits was the only spirit awake, and woke the Sun Mother and commanded her to wake the rest of the spirits and give them shapes.

As the Sun Mother arrived on Earth, plants grew as she walked, but conflicts arose when the creatures she created began arguing. The Sun Mother returned to Earth and created two children, the Morning Star, and the Moon–these children are said to be the first people.

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