Dark Emu II: Precolonial Australian societies tilled the land

May 2011
Rural Australia
Did the precolonial Australian societies have their own religion and mythology?
Australian Aboriginal religion and mythology - Wikipedia

David Horton's Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia contains an article on Aboriginal mythology observing:[3]
"A mythic map of Australia would show thousands of characters, varying in their importance, but all in some way connected with the land. Some emerged at their specific sites and stayed spiritually in that vicinity. Others came from somewhere else and went somewhere else."​

Language map:

Mar 2019
Did the precolonial Australian societies have their own religion and mythology?
Australian Aboriginal religion and mythology - Wikipedia
One of the most fascinating elements of the Dreaming is its ability to extend through geologic ages.

My favorite is a piece of Dreaming is from the Wollongong region in NSW. It tells of the day the ocean fell from the sky. Pretty enigmatic till we discover that about 500 years ago a massive tsunami inundated the area. What the Dreaming was describing was the wave cresting over coastal foothills and flooding the valleys were the local Aboriginal communities were at the time.
Likes: Ashoka maurya
Mar 2019
Who knows if the story is not 5,000 year old?
There is lots of evidence of the tsunami in the surrounding area. So the date of the event is pretty firm. There is other Dreaming such as that surrounding the small islands in Bass Strait that has to be in the region of 10,000 years old.
Because we are dealing with an oral tradition the Dreaming does not carry a sense of linear time with it. So enterprising researchers are using unique physical events to try to create a time lines for the culture.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
" The Gugu Badhun people have been retelling the story of a huge explosion that rocked the Australian landscape for 230 generations. After new evidence, experts believe the 7,000-year-old epic is true.

[This] adds to a growing list of geological events that appear to be recounted in Australian Aboriginal traditions, including sea level rise around 10,000 years ago and other volcanic eruptions elsewhere on the continent."

7,000 Year Old Indigenous Story Proved True

" The Luritja people, native to the remote deserts of central Australia, once told stories about a fire devil coming down from the Sun, crashing into Earth and killing everything in the vicinity."

Ancient stories record natural world

"Distinctive ‘cross-checking’ tradition helps explain extraordinary accuracy in 21 stories about dramatic sea level rises between 7,000 and 18,000 years ago.

“The idea that 300 generations could faithfully tell a story that didn’t degenerate into Chinese whispers, that was passing on factual information that we know happened from independent chronology, that just seems too good to be true, right?” Reid told Guardian Australia.

“It’s an extraordinary thing. We don’t find this in other places around the world. The sea being 120 metres lower and then coming up over the continental shelf, that happened in Africa, America, Asia and everywhere else. But it’s only in Australia that we’re finding this large canon of stories that are all faithfully telling the same thing.”

Scholars of oral traditions have previously been sceptical of how accurately they reflect real events.

However, Nunn and Reid’s paper, “Aboriginal memories of inundation of the Australian coast dating from more than 7000 years ago”, published in Australian Geographer, argues the stories provide empirical corroboration of a postglacial sea level rise documented by marine geographers."

Revealed: how Indigenous Australian storytelling accurately records sea level rises 7,000 years ago

" The scientific world is stunned by research which backs an Aboriginal legend about how palm trees got to Central Australia.

Professor Bowman read an Aboriginal legend recorded in 1894 by pioneering German anthropologist and missionary Carl Strehlow, which was only recently translated, describing the "gods from the north" bringing the seeds to Palm Valley.

Professor Bowman said he was amazed.

"We're talking about a verbal tradition which had been transmitted through generations possibly for over 7,000, possibly 30,000 years," he said.

"Just an amazing coincidence that we'd independently concluded that the seeds had been transported and then subsequently we discover an Aboriginal legend is exactly what we found scientifically.

"The concordance of the findings of a scientific study and an ancient myth is a striking example of how traditional ecological knowledge can inform and enhance scientific research. "


Here is one in my own experience ; we have a local feature ; 'Old man Dreaming' , or 'Old Man in the Mountain' in the landscape. The feature is geologically an anciently formed dome volano that was made originally on the sea floor, as lava leaked out of a subduction fault. Today, the fault makes an escarpment and the 'mountain' rises in front of it. It has the features of a man looking out to the west. Story is that he fell asleep on 'guard duty' and was 'put' into the mountain.

I was visiting some Aboriginal friends with an English friend and they where recounting the story of how 'Old Man' got in the mountain. My English friend laughed, and trying to embarrass me , declared to them how I had told him it was a mountain that had formed under the sea.

But then an elder said ; " Yes, that's right . Before he was 'Old Man Mountain' , he used to be a whale , he come up out of the ocean.! "

Of course, this is far too old an event to be memorialized ; fact to myth. I suspect (since I have not been up there ) that someone who has, maybe saw some fossil barnicles or some other indicator in the rocks ?

( Note; the mention of Carl Strehlow above and the note that this work was only recently translated. Not many people know that a vast ... and I mean VAST collection of material relating to Indigenous culture remains untranslated from the German and is held in private 'trust' .

Carl Strehlow - Wikipedia

- what a story ! ... the whole story of Strehelow's life , as one of the first white families to penetrate and reside in central Australia, this was contiuned by his son Ted, who was born there .

The book below tracks the early settlement and his chldhood with the Aboriginals, his development to 'head man' , his amassing of tjuringa, the collapse of Aboriginal culture, his 'fall from grace', the fate of his collection of material, which was attempted to be seized by the Australian government - who backed down when it was threatened to be burnt ! Ohhh, the knowledge that must be locked up in that !

Broken Song: T.G.H. Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession by Barry Hill

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Mar 2019

Scholars of oral traditions have previously been sceptical of how accurately they reflect real events.
I am not sure how old that skepticism was, but I recall reading an anthropology article about 10 years ago that discussed the mind set of pre and post writing cultures. The core of the article discussed how our thinking changes when writing comes along, and we fall into the Chinese whisper phenomena as a consequence of our changed perception created by writing.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
Some of the old human skills ( generally, in the field of 'memory' ) did survive that changed perception . The 'old mind' and its memory and recollection , never depending on books and written word, came up with other methods.

One method that survived, during antiquity ;

Giulio Camillo - Wikipedia

' Memory Theater ' .


It was also reflected in classifications of hermetic themes .

Some modern people use a 'mental filing cabinet'


..... corridors of them . They dont have to 'remember' things , they just take a little imaginary walk into their memory, go to the appropriate file open a draw and read the card.

Now, imagine that imprinted onto landscape and learnt through song ; thats how people in Australia could go to an area (on one of their song lines ) they had never been to before, know the country and landscape and resources, where to find water , how it fitted into the overall ecological pattern ( what its 'specialties' where ) , what Law applied there (how to act in a specific area) , what associated psychological, developmental and initiatory principles where involved relating to the mythologies of the parts of the song that related too parts of landscape / country who lived there and how they where related . . . etc.

No wonder so many European explorers came to grief , trying to do it 'blind' ! Many survived due to help or even being rescued near death, by the people living well there.

In one case, a man traveling in a new area met some elders where he was staying and although they didnt speak his language, they knew an ancient song in his language, which they sang for him. They didnt know what it meant as they didnt speak the language, they where just 'holders' of the song (for others .... ' just in case ' ) but the visiting man could understand it .

- That is another thing we have little knowledge of ; their communication network over a huge continent . Some of the song lines cover vast distances, from north to south through the interior, down the central east and across the bottom to the west coast - virtually coast to coast, up and down and across.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
I need to correct what I said above about a large portion of the Strahlow Trust being held privately - that has changed :

" A decade later, negotiations between his widow and the Northern Territory government led to the finalisation of the purchase of most of the collection in 1987. It was described by John Morton as containing "some '700 objects' (largely secret-sacred), '15 kilometres of movie film, 7,000 slides, thousands of pages of genealogical records, myths, sound recordings' and '42 diaries', as well as 'paintings, letters, maps' and 'a 1,000-volume library.' "

The Strehlow Research Centre at Alice Springs was established for the preservation and public display of these works "

At the same time, the knowledge 'at the source' also continued ;

" In an apparent paradox, once the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg had sufficient confidence in the Christianised native community to accord them autonomy, and yield church leases on the area to their Aboriginal congregation, many local natives moved out, claimed their tjurunga rights to the land, and began to re-celebrate the older ceremonies. In his final return to the area, he was surprised to discover that his 'twin', Gustav Malbunka, who had once saved his life, and who had not only renounced his culture but become an evangelical preacher, was capable of singing tjilpa (totemic quoll) verses that once formed a key part of rituals that Strehlow thought were extinct. The culture, even among Christian converts, had been secretly passed on. "

( His ) Notable remarks
"There had been no kinder folk anywhere than the Australian natives."​

"We have to train ourselves to look upon the land of our birth with the eyes, not of conquerors, overcoming an enemy, but of children looking at the face of their mother. Only then shall we truly be able to call Australia our home. Our native traditions can help us to become finer and better Australians."​

Ted Strehlow - Wikipedia