“Dreaming” is a term for a system of totemic symbols, so that an indigenous Australian may “own” specific “Dreaming”, such as Kangaroo Dreaming, or Shark Dreaming, or Honey Ant Dreaming, or Badger dreaming or any combination of Dreaming, pertinent to their country.
This is because in the Dreamtime, an entirety exists through one’s ancestors and or past lives. Many Indigenous Australians also refer to the creation time as “The Dreaming”. The Dreamtime laid down the patterns of life and its believed to be the work of cultural elders.
In this way, “songlines” (or Yiri in the Warlpiri language) were established, some of which could travel right across Australia, through as many as six to ten different language groupings. The dreaming and travelling trails of the ancestral beings are the songlines.
The signs may be of spiritual essence, because “Dreaming” existed before the life of the individual or cultures began, and continues to exist when the life of the individual or culture ends. Both before and after life, it is believed that the soul-child exists in the Dreaming and is only initiated into life by being born through the mother’s dreaming.
The soul of the child is culturally understood to enter the developing fetus during the fifth month of pregnancy. When the mother felt the child move in the womb for the first time, it was thought that this was the work of the soul of the land in which the mother then stood. Upon birth, the child is considered to be a special custodian of that part of their country and is taught the stories and songlines of that place.
A person may regard his totem or the place from which his soul came as his Dreaming. He may also regard tribal law as his Dreaming.” In the Wangga genre, the songs and dances express themes related to death and regeneration. They are performed publicly with the singer composing from their daily lives or while Dreaming of a nyuidj (dead souls).
Dreaming stories vary throughout Australia, with variations on the same theme. The meaning and significance of particular places and creatures is wedded to their origin in the Dreaming, and certain places have a particular potency or “dreaming.” For example, the story of how the sun was made is different in New South Wales and in Western Australia.
Stories cover many themes and topics, as there are stories about creation of sacred places, land, people, animals and plants, law and custom. In Perth, the Noongar believe that the Darling Scarp is the body of the Wagyl – a Serpent Being that meandered over the land creating rivers, waterways and lakes and who created the sacred Swan River.