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Indigenous populations in Australia still commit to preserving traditional aspects of their life, including traditional ceremonies. Australian Aboriginal ceremonies are diverse, colorful, and profound, going back thousands of years. Ceremonies act as important parts of life or the ways to celebrate the Dreaming, a concept that explains the cosmology in the Australian Aboriginal belief system.
Some ceremonies have become iconic cultural icons and are often showcased on special days or events. They are also windows for the non-Aboriginal public to learn about indigenous beliefs. Here are the six most important Aboriginal ceremonies you must know.
Corroboree, in general, means “the meeting of Aboriginal people”, but the actual meaning is deeper than that. It is related to the reverence of the Dreaming, which depicts the narratives related to the acts and journeys of ancestral beings, connecting the past to the present and future.
The Corroboree itself can be anything, from specific rituals to festive events. There are also modern iterations of Corroboree, such as Corroboree 2000 at Sydney Opera House, marking reconciliation between the Australian government and the indigenous population.
Many Australian Aboriginal ceremonies must be conducted in or near sacred sites. The word “dreamtime” itself refers to the time when the ancestral creators are believed to create living creatures, nature, and the law of the people. Ceremonies are conducted in these sites to channel the energy and guidance from the ancestors.
The Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) are perhaps the most well-known iconic sites in Australia. However, many regions have a lot of sacred sites, big and small. There are also male-only and female-only sites for more specific rituals or ceremonies.
The word “smoking” here is not what you might think! The Aboriginal smoking ceremony involves burning specific native herbs. The smoke that spreads will cleanse the people and land around it, remove negative energy, and ward off evil or bad influences. The ceremony is usually performed following important events, such as initiation rituals and childbirth.
Smoking ceremony is also performed during special events that are not always related to the local activities of the indigenous population. For example, it may be done during a welcoming ceremony, such as the one conducted in 2018 during the royal visit of the sovereign members.
The herbs that are burned to produce smoke vary, but they usually consist of important native plants. Some of the most common ones include Australian sandalwood and Berrigan (Emu Bush).
Welcome to Country
Welcome to Country is a ceremony that serves as the act of indigenous land acknowledgment. The background of this ceremony was the historical fact that the Torres Island and Aboriginal people were often excluded from their own lands by British colonies and the Australian government. This ceremony is also a part of the opening of the Parliament of Australia.
Welcome to Country involves a lot of activities, such as a smoking ceremony, music, and a statement of the land acknowledgment. Because of this, the ceremony is often included during important events. The acknowledgment statement is tailored to the language of the local tribe that owns the land.
Initiation Ceremony is more than acknowledging the role of young Aboriginal boys in society. With this rite, the boy is declared fit and ready to gain knowledge about the Dreaming. It is believed that during the ceremony, the boy’s blend merges with the ancestral spirits, enabling him to enter the Dreaming.
During the ceremony, the boy will receive sacred ancestral teachings and songs. There are usually physical markings, such as cutting or plucking the hair, skin scarring, and circumcision. The pain from these acts marks the boy’s next stage into adulthood.
Indigenous naming ceremonies in Australia vary between regions, but they are always viewed as welcoming babies into the Dreaming. The babies will receive prayers, blessing acts, and gifts. The parents also use this opportunity to introduce the new babies to other members of the community.
Aboriginal dances, feasts, and storytelling always accompany the majority of these ceremonies. Non-Aboriginal Australians and tourists can even learn about the rituals of Aboriginal in Australia at museums and education centers.
Australian Aboriginal ceremonies are important parts of indigenous life, and they come in various forms and details. Learn about them before you plan to visit so you can appreciate them with the level of respect they deserve.