"The Dreaming lies at the core of Aboriginal spiritual belief - it has no beginning, no end, and does not recognise time linearly, as in days, months and years. It is a part of everyday life, encompassing totems, ceremony, the division of labour, social structure and storytelling."
The Aboriginal people of the Illawarra call their dreaming the Alcheringa. The main creator spirit of the Illawarra is Biamie (from which is derived the word Kiama). Biamie sent his two sons to the earth, one was Duramulun, the law-giver, who, during the dreaming, taught the local people traditional laws and customs related to kinship, totems, religion and social observances. *
Dreaming stories relating to all aspects of the local culture have survived, including those on the creation of the Illawarra landscape.
Coomaditchie elders share these local stories of the Dreaming with the children of Coomaditchie via oral storytelling traditions and through art.
Below are three local Dreaming stories, The Story of Five Islands (reproduced with artwork by the children of Coomaditchie), Gurangaty (reproduced with artwork by the youth of the Ngaramura Project, and Birth of the Butterflies.
THE STORY OF FIVE ISLANDS
The Dreaming story of Five Islands is one of many freshwater and saltwater Dharawal creation stories that relate to the five islands clustered off the coast from Port Kembla. Below is a simplified retelling of the story, illustrated with artwork created by the children of Coomaditchie. Hover over the picture and use the arrows on the left and right of the image to scroll through the story. We also have the printed picture book available for sale.
The Dreaming story of Gurangaty is another of many freshwater and saltwater Dharawal creation stories. This story relates to the creation of local Illawarra rivers and waterways. Below is a simplified retelling of the story, illustrated with artwork created by the youth engaged in the Ngaramura Project. Hover over the picture and use the arrows on the left and right of the image to scroll through the story. We also have the printed picture book available for sale.
BIRTH OF THE BUTTERFLIES
The Dreaming story of the birth of the butterflies is another of many Dharawal stories that relate to the seasons and the beautiful fauna and flora in our region. Below is a simplified retelling of the story, illustrated with artwork created by the youth engaged in the Ngaramura Project. Hover over the picture and use the arrows on the left and right of the image to scroll through the story. We also have the printed picture book available for sale.
The wild screaming winds blow through the treetops, stripping branches and leaves and bending their tops until they are curved like the boomerangs of our tribesman.
The birds take shelter from the icy winter winds.
Insects even burrow into the ground.
Animals huddle into any shelter they can find.
Snow lays white on the ground.
The tribesman crouches in his small shelter made of barks and branches.
Man lives on the foods he has stored for the long winter months.
Wild winter winds and rain turn the world into a place of desolation.
Slowly it ends.
The winds stop blowing one day and all living things hear a single roll of thunder.
It is a sign that “Mayra” the spirit of spring has left her home and is coming to melt the snow and ice of the mountain areas and touch the trees and plants with her warm fingers.
Mayra is golden.
The wattle and trees burst into flowers – they’re living clouds of green and yellow as trees and plants rejoice in the presence of spring.
The air is full of music with the waking of the birds.
The earth becomes a carpet of glowing colour.
Insects peer cautiously from their hiding places.
When they see Mayra the spirit of spring they rush in the sunlight, spread their wings and uncoil their bodies from their long sleep.
Animals are full of new found joy.
Blood races in the veins of men and animals and happiness returns to the earth.
If only it would be spring forever.
Mayra knows that she is welcome only because she has chased away the spirits of gloom and coldness.
She knows that eternal spring would become wearying.
After the first rush of joy, she watches the sun as it grows in strength.
When the heat of summer sun becomes unbearable, Mayra knows it is time to be on her way.
But next year the spirit of spring will be back.
The dreaming story of the Birth of the Butterflies reminds us how important the cycle of seasons is.
As seasons move from one to another, so does life and death.
So in the dreaming a long time ago there was the first death and the Birth of the Butterflies.
When the world was young, the birds and animals had a common language and there was no death.
No creature had any experience of death’s mystery, until one day a young cockatoo fell from a tree and broke its neck.
The birds and animals could not wake it, and a meeting of the wise ones decided that the spirits had taken back the bird to change it into another form.
Everyone thought this a reasonable explanation.
To prove the theory the leaders called for volunteers who would imitate the dead cockatoo by going up into the sky for the whole winter.
During this time they would not be allowed to see, hear smell or taste anything.
In the spring they were to return to earth to relate their experience to others.
The caterpillars offered to try this experiment and went up into the sky in a huge cloud.
On the first warm day of Spring, a pair of excited dragonflies told the gathering that the caterpillars were returning with new bodies.
Soon the dragonflies led back into the camp a great pageant of white, yellow, red, blue and green creatures – the first butterflies, and proof that the spirits had changed the caterpillars’ bodies into another form.
They clustered in large groups on the trees and bushes, and everything looked so gay and colourful that the wise ones decided that this was a good and happy thing that had happened, and decreed it must be so.
Since then, caterpillars always spend winter hidden in cocoons, preparing for their dramatic change into one of Spring’s most beautiful symbols.