Aboriginal Australians have developed, and are bound by, highly complex belief systems that interconnects the land, spirituality, law, social life and care of the environment.
These Traditional people share a common belief in the creation or “Dreaming”. The creation myths tell of legendary totemic beings who wander over the continent during the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes – and so singing the world into existence.
Many of the Dreamtime stories are presented as elaborate song cycles (Songlines). They provide the Aboriginal with a map, recording details of the landscape and expressing the relationship between the land and their people. Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking along the Songline and observing the land. A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes and other natural phenomena. The Songlines combine to form a labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia. By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia’s interior. Some Songlines even span the lands of several different language groups. However, language is not a barrier to the Songline, because the melodic contour of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes. The rhythm is what is crucial to understand the song.
The Songlines encompass spirituality, law and culture which ensures the continuity of all living things. Aboriginal people regard all land as sacred and according to tradition these songs must be continually sung to keep the land ‘alive’.
Similarly, we can consider the Trail Guide’s ‘Dreamtime’ as a journey of realisation, discovery and understanding of ‘wilderness’ or ‘spirit of place’. It is a progression of ‘spontaneous intuitive insights’ or ‘enlightenment’. Something that can’t be learnt from a book, but develops with extended periods on Trail. Collectively we can contribute to Trail Guide’s Dreamtime by exploring ‘wilderness’ related concepts out on Trail and establishing an open forum for discussion amongst each other. This will allow us to revisit and share our Dreamtime, which will eventually develop into our own Songline.
Think of the Trail Guide’s Songline as our message. Our personal definitions and feeling of how to facilitate a holistic Trail experience will differ. So too will our ‘style’ of delivering the message. Perhaps this can be compared to the different languages the Songline transcends. As long as the rhythm of our song (our message or ethos) is the same, we are building towards something that is much bigger than us. It is a collective contribution to a Trail Guide’s Culture.
As Trail Guides, we are the traditional owners and carriers of our Songline and it must be continually sung to keep the culture ‘alive’.