Myths & Lore

Dreaming the Land


©2012 artwork by April Caverhill

Dreaming the Land:
Pathwork Traditions of Native Australia
by Mary Pat Mann, artwork by April Caverhill

In the Beginning — The Path of the Rainbow Serpent

As a desert sun rides high in the sky, the women fan out among the trees. Some dig for frogs in the damp sand along the riverbank. Some search through branches and twigs for witchetty grubs. Catching sight of bush plums coming ripe, one woman walks over to look more closely. As she reaches out to touch the dark fruit, she feels a fluttering kick as the child in her womb moves. She stops, intent. This is the first time she has felt her baby, the first time this new one has made himself known.

She calls to the other women who are sisters, aunts, and cousins. This is an important moment and the old ones need to be consulted. A spirit has entered her womb to touch the child, who is now joined to this place. As he grows, he will need to be taught songs and rituals that will become his special responsibility. Back at the camp, the story is heard and the old women agree: This child’s conception dreaming is Bush Plum Dreaming.

Australia has been a land apart for hundreds of thousands of years. An island continent of vast red deserts, shady eucalyptus groves, meandering rivers, high plains, coastal swamps, and turquoise oceans, her indigenous people know her very, very well. In their lore, they have always been there, traveling across sacred landscapes alive with songs and stories that tell where to hunt and camp, what to eat, where to find water, who to marry, how to care for children and family, and how to honor the Ancestors. On each step of the journey, the Ancestors of the Dreamtime guide their footsteps.1

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