Ancient Australian Song-lines

Indigenous Australian cultures held animistic beliefs and their everyday reality was a living, pulsing matrix of mythological cycles, outdoor rituals and ceremonies. Extending across the ancient Australian landscape are hundreds of long-distance alignments called song-lines which are dotted with thousands of sacred sites, shrines and natural outdoor temples. Ashley Cowie investigates the underlying cosmology of these landscape alignments and answers the question as to how ancient indigenous people memorized so many places over such great distances.

Walking the length of a long song-line was thought of as taking an extended ‘Walkabout’, which is when young men spent time ‘walking about’ in the wilderness during their a coming of age ceremony, surviving on the land and providing for themselves. (Public Domain)

Walking the length of a long song-line was thought of as taking an extended ‘Walkabout’, which is when young men spent time ‘walking about’ in the wilderness during their a coming of age ceremony, surviving on the land and providing for themselves. (Public Domain)

In the ancient Australian animistic world, animals were given complex personalities and characteristics and tribal elders, who were described in detail by anthropologist A.P. Elkin’s classic text Aboriginal Men of High Degree, believed they could communicate with animal spirits and acted as community conduits between this world and many others. It was not only animals that were perceived as holding spirit, but also mountains, hills, cliffs, rocks, trees, deserts and rivers.


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