Australia is an incredibly rich cultural hotspot containing thousands of fascinating and important rites and ceremonies that have been enacted by Aboriginal tribes for tends of thousands of years as part of important developmental, social and educational rituals. In this article we take a deeper look at some of the celebrations and rites to give you a clearer understanding of how diverse and interesting these ceremonies really are.
An introduction to the corroboree
Although Indigenous artwork might give you a vague indication of the belief systems held by Aboriginal culture, it is often more important that you conduct your own research to gain a clearer understand of what the many tribes around Australia actually practice. A great place to start is by taking a careful look at a corroboree, a generic term for an Aboriginal dance ritual. This is actually a word that was introduced by colonists who butchered the pronunciation of the Aboriginal world ‘caribberie’ and continues to be the word used by white Australians to describe a gathering of Aboriginal people. Corroborees differ to a great extent depending on what part of Australia you might witness one. this is because each of the many hundreds of Aboriginal tribes in Australia have an entirely unique form of corroboree. When it comes to ceremonies that celebrate the Dreaming, music and dancing in traditional ceremonies is crucial in helping pass down this rich and complex religious-cultural knowledge system of Aboriginal people. Rites of passage can often be part of these ceremonies, where both girls and boys participate in their own separate rite of passage rituals to demonstrate the transition from children to adults.
More interesting rites and ceremonies
In addition to rites related to education and rites of passage, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also conducted smoking ceremonies by burning emu bush. These smoking ceremonies were designed to cleanse in a variety of ways, whether that means to acknowledge ancestors, defy and ward off evil spirits, or heal a sacred site and the involved participants. Walkabout is also something that may ring a bell for many due to the use of the word to describe a simple walk, but in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander walkabout is a rite of passage that involves young males living away from their tribe for extended periods of time – even months – to develop into a man separate from their family. The final thing we’d like to touch on is the wonderful music in Aboriginal culture – as well as the world famous didgeridoo traditionally from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, musical rituals also included clapping sticks for percussion, flat wooden bullroarer and use of gum leaves as a wind instrument.
There’s an Aboriginal ceremony that you might be very used to
If you’ve ever heard someone acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land before an event, you are actually taking part in a Welcome to Australian Country ceremony. These ceremonies have historically been used by Aboriginal tribes to acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land prior to performing a ceremony, but it is only now that we too are paying our respects for the true owners of the land we currently occupy.