Dreamtime mythology handed down by elder storytellers forms the basis of Aboriginal culture.
Australia's native culture spans 60,000 years of civilization and encompasses 250 nations.
A tribe’s creative ancestors, those who lived in ‘the beginning’, included heroes and villains who shaped the landscape and natural patterns of life.
The Birth of the Opal
The Aboriginal tribes from the Andamooka region in South Australia believed that their ancestral being conveyed himself to earth by a great rainbow. Where the rainbow had rested there was now a great area of rocks and pebbles that flashed and glittered in the sun, with all the colours of the rainbow that had given them birth - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. These were the first Opals.
The dreamtime creator gathered his tribes together and instructed them on the laws they were to follow, and established their way of life. The Opal outcrops were sacred and used as ceremonial grounds due to the mystical association with the creator, and the great rainbow in which it was believed he would some day reappear. Believing their creator would again appear on that spot, only the initiated men of the tribes were allowed there to hold ceremonies.
Opaline Crocodile Scales
The Yuwaalaraay people from around the Wallangulla - Lightning Ridge area, in New South Wales, have a dreaming relating Opal to the Crocodile. During the Dreamtime Bhiamie the supreme spirit and his two wives Birring Ooloo, mother nature, and Cunnum-Biellie, law maker/teacher, were travelling through the outback.
The two wives went for a swim in a spring, not knowing that Gurria , the crocodile, was following them. Gurria was in love with the two and wanted their spirits. He swallowed both women and swam down the NarranRiver where he hid from Bhiamie. Bhiamie tracked Gurria to where he was hiding in a lake, and speared him at Weetalibah water crossing. As the crocodile lay dying he rolled onto his back and this squirming caused two holes to be made - one by his tail, which is now Coocoran Lake, and the other by his nose, which is now Angledool Lake.
It is said that as Gurria was dying a shower of rain fell and a rainbow appeared. The colours of the rainbow were trapped in the scales of the dying crocodile - which is how Opal came to be. After Gurria's death the women were freed by their husband Bhiamie and taken to Ghee-Jar the little black ant who brought them back to life.
(The main street of Lightning Ridge is named 'Morilla' in reference to the ridges which in local aboriginal folklore are believed to have been created by Bhiame as a highway for his convenience during flood time.)
The Opal that turned into Fire
Long, long ago the Wankumara people sent a pelican up into the Northern Territory and asked him to see what was there. Then he was to return to his people and tell them what he discovered. He carried a supply of fish in his dilly bag, or pouch beneath his beak; this was full of water and kept the fish fresh for him. He needed food because he has told that he must not stop during his journey.
He flew away, but after a while felt sick. Although he was still in Queensland, he felt too ill to continue and landed on top of a hill that his people later called Bildimini. While resting he looked at the country spread out beneath him and marveled that it was a mixture of glorious colours. This was Opal, but he could not understand why the ground looked so beautiful and started chipping it with his beak because he was curious. Although the country was mainly dry and rocky, there was quite a lot of grass. While the pelican was pecking around the coloured stones with his beak a spark flew out and lit the dead grass. Flames rose into the air as the fire spread slowly across the arid plains for a long distance. It crept towards a number of his people who were camped near Coopers Creek and, for the first time, they could cook their fish and meat.
Bildimini was a large hill where another Muda creation figure, in the form of a pelican, had died. His blood and the water in his pouch had given the Wangkumara gold and Opal, and now this second bird had brought them the gift of fire. Muda, as a pelican, had made Coopers Creek for the Wangkumara and filled it with fish. Without the assistance of these birds their country would have been flat and barren ground. For a long time the Wangkumara were able to keep three of their possessions secret. Nobody could hide the Cooper, but for a long time no one else was aware that they owned gold, Opal and fire.
The Weeping Opal
A dreaming of
relates that in the days of the Dreamtime, when the world was young and the great creation events were taking place, a
giant Opal ruled over the destinies of men and women. This Ancestral Being lived in the sky, made laws under which the
tribes should live,and dictated the punishments to be inflicted on lawbreakers.The creation of an Aboriginal Ancestor
came about as a result of a war between two tribes. The fighting had gone on for so long that most of the weapons were
broken or lost. So the warriors began hurling Boulders at each other, one tribesman threw one so hard that it flew
upwards and lodged in the sky. The Boulder grew rapidly as the frightened men watched, until it burst open and revealed
the flashing colours of a huge Opal.
As the Opal saw the dead and wounded below, it wept in sorrow. Tears streamed in such profusion that they became a great rainstorm, and when the sun shone on the opal-coloured tears the surviving men saw their first rainbow.
From that time on the Aborigines of that area believed the rainbow was a sign that someone had committed a crime against the tribal laws laid down so long ago, and that the tears of the opal were again falling in sorrow.
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