The world’s oldest storytellers

Picture of David Ahern

David Ahern

David is the editor of The Majellan

As November is Family Stories Month, we believe families should set aside the month to share stories amongst themselves. This week’s article focuses on Australia’s Indigenous who are the oldest storytellers in the world and the Christian Gospels.

As the oldest and most continuous culture in the world, Aboriginals’ stories have been passed on from generation to generation for more than 60,000 years.

They share stories in a variety of ways including orally, song, drumming and drawings. Traditionally, stories are told by elders, known as Knowledge Keepers or Historians (in some nations), as well as community members who have earned the title of Storyteller.

Creation stories provide important information about their culture, values, people, animals and the environment. The environment in which they live, and their Dreamtime or religion are connected.

The Dreamtime is about their spiritual beliefs and very existence. Aboriginals believe that the Dreamtime began at the very beginning of time and the land, and the people were created by the Spirits. They made the rivers, streams, water holes the land, hills, rocks, plants and animals.

The Indigenous believe that the entire world was made by their ancestors who made particular sites to show them which places were sacred. Aboriginals performed ritual ceremonies and customary songs near the sacred sites to please the ancestral spirits. For example, the Rainbow Serpent is the great life giver in Aboriginal Dreamtime, and protector of water – his spiritual home.

During the Dreamtime the creators made men, women and animals, declared the laws of the land and how people were to behave, the customs of food supply and distribution, the laws of marriage, initiation rituals and the ceremonies of death so the spirit of the dead can travel peacefully to their spirit-place.

Story telling is integral in all cultures and forms religious beliefs. Like the Dreamtime, the Gospels which include details of Jesus’ public life, travels and parables is sacred to Christians who believe he is the Son of God who died for our sins.

The four canonical gospels, reportedly written between AD 66 and 110, tell stories about Jesus’ deeds and words forming the devout Christian beliefs of many millions over the past 2000 years.

Many non-canonical gospels were also written, all later than the four canonical gospels, and like them advocating the particular theological views of their various authors, including ThomasPeterJudas, and Mary.

All the Gospels are products of long oral and written communication.

In both the Aboriginal Dreamtime and the Gospels, storytelling has been vital in communicating their messages down through the generations.

Feature image: Painting of Mimi Spirits and Rainbow Serpent by Eddie Blitner (Aboriginal Art Australia).

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