This page is about Noongar spirituality, about the ancient (koora koora) and current (yeyi) beliefs that link people to country (Noongar boodjar), but it also about religion, because religion is an expression of spirituality. Religion today is often seen through the lens of European ideas, so a common but incomplete definition of religion is "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." In this Western view the idea of religion is often conflated with theism, which can be defined as "The basic structure of theism is essentially a distinction between a transcendent deity and all else, between the creator and his creation, between God and man." This is very different from Noongar spirituality, which is "the belief of a cultural landscape and the connection between the human and spiritual realms. Everything in our vast landscape has meaning and purpose. Life is a web of inter-relationships where maam and yok (men and women) and nature are partners, and where kura(long ago, the past) is always connected to yey (present)."
Treating the soul or spirit is very important in the treatment of Aboriginal people, and this holistic approach to medicine was part of the treatment provided by Boylyada Maaman (Traditional healers).
NoongarPedia pages talking about Noongar spirituality:
The narrow Western definition of religion: "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods", is wrong. This is evident from the difficulty of reconciling for example Buddhism with the definition of religion above. Self evidently Buddhism is a religion, with monasteries, monks, nuns, rituals, etc., so a definition of religion which excludes Buddhism must be incomplete at best. However, Western missionaries who first encountered Buddhism questioned whether Buddhism was a religion and this confusion continues to this day, for example see this blog from 2017 "Is Buddhism a Philosophy or a Religion?".
A better definition of religion is one based on how it operates, that is religion consists of three things: 1. a belief system about the link between people and something spiritual, 2. rituals, and 3. community. N.B. The rituals of a religion help build the religious community. Clearly Buddhism and Noongar spirituality are both included (but Communism and Nazism are excluded) in this definition of religion, and this is the definition of religion which is used in the rest of this page unless specifically noted. In Western terms, the belief system is defined by theology, but again this is too narrow a definition as it implies a personal God (theism).
It should not be assumed that one religion is "right" and the others by logical deduction are therefore "wrong" or false. All normal religions have something worthwhile in them, and that should be accepted and respected. It is perfectly possible to find the truth in all religions, for example to seek the truth in the teachings of Christ and Buddha and Noongar spirituality to name but three religions. There will be contradictions between them, but there are also contradictions within many belief systems (the more you know about a religion possibly the more contradictions you will be aware of). Be careful in using logic to argue for or against a religion, it is a tool which when used properly can help, but is dangerous if used the wrong way. An over use of logic in religion is actually an attempt to constrain the divine and is therefore irreligious. And arguing that religion X says this and Y says that, therefore Y is wrong, is a logically incorrect argument. But some things are just wrong, for example, a religion which seeks to kill children because they are not of that religion is wrong, it is not a normal religion but a pathological one, i.e. literally a sick and diseased religion.
As an example of managing the conflict and contradictions between normal religions, consider the Christian Old Testament verses:
Genesis 1:28, NRSVA: God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’
Genesis 9:7, NRSVA: And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.
We have reached the point in human life on this planet, or possibly even passed the point, where these verses are not helpful. The teaching of Noongar spirituality provides much better guidance in that we must show respect for country, guidance which it is essential for all humanity to follow if we are to survive as a species. But because Christianity is not helpful in this respect, it does not mean all of the teachings of Christianity are therefore wrong. A Christian can follow Noongar spirituality and ignore the orthodox Christian teaching on this point (of course they may not wish to do so, but that is their choice). Noongar knowledge and Noongar spirituality can adapt quickly to changing conditions - because Noongar systems were designed to be flexible. Wadjela systems were rarely designed to be flexible and can take many generations to change if they change at all. Consider the Taoist saying 'A tree that is unbending is easily broken' or Aesop's fable "The Oak and the Reed".
The majority religion of Noongar is Christianity of various denominations. This is because of the activities of Christian missionaries to Aboriginal people. Some of these missionaries were good people who helped Aboriginal people, some were evil and sought to destroy Aboriginal society (see the Noongar stolen generations).
The most important and famous mission in Noongar Boodjar is the Catholic settlement of New Norcia.
The Lord's prayer in Noongar:
- Ngaala Maaman Waangk
- Ngaala Maaman ngiyan yira moonbooli Moodlooga.
- Kooranyi noonak korl. Noonak waangk, yoowarl koorl,
- birdiyar ngaala boodja noonook woorn noonak kooranyi kaalak.
- Nyinyak ngaalang nidja kedela ngaala mereny.
- Nyinya nyinyak ngaalang ngaala wara waarniny.
- Ngaalak nyinya nyinyak, baalang ngiyan waarn wara ngaalang.
- Yoowart koorl ngaalang moort-moort djooroot. Maaman maar barang ngaalang.
- Noonak waangk birdiyar. Noonak moorditj, noonook ngaangk yira.
- Kalyokool, kalyokool.
Ngiyan waarnk - References
- Oxford Living Dictionaries English: religion. Retrieved 15 January 2019
- King, W.L. (2005). "Religion (First Edition)". In Eliade, Mircea. The Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA. p. 7692
- Kaartdijin Noongar - Noongar Knowledge: Spirituality. South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Counci. Retrieved 15 January 2019
- Noel Nannup. "Noel Nannup - A Nyoongar perspective on spirituality". YouTube. 2:24 minutes. Retrieved 15 January 2019
- Noel Nannup. "Noel (Nannup) - Spiritual world view". YouTube. 4:46 minutes. Retrieved 15 January 2019
- Nicholas Liusuwan (2017). "Is Buddhism a Philosophy or a Religion?". Huffington Post. Updated 6 Dec 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2019
- Genesis 1:28. New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA). Retrieved 15 January 2019
- Genesis 9:7. New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA). Retrieved 15 January 2019
- "Warda kwabba Luke-ang: The Good News of Luke". Bible Society Australia, 2014
- "The first scriptures for the Nyoongar people celebrated in Perth". Eternity News. Published 5 September 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2019
- Stockton, E. D., 1995, The Aboriginal gift : Spirituality for a Nation. Millenium Books, Alexandria. ISBN 1864290269