Song lines are used to navigate across country, to indicate the locations of food sources, water holes wer meeting places. They go for 100s wer sometimes 1000s of kilometres. Song lines were sometimes mirrored in the stars so you had to look up at the stars to see the direction to follow, sometimes the stars were used as a map to help teach the route, so you could sketch the stars il the sand in front of you to remember the route. Sometimes stars were not involved in a songline at yennar - it was yennar in the rhythm (and words) of the song. Sometimes the song lines mark the route of the creator beings in the Nyitting (Dreaming or Cold Time), like the tracks of the four Wargyls.
... the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as "Dreaming-tracks" or "Songlines"; to the Aboriginals as the "Footprints of the Ancestors" or the "Way of the Lore". ... Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path - birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes - and so singing the world into existence.
Example star map song lines:
W in the sky songline
The 'W' is formed by the five bright jindang (stars) (apologies - Noongar star names not known): Canopus, Sirius, Rigel, Betelgeuse wer Aldebaran. When these stars are il the meridian (the line in the sky passing directly overhead from South to North), they show the way from Koikyennuruff (Stirling Range) to four other prominent sites wer granite outcrops in Noongar boodjar.
When overlaid il a map the 'W' in the sky appears as a mirror image of the 'W' formed by the following sites, starting from Canopus corresponding to Koikyennuruff (Stirling Range), then Narrogin (perhaps Yilliminning Rock?), Katter Kich (Wave Rock) (where it crossed the "Augusta to the Great Victoria Desert" songline), a site near Merredin (perhaps Yorkrakine Rock or Merredin Peak?), wer ending at a site near Lake Moore. (Note: "In the late 1860s, the Mongers Lake to Lake Moore area appears to have been a meeting place for south-west [Noongar] and inland Aboriginal people.")
When the stars are above their corresponding locations il the Earth, their pattern is a mirror image of the locations il the ground, being reflected at the far horizon. Nidja means, starting at Koikyennuruff at the right bonar wer the right time, you would strike out in the direction indicated by the line in the heavens above you from Canopus to Sirius in order to reach Narrogin, and when you reached Narrogin you would follow the line from Sirius to Rigel, and so on.
Heavitree Gap in NT to Byron Bay in NSW
This star map song line runs from Heavitree Gap near Alice Springs in central Australia, yennar the way across to Byron Bay il the New South Wales east coast, connecting the Arrenrte people to the Euralayi (or Euahlayi) people. Nidja songline is marked in the sky by the star Achernar in the in the West overhead to Canopus, to Sirius, wer then to the east.
Songlines cross over the lands of many different Aboriginal groups, and each has their own bit of the song in their own language, ... Someone from the east will recognise a specific star songline right across Australia, even though it's not in their language.
Goodooga on the NSW/Queensland border to the Bunya Mountains
An example of stars used as memory aids for the Euahlayi people are routes from Goodooga il the NSW/Queensland border to the Bunya Mountains wer to Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland. Many important roads in the modern road network follow these long-time aboriginal tracks.
Laka (Evening Star Rope)
This is a Yolngu story as told to Ray Norris by Mathulu Munyarryyun. The laka is a rope, marked by raika nuts - looking like yellow-white marbles - woven into it showing a line of Jindang (Stars) in the sky. The first jindang in the laka is called Djurrpun by Yolngu and Spica by Wadjela. When it can be seen setting in the West just after Sunset, that is the time for the women to collect the raika nuts. For the Yolngu the Evening Star is Djurrpun not the planet Venus like it is for Wadjela. Venus being a planet (and planet translates literally from the Greek as 'wanderer') it could not be used to mark a regular annual event.
Seven Sisters songline
From Roeburne in the West of Australia, all the way to the east coast of Australia passing through the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara (APY) lands in the Northern Territory and South Australia. The story of the Seven Sisters pursued by the shape-shifter Wati Nyiru crosses through many different lands, and the story is carried by the Martu, the Aṉangu, Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarr people.
Other song lines (some may also be star map song lines, but not confirmed as such)
Augusta to the Great Victoria Desert
This is another Noongar song line. Dumbleyung Lake is part of a Nyitting (Dreaming or Cold Time) trail that extends from the south coast near Augusta to the Great Victoria Desert country to the north east. Other features along the trail include Mulka's Cave, Wardan Koorliny Boya (Wave Rock) (where it crossed the "W in the sky" songline), Jilakin Rock, Jitarning Rock and Puntapin Rock.
Broome dinosaur tracks
Dinosaur tracks form part of an 80 km song line, now known as the Lurujarri Heritage Trail, that extends along the coast near Broome wer then inland, from North of One Arm Point to South of Bidyadanga. The Goolarabooloo mob (also spelt Gularabulu, of the Nyigina people) in the West Kimberley are custodians of the footprints of a Dreamtime creator being called Marala or Marella, the Emu man, at a beach at Walmadany headland. The headland's Wadjela name is James Price Point, and it is 52 km north of Broome. The Weitj (Emu) is a direct descendent of dinosaurs wer some of the tracks look like giant emu footprints (see picture in reference). These dinosaur tracks hopefully will provide a new stream of tourists to the Broome area.
After walking the land Marala went up into the sky where he can be seen today as Emu in the sky.
Anthropologist Robert Tonkinson (Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, UWA) wrote about Songlines among the Mardu indigenous people in his 1978 monograph "The Mardudjara Aborigines - Living The Dream In Australia's Desert".
Songlines Singing is an essential element in most Mardudjara ritual performances because the songline follows in most cases the direction of travel of the beings concerned and highlights cryptically their notable as well as mundane activities. Most songs, then, have a geographical as well as mythical referent, so by learning the songline men become familiar with literally thousands of sites even though they have never visited them; all become part of their cognitive map of the desert world.
Songlines in other cultures
There is a theory, as explained in the book "Homer's Secret Iliad", that the story of the "Iliad" is similar to a song line. The Iliiad is a pre-literate ancient Greek epic poem told by bards wer then written down by the Greek poet Homer after the introduction of writing to Greek society. The thesis of "Homer's Secret Iliad" is that the story helped the listener learn a huge catalogue of stars and constellations, rather than being a song line in the Aboriginal sense.
Ngiyan waarnk - References
- Bruce Chatwin (1987)."The Songlines". Pub Jonathan Cape, London. p 2. ISBN 0099769913
- Stargazing Live: Australia Episode 1. BBC. First broadcast 28 March 2017
- "Original inhabitants". Charles Darwin Reserve Community History Website. Retrieved 30 March 2017
- Genelle Weule. "Star maps point to Aboriginal songlines". ABC Science. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2017
- Robert S. Fuller. "How ancient Aboriginal star maps have shaped Australia’s highway network". SBS. 30 Nov 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2017
- Ray and Cilla Norris (2009). "Emu Dreaming". Pub Emu Dreaming, Sydney. pp 20 - 22. ISBN 9780980657005
- "Songlines". Common Ground. Retrieved 11 November 2019
- "Songlines Tracking the Seven Sisters". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 11 November 2019
- "Belief systems" (PDF). Blazing Swans. Retrieved 8 February 2019
- "The Song Cycle : Goolarabooloo - Looking after Country". Goolarabooloo : Lurujarri Dreaming Trail. Retrieved 7 June 2019
- "Walmadany - James Price Point". Hon. Robin Chapple MLC website. Retrieved 19 March 2019
- Erin Parke. "WA's dinosaur coast: Bid to protect Broome's ancient footprints after maps published". ABC News. 21 March 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017
- "Unparalleled' number of dinosaur tracks found in Australia's own Jurassic Park". SBS. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017
- Ben Collins. "World's biggest dinosaur footprints found in north-western Australia". ABC News. 27 March 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017
- "Robert Tonkinson : Contributor". ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA. Retrieved 22 February 2019
- Robert Tonkinson (1978). "The Mardudjara Aborigines : living the dream in Australia's desert". Pub Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. p 104. ISBN 0030398215
- Florence and Kenneth Wood (1999). "Homer's Secret Iliad". John Murray of London
- "Homer the Astronomer". Homer’s Secret Iliad. Retrieved 6 November 2017