The Rainbow Serpent

About 'The Rainbow Serpent' - an Aboriginal Dreamtime Story.

As a Creation Being the Rainbow Serpent belongs to one of the oldest continuous religious beliefs on earth. It dates back many thousands of years and is a feature of the dreamtime stories of many mainland Australian Aboriginal peoples who often have slightly different interpretations.

The Rainbow Serpent dreamtime story is always linked to natural watercourses in the landscape such as creeks, rivers, lagoons and billabongs. However it should be noted that if the Rainbow Serpent is not properly respected then it can also be a destructive force.

The most common version of this dreamtime story goes like this:

In the Dreaming the earth was bare, cold and flat where the Rainbow Serpent slept underground and kept all the animal tribes within her tummy where they waited to be born. When the time came for them to be born, she pushed up and called to them to come out of their sleep.

She was strong and pushed out the land to create mountains, and she spilled water over the land to make rivers, lakes and billabongs. She also made the sun and fire, and all colours of the rainbow.

She also forced great passages through rock and made many waterholes. The Gagudju people know the Rainbow Serpent as a major creator being and called her Almudj. Even today Almudj is still recognised as a great creator as she is responsible for bringing the wet season each year which gives life to all, and can be seen in the sky as a rainbow.

However Almudj should also be feared as she may hand out punishment by drowning in floods, to anyone who has broken a law.
Almudj still lives in a pool under a waterfall in Kakadu, Northern Territory.

Another interpretation is as follows:

The Aboriginal Jawoyn people, who live in the Katherine Gorge area of the Northern Territory, have a similar but different interpretation. They tell how the Rainbow Serpent would sleep under the ground until one day when she awoke in the Dreaming and pushed her way to the surface of the earth. Then she traveled over the land, and stopped to sleep when she became tired. She left behind her snaking, winding tracks and the imprint of her sleeping body on the land. After she had traveled across the earth, she returned and called out to the frogs to come out.  The frogs were very slow because they had bellies full of water. 

The Rainbow Serpent tickled the tummies of the frogs, and when the frogs laughed, the water flowed out of their mouths and in turn filled the tracks and hollows on the ground that were left by the Rainbow Serpent. This created the rivers and lakes. Because of this all the animals and plants awoke and followed the Rainbow Serpent far and wide across the land.

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