INNOVATION AND ANCESTRAL REVELATION: THE CASE OF DREAMS

Authors


Discipline of Anthropology & Sociology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009. kglaskin@cyllene.uwa.edu.au

Abstract

This article explores aspects of the relationship between tradition and innovation in an Australian Aboriginal society by looking at dreams as a ‘traditional’ facet of cultural change. In many Aboriginal societies spirits of the deceased, spirit beings, and ancestral figures are said to communicate with and ‘reveal’ certain things to the dreamer. Some things that are revealed, such as those pertaining to ritual and ceremonial life, are said to have existed ‘from the beginning’ and are not considered to be ‘new’. Here I discuss a case of ancestral revelation relating to a commonplace sphere of Aboriginal life – the card game. Through this I explore something of the complexity of the ways in which ‘traditional’ beliefs and forms of innovation are dialectically interdependent with contemporary cultural experiences as well as with distinctive historical experiences which have preceded them.

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