Symbols In Aboriginal Religion

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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Traditional symbols are an essential part of much contemporary Aboriginal art. Today I will be outlining the use of symbols in the aboriginal religion and some of there meanings. The symbols or icons used in contemporary Aboriginal paintings are the same as those found on cave paintings and rock engravings that were made tens of thousands of years ago. Aboriginal peoples have long artistic traditions within which they use conventional designs and symbols. Aboriginals don't' have any text, so they are dependant on these symbols for communication, and used this probably even more so then they used speech. These symbols are evident in communities in a number of ways. Through art, such as painting and drawing on bark, caves, sand and ornaments, sculptures and carvings in stone, wood, bone and other plant and animal products and as body art in the form of ornaments, jewellery, headdresses, costume and body painting.

In some areas burial poles were painted with symbols relating to the deceased and their family. Through the use of ancestrally inherited designs, artists continue their connections to country. For example, body decoration using ancestral designs is an important part of many ceremonies. In central Australia inherited designs are painted onto the face and body using ochre ground to a paste with water and applied in stripes or circles. Each different tribe and language group had their own symbols, and meanings, as well as stories associated with the symbols. Within a language group particular people would protect the special knowledge and skills needed to translate art symbols and stories into ceremonial objects or paintings. These would be passed on during special ceremonies. Some symbols are used only by men and some symbols only by women. Some basics of these symbols are: (Put up overhead) Concentric circles usually represent campsites...