Messages From the Dream World

Spirit-child dreams are the catalysts that transform a spirit-child “from the world of the unborn to that of the living.” [Editor’s Note: And most surprisingly to our modern mind-set, such dreams are primarily the province of the men.] In a representative dream, a small dark-skinned spirit-child, two to three inches high, reveals its name and expresses a desire for birth. If the man has several wives, he chooses the most appropriate mother and describes her whereabouts to the spirit-child.

One young man’s dream occurred six years prior to his son’s birth. In the dream, Bos saw a pilot involved in an air battle. The enemy shot his plane down, and wounded the pilot’s arm and leg. The injured spirit-child approached Bos and said, “You are my father, but I will send my sister to be born first. I must go to America to get good medicine. I will be born to you in six years. You will recognize me.” Sure enough, the moment Bos saw the newborn’s crooked arm and leg, he said, “This is the son I dreamed.”

A man’s dream is the root cause of pregnancy, according to the Unambal and Worora Aborigines. In such a pre-conception dream, the man’s soul can wander around the country and meet a spirit-child, usually at a sacred water pool where the man’s own soul originally “emanated.” After dreaming about the spirit-child, he hands it over in a second dream to his wife. Aspiring fathers who sleep near the water pools typically dream of a rock python, a supernatural being, who comes bearing a spirit-child in its mouth as a gift. Nine months later, the father names the newborn after the water pool where he “conceived” him.

Husbands sometimes “find” a spirit-child in a dream when they are away from home. On these occasions, an Aborigine captures the spirit-child and ties it in his hair until he returns to his wife. He transfers the spirit-child to his wife by placing it near his wife or on her navel. The spirit-child enters the wife’s womb, “though not necessarily at once.”

Aborigines exhibit such a high level of sensitivity that they not only meet spirit-children via a subtle dream, they even find them while hunting or gathering food. They often experience omens, see fleeting images, or hear a spirit-child’s voice in the wind or water calling “father.” A spirit-child picks out a suitable man, sits upon his shoulder, and rides home with him after the hunt. The “father” hears the spirit-child whispering into his ear, or feels him tweaking his hair or making his muscles twitch.

Men in the Forrest River region observe spirit-children riding on the back of the legendary Rainbow Snake. The sacred spirit of fertility carries spirit-children along the rivers and lakes where potential fathers are fishing. When a spirit-child sights a man to his liking, he calls, “father.” A receptive man brings the spirit-child home by securing him in his hair which is smeared with red ochre, drawn back and bound with hair string. In certain cases, a man will find a spirit-child when he “sees” a tiny snake or fish suddenly appear and disappear. Then, for some reason, he keeps the spirit-child for years fastened in his hair before transferring the spirit-child to his wife.

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