Australian Aborigines belive that after the world was created mythical beings moved about the country fighting, hunting and forming the natural features of Australia, this time was known as the Dreamtime.
The Dreamtime heroes by their own activity also set the precedents which govern human conduct for all time. Humans feel a special affinity with their related animal species which is a totem. In most cases people are forbidden to kill or eat their animal totem. It is also belived that certain rituals have to be re-enacted on a regular basis in order to maintain the animal species and ensure survival of the human group. Most ceremonies are long and consist of chanting or singing the myths contemplating the sacred objects and introducing them to initiates – and dancing and miming the actions of the totemic animals, hand clapping, beating sticks or stones and the didgeridoos (in the far north).
Young men are gradually initiated – full knowledge not achieved until middle aged. Initiations involves participants in tests; long walkabouts, tooth extraction, ordeal by fire, circumcision is often perfomed by stone blades.
There are two main categories of secred ceremonies. The first – instruction through learning, sacred laws and behavioural codes. The second – through increase designed to ensure continuation of totemic species. Participants paint their faces and bodies with coloured ochres and form patterns with headdresses, armbands and girdles, painted weapons and tools are paraded during mock battles and often painted poles are exhibited or placed on the ceremonial ground site. Sacred objects, places and positions are mostly kept secred from women and young men.