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A songline, also called dreaming track, is one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) within the animist belief system of The First Nations People of ‘Australia’ , which mark the route followed by localised "creator-beings" during the Dreaming. The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional song cycles, stories, dance, and art, and are often the basis of ceremonies. They are a vital part of Aboriginal culture, connecting people to their land.

In his 1987

The Dreaming, or the Dreamtime, has been described as "a sacred narrative of Creation that is seen as a continuous process that links traditional Aboriginal people to their origins". Ancestors are believed to play a large role in the establishment of sacred sites as they traversed the continent long ago. Animals were created in the Dreaming, and also played a part in creation of the lands and heavenly bodies. Songlines connect places and Creation events, and the ceremonies associated with those places. Oral history about places and the journeys are carried in song cycles, and each Aboriginal person has obligations to their birthplace. The songs become the basis of the ceremonies that are enacted in those specific places along the Songlines.[1]

A songline has been called a "dreaming track", as it marks a route across the land or sky followed by one of the creator-beings or ancestors in the Dreaming.[2]

A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. In some cases, the paths of the creator-beings are said to be evident from their marks, or petrosomatoglyphs, on the land, such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints.

By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, Aboriginal people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior. The continent of Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different Aboriginal peoples — peoples who may speak markedly different languages and have different cultural traditions.

Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of the song are said to be in those different languages. Languages are not a barrier

A songline has been called a "dreaming track", as it marks a route across the land or sky followed by one of the creator-beings or ancestors in the Dreaming.[2]

A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. In some cases, the paths of the creator-beings are said to be evident from their marks, or petrosomatoglyphs, on the land, such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints.

By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, Aboriginal people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior. The continent of Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different Aboriginal peoples — peoples who may speak markedly different languages and have different cultural traditions.

Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of the song are said to be in those different languages. Languages are not a barrier because the melodic contour of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes. The rhythm is what is crucial to understanding the song. Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking on this songline and observing the land.

Neighbouring groups are connected because the song cycles criss-cross all over the continent. All Aboriginal groups traditionally share beliefs in the ancestors and related laws; people from different groups interacted with each other based on their obligations along the songlines.[3]

In some cases, a songline has a particular direction, and walking the wrong way along a songline may be a sacrilegious act (e.g. climbing up Uluru where the correct direction is down). Traditional Aboriginal people regard all land as sacred, and the songs must be continually sung to keep the land "alive".

Molyneaux and Vitebsky note that the Dreaming Spirits "also deposited the spirits of unborn children and determined the forms of human society," thereby establishing tribal law and totemic paradigms.[4]

Anthropologist Robert Tonkinson described Mardu songlines in his 1978 monograph The Mardudjara Aborigines - Living The Dream In Australia's Desert.

Songlines Singing is an essential element in most Mardudjara ritual performances because the songline follows in most cases the direction of travel of the beings concerned and highlights cryptically their notable as well as mundane activities. Most songs, then, have a geographical as well as mythical referent, so by learning the songline men become familiar with literally thousands of sites even though they have never visited them; all become part of their cognitive map of the desert world.[5]

In his 1987 book The Songlines, British novelist and travel writer Bruce Chatwin describes the songlines as:

In his 1987 book The Songlines, British novelist and travel writer Bruce Chatwin describes the songlines as:

Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, sing

Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path - birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes - and so singing the world into existence.[6]