View Chapters

Book: Restoring the Chain of Memory

Chapter: Eternity: Arrernte Myths of Creation

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27445


Chapter three analyses Strehlow’s accounts of the stories and myths about totemic ancestors on which the Arrernte have built their entire religious worldview and on which their social structures traditionally were based. This involves a discussion of how Strehlow corrected common misconceptions about ‘Dreamtime’ as promoted initially by Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen and now is maintained in popular literature as synonymous with pan-Australian Aboriginal religion. His studies also demonstrated that the adoption of the Indigenous word altjira as equivalent to the Christian God is equally erroneous. The chapter concludes by emphasising the significance for contemporary Arrernte leaders of Strehlow’s research that linked myths of the totemic ancestors to his detailed genealogical records.

Chapter Contributors

  • James Cox ( - jamescox) 'University of Edinburgh'