Ancient Oz in a Box
Ancient Oz in a Box
Songlines: The Search for the Seven Sisters
A coffee or beer with a fellow dowser is as good a way as any to while away a few hours in genial conversation. We might even learn something. However, to really get some insight - and be shaken out of our comfort zone into the bargain - I can strongly recommend listening to someone from another world, well someone with a radically different worldview.
These last few months The Box (formerly Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery) has been hosting an immersive exhibition of Australian Aboriginal culture and art, under the banner Songlines: In Search of the Seven Sisters. It has been a real coup for Plymouth, as this veritable extravaganza moves on at the end of February to Paris, and then to Berlin.
Described, both in textual and in audio/visual bite sized chunks, elders of some of the indigenous groups tell their age-honoured stories in their own words. Their motive for doing so at this point is a universal dilemma. As cosmopolitan ways edge ever deeper into their everyday existence, the interest of the younger members of their families in the tribal and spiritual origins of the local people is fading fast. Should they accept that as inevitable, or should they seek out a new audience?
At least one cohort has taken up the latter challenge and, aided by a modicum of western progressives, has produced this exhibition to allow a new generation of pale strangers a brief insight into some of the stories that date back, potentially, tens of thousands of years.
The language and the imagery may seem pre-scientific, but the ideas and the concepts are as cutting edge today as they were in the days of the Sumerians.
For the dowser, the aboriginal mindset is an Aladdin’s cave of fascination. At the heart of the quest is the whole panoply of Songlines. For many decades, western dowsers have felt the draw of the Songline, which seems to translate so neatly from the Michael/Mary complex, but with added vibrations. However, things do get lost in translation.
No doubt, the core concept of ‘earth energy’, streaming across a continent and being accessed by individual societies as it flows, is not that far away from the pre-Celtic perception of much the same thing. In Europe the understanding of this has all but disappeared over the intervening millennia - under the pressure of societal, agricultural and industrial revolutions. Whilst in the Antipodes, there is an orally transmitted memory stretching back - and possibly substantially intact - to an era corresponding with our early Neolithic.
Much Aboriginal ‘art’, though stylistically very different from our own, clearly involves the creation of geo-sociological maps. The distances and connections of significant places may be more conceptual than what we are accustomed to expect, but the depiction of lines linking watering places would be as plain as a pikestaff to any UK water diviner. Indeed, the waterholes themselves are often drawn as a series of concentric circles, very much akin to our own visualisation of them as seven-fold spirals.
Perhaps the most striking insight provided by this display is the way in which the interpretation of the composition of the physical landscape tells the story of a whole culture. Everywhere has meaning, and those meanings stitch together to form a tableau of all that was, is and will be. Except, of course, that time as we know it doesn’t really come in to play - other than the recurrent mention of the ‘dreamtime’, a period so ancient that it precedes the age of the humans.
Perhaps the nearest comparison in our own heritage is the way we used to read our stories in the stars, or at least in the constellations of the night sky. Greek, Mesopotamian and Chinese theologians used the seemingly static stellar backdrop to portray the lives and times of Gods and Goddesses in a way that might have made more sense to the shepherd or the foot soldier than any ritual incantation. The archetypal characters interact in a motionless theatre, endlessly performing their roles through the annual and circadian cycles.
Which brings us to the title of this project. The headline story is told in the iteration of the legends. Seven beautiful sisters are chased by a ‘wizard’ shape-shifted into a serpent.
The Seven Sisters in question are, of course, our enigmatic stellar cluster, The Pleiades - an apparently coherent collection of seven (or is it six?) stars just ‘a few inches’ to the right of Orion, in our incarnation of the eternal storyline.
Lost Pleiad stories are found in European, African, Asian, Indonesian, Native American and Aboriginal Australian cultures. Many cultures regard the cluster as having seven stars, but acknowledge only six are normally visible, and then have a story to explain why the seventh is invisible.
For a longer analysis of this phenomena, have a look at this piece on The Conversation website:
In practice, these stars are vast distances apart and at widely varying distances from us. But, in our take on the information field, they appear to be a group of related heavenly bodies. So much so that many cultures, including primordial Australians, have wound them into their mythologies. Some even suggest that the seed of life on earth may have originated there - but I’ll leave you to dowse for that for yourselves.
When I made, what will probably be, my only visit to Uluru I asked, in a much too casual manner, if I could follow one of these Songlines with my rods. The answer was swift and emphatic, and the only time as a dowser that the rods have nearly flown out of my hands. Wrong person, wrong time, access denied.
In the Aboriginal tradition, each section of a Songline is the preserve and the responsibility of an appointed someone, or some designated group. That baton has been relayed down through the generations for as long as anyone can remember. Songlines are protected artefacts, not curiosities for Tamar tourists to play with.
This was probably also the case in old Albion, in the days that the long-distance energy flows were acknowledged and revered. But today there is no-one left to ask. The last custodian died or was killed before they had the chance to hand over the ethereal keys. It appears therefore that the most ancient of our currents remain eternally protected by default.
Rather like the Dalai Lama being ousted from Tibet and consequently bringing the philosophy of his people to a whole new catchment in the West, so the Songlines caravanserai will alert many thousands throughout the developed world to the fire behind the smoke of Aboriginal ways of deciphering their landscape.