Dreamtime Stories: The Rainbow Serpent

Did you know that in Indigenous mythology it is believed that when you see a rainbow in the sky this is actually the Rainbow Serpent making its way from one waterhole to another? This week we’re going to talk about the incredible dreamtime story of the Rainbow Serpent.

The Rainbow Serpent plays a crucial role in Indigenous Dreamtime stories, it is the creator and protector of water and it symbolises rebirth. Depending on the place and story, the Rainbow Serpent is believed to be either male or female, in this story the Serpent is female. It is believed that in the Dreamtime, the entire earth lay sleeping and one day the Rainbow Serpent woke and came out from beneath the earth. With lots of energy from her long sleep she travelled all across Australia leaving large winding tracks behind her. As she began to return home she woke the frogs. They emerged spilling water out over the earth from the stores in their stomachs, this water formed the lakes and rivers. With the emergence of the water, plants started to grow which then woke all of the animals. They followed her across the country and established their own tribes and on different parts of the land. The Rainbow Serpent made laws to keep everyone living in harmony, yet some of the animals began to argue. The Rainbow Serpent said she will reward those who keep her laws by giving them human form but those who break them will be punished and turned to stone. Those that were rewarded with human form were each given their original form as their totem. It became their responsibility to care for and protect their totems (Connolly, 2020). 

This is just one of the many versions of the Rainbow Serpent Dreamtime story. The Rainbow Serpent is a very important part of Indigenous mythology, there are many stories and rituals that surround it. A key belief is that the Serpent is the spirit of the waterholes with people paying great respect to the Rainbow Serpent as they approach a waterhole, letting the spirit know that they are approaching. For many, the Rainbow Serpent represents renewal in its ability to shed its skin. Because of this there are myths that describe a creature that swallows humans only to regurgitate them, they emerge transformed by her blood. You can see through all of these stories that the Dreamtime and Indigenous beliefs revolve around their connection to country and how the different elements of nature interact with one another.