Based on their primary role, they fall into three main categories, and any one deity may belong to one, two, or all three of these categories: (also: Creation Figure).Many are involved with the creation of people, the landscape, and aspects of the environment, such as the creation of red, yellow or white pigments, so can be called “Creation Figures” or “Creation Beings”. In many examples, these deities are regarded as the direct ancestors of the people living today and so they are “Ancestral Figures”, “Ancestral Beings”, “Ancestral Heroes”, or “Dreamtime Ancestors”.Here, the one term “Ancestral Being” is used to describe these deities.
Even though regarded as ancestors of the people, such deities may not appear in a human form, but may be plant or animal, for example.
In Aboriginal religious belief, a person’s spirit may return in human, animal or plant form after death. A Totemic Being represents the original form of an animal, plant or other object (totem), as it was in the Creation Period.
So an Ancestral Being may have the appearance of a plant or animal, but have done deeds similar to a human in the past. The concept of a Totemic Being overlaps with that of a Creation Being and an Ancestral Being because the Totemic Being may create the abundance of species, and people see themselves as being derived from the different Totemic Beings.
Aboriginal religion, like many other religions, is characterised by having a god or gods who created people and the surrounding environment during a particular creation period at the beginning of time.
Aboriginal people are very religious and spiritual, but rather than praying to a single god they cannot see, each group generally believes in a number of different deities, whose image is often depicted in some tangible, recognisable form.
This form may be that of a particular landscape feature, an image in a rock art shelter, or in a plant or animal form.
Landscape features may be the embodiment of the deity itself, such as a particular rock representing a specific figure, or they may be the result of something the deity did or that happened to the deity in the Creation Period, such as a river having formed when the Rainbow Serpent passed through the area in the Creation Period, or a depression in a rock or in the ground representing the footprint or sitting place of an Ancestral Being. This is the belief that all natural objects possess a soul.
They do not believe that a rock possesses a soul, but they might believe that a particular rock outcrop was created by a particular deity in the creation period, or that it represents a deity from the Creation Period.
They believe that many animals and plants are interchangeable with human life through re-incarnation of the spirit or soul, and that this relates back to the Creation Period when these animals and plants were once people.