The Rainbow Serpent: Guardian of Dreamtime and Keeper of Aboriginal Wisdom

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

Robert Watson acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Depiction of Giant Rainbow serpent across Australian landscape

Australian Aboriginal culture is rich with stories, traditions, and a profound connection to the land. At the heart of this culture lies the Dreamtime, a mythical era of creation and spirituality. In this blog post, we'll embark on a journey into the Dreamtime to explore the captivating story of the Rainbow Serpent and the profound role of snakes in Aboriginal culture.

The Dreamtime: A World of Creation and Spirituality

For Aboriginal communities across Australia, the Dreamtime is the era of creation, a time when ancestral beings shaped the land, people, and all living creatures. It is a realm where the physical and spiritual worlds intersect, and stories from the Dreamtime provide the foundation for Aboriginal culture and identity.

The Rainbow Serpent: Creator and Guardian

At the heart of Dreamtime stories is the Rainbow Serpent, a powerful and enigmatic ancestral being. The Rainbow Serpent is believed to have roamed the land, shaping the landscape, and giving birth to rivers, mountains, and waterholes with its movements. Its vibrant, rainbow-colored skin symbolizes the creative and destructive forces of nature.

The Rainbow Serpent's journey across the land forms the land's contours, carving valleys and shaping mountains. In its wake, it leaves trails of water, symbolizing life-giving rain and the importance of water in sustaining life.

The Serpent's Paradox: Creation and Destruction

The Rainbow Serpent embodies the duality of creation and destruction. While it brings life through water and fertility, it can also unleash floods and storms, reminding us of the delicate balance between human existence and the natural world.

Snakes in Aboriginal Culture

In addition to the Rainbow Serpent, snakes hold a significant place in Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime stories. They are often regarded as powerful spirit beings, closely connected to the land and its creation.

Snakes are seen as protectors, guardians, and messengers in many Dreamtime stories. They play a role in teaching important lessons and imparting cultural knowledge. The snake's ability to shed its skin is a symbol of renewal and transformation, a theme that resonates throughout Aboriginal culture.

Connection to Country

Aboriginal culture is deeply rooted in the connection to "Country," a term that encompasses the land, the people, and the spirit that binds them together. The stories of the Rainbow Serpent and other Dreamtime beings reinforce this connection, emphasizing the importance of living in harmony with the land and its creatures.

Lessons from the Dreamtime

The stories of the Rainbow Serpent and snakes in Aboriginal culture offer valuable lessons for all of us:

  1. Respect for Creation: The Dreamtime stories teach us to respect and appreciate the natural world and the intricate web of life.

  2. Balance and Harmony: The duality of the Rainbow Serpent reminds us of the need for balance and harmony between humanity and nature.

  3. Renewal and Transformation: Snakes' symbolism of shedding skin teaches us about renewal, growth, and the cyclical nature of life.

  4. Cultural Wisdom: Aboriginal culture's deep understanding of the land and its creatures is a source of wisdom that can inspire us to reevaluate our relationship with the environment.


The stories of the Rainbow Serpent and the role of snakes in Aboriginal culture are not only a reflection of an ancient belief system but also a timeless reminder of the importance of living in harmony with the land. In a world where the environment faces numerous challenges, the wisdom of the Dreamtime stories can guide us toward a more sustainable and respectful coexistence with the natural world.


The Rainbow Serpent is a significant and powerful ancestral being in Aboriginal mythology. It is often associated with creation, the shaping of the land, and the establishment of cultural laws.

The Rainbow Serpent is believed to have created the landscape, including rivers, mountains, and waterholes, as it slithered across the land. Its movements are said to have formed the valleys and shaped the land.

In many Aboriginal cultures, the Rainbow Serpent is depicted as a multi-colored serpent or snake, with a shimmering, rainbow-colored skin. It is both a creative and destructive force, as it has the power to give life through water and fertility but can also unleash destructive floods and storms.

The story of the Rainbow Serpent varies among different Aboriginal groups, as there are many different Aboriginal cultures in Australia, each with its own unique stories and interpretations. However, the common theme across these variations is the significance of the Rainbow Serpent as a creator and a custodian of the land.

The Rainbow Serpent's story is not only a creation myth but also a cultural and spiritual narrative that plays a central role in the beliefs and traditions of many Aboriginal communities. It symbolizes the deep connection between people, land, and the natural world, emphasizing the importance of living in harmony with nature.

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