Among the Mardu Aborigines, dreams (kapukurri; jukurrpa) may carry at least the same weight as the events of waking life. ‘Travelling’ in dream-spirit form enhances the possibility of revelations both dangerous and enlightening. In the Australian case, a major cultural dilemma is to accommodate and rationalize an inevitable dynamism when the dominant ideology is one of timelessness and stasis. Two key cultural symbols, the Dreaming and the Law, still substantially shape worldviews and behaviour of the Martu people, who live in the remote Western Desert region. Much of my focus is on a category of popular, largely public contemporary ritual called partunjarrijanu ‘from the dream-spirit’. Discussion of how such rituals come into being highlights the notable importance of altered states of consciousness in creativity. However, in role and status individuals are positioned as conduits for the flow of knowledge and power from the spiritual into the earthly realm. Thus distanced from their own creativity, they are not perceived as creators in their own right. I also show that, in Western Desert society, cultural capital accrues to groups through playing the advantageous role of host to neighboring groups, using new dream-spirit rituals as a kind of currency within broader regional systems of exchange.

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