Sunmother Wakes the World

by Diane Wolkstein and Bronwyn Bancroft

peace with ourselves-peace with each other-peace with the environment

recommended but unavailable - maybe a copy in your local library


Indigenous cultures have utilised storytelling for centuries to impart the important teaching and learning necessary for survival of their traditions. Similar storytelling processes can be used to impart peace-building understandings to children.  

There are amazing creation stories entrenched in the traditions of many cultures and communities throughout the world. The stories have differed considerably from place to place and over time and have been mostly influenced by these various cultures and their  relationships with their natural environment. The animals they hunted also appear at the heart of the essence of their evolving worlds. Creation stories can also explain how individual cultures and the beliefs the people held first evolved. Humanity has sought since time began answers to the unknown questions that taunt and tease imaginations. At the core of nearly every culture is a creation myth that explains how the the earth came into existence. These myths powerful drive each culture’s thinking and behaviours and frames their rules for living. This also impacts upon the way people think about their world and their place in relation to their environment. The numerous geographical boundaries and barriers existing between many cultures has not interrupted the common development of the same basic elements in everyone of them.

For instance Aboriginal peoples of Australia have their dreaming stories. It is interesting to explore and discuss the things that are common to each of them and what is different. As our early ancestors studied the world around them they began to tell stories to try to explain the natural phenomena they observed, and to make sense to such things as life and death, the changing seasons and natural disasters.  

Dreaming and The Dreamtime

The Dreaming is a term used by Australian Aboriginal peoples to describe the interactions and harmonious balance occurring between the spiritual, natural and moral elements of their  world. It also relates to a time that begins at the creation of the universe to a time before living memory or experience, when creator ancestors and supernatural beings roamed the earth yet The Dreaming is never-ending, is eternal and inexhaustible. The Dreaming never ceases, it is here and now, continually happening and the most sacred time is now, being in the present, and not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow. The visible and invisible dimensions are not considered to be divisible. To Aboriginal people the land is not merely dirt or rock but the whole environment with all the elements being linked by The Dreaming.

This incredible story, retelling an Aboriginal creation myth, is accompanied by the most exquisite drawings that assist the story to magically transpose us into the Dreamtime. This wonderful dreaming story is for all ages to enjoy and share together and it contains many peace-building elements:

  • happy endings
  • everyone winning
  • nonviolent resolution
  • imaginative and creative
  • challenges existing stereotyping
  • faith and hope
  • peace with the environment
  • finding personal peace
  • …..and element that supports the idea that peace is possible

The story introduced the early days of creation as explained by Aboriginal lore. Sun Mother was invited to wake the creatures which inhabited the Earth. The creatures chose their shape and form then Sun Mother warned them she would be leaving. Darkness did not follow as the Moon and Morning Star, children of Sun Mother, gave light and then followed the birth of the first humans. Sun Mother requested:

 “Care for the land for the sake for your grandparents as well

as for your children and grandchildren."

The story beautifully honours the Earth’s guardianship that has been bestowed upon every human being. It mirrors the Bible’s story of Genesis and many other stories of creation.

Critical questions to explore with children

  • What is the soft voice requesting Sun Mother do?
  • When Sun Mother travelled to the Earth what did she find first? 
  • Why was Sun Mother’s warmth and light so important to the creatures?
  • Why did Sun Mother need to return to the sky?
  • Did Sun Mother return to the Earth? Would life have existed if she did not return?
  • What did Sun Mother request the first man and woman do?
  • What was Sun Mother’s promise? Has she kept it?

Creative questions to explore with children

  • What is a creation myth?
  • Aboriginal Dreaming stories include many different creator spirits. Do you know of any others?   
  • What do you think Sun Mother was really asking the humans to do? Do you think humans have responded to her request?
  • How do traditional Aboriginal peoples take care of their environment?
  • What things could you do to take better care of your own environment?
  • Do you think Sun Mother would be pleased if she came back to Earth?
  • Do you think Sun Mother will always keep her promise? 
  • How can we help create happy endings for everyone who lives upon the Earth?

© Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation January 2007

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