The titular hero of the television series Cleverman is - according to Wikipedia - a "superheroic version" of an "important figure in many Australian Aboriginal cultures".

I'm trying to find more information about the traditional Cleverman, but all of my searches so far ended up being about the series.

Who or what is Cleverman? What is his connection to the Dreamtime?


A whole book has been written about the Cleverman, title Aboriginal Men Of High Degree by A.P. Elkin. Elkin was a anthropologist who actually lived with the tribes to get the knowledge. The Cleverman has the power of weather control, curing illness, hypnotism, the strong eye, visiting the Sky-world and so much more. He has magical powers of invisibility, psychic displays, clairvoyance and telepathy. The life of the tribe revolved around this spiritual man.

  • 2
    Great answer! (I took the liberty of finding citations from the book for the powers you mention to support the answer :) Welcome to Mythology!
    – DukeZhou
    Jun 11 '17 at 21:42
  • 1
    Bravo! Excellent first answer. I'd never heard of Elkin; I suspect some of his work could be helpful for other questions in this site.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 19 '17 at 12:10

An article in The Sydney Morning Herald has the creator of Cleverman, Ryan Griffen, discussing the traditional Aboriginal role of the Cleverman. The article paints a picture of the Cleverman as a shaman of sorts, an elder and master of magic within a local community. Griffen states

"Our cleverman is different from the actual cleverman that existed in many Aboriginal communities," he says. "The Dreamtime is about the past, present and future, and so he has powers that relate to all three of those.

. . .

"In our show, these powers are passed down, very much as in Aboriginal culture. A cleverman is chosen by another cleverman when they're of the right bloodline or are the right type of person. For our cleverman, those powers are passed down to him by his uncle."

I agree that finding references to the Cleverman not connected to the show is extremely difficult. I found a tenuous reference in James Cowan's book Myths of the dreaming: interpreting Aboriginal legends (from an article here) connecting them with the mekigars, shamans.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.