Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ancient Beliefs of the Bushmen - Compiled by Jaco De Beer

In The Beginning Part 1
Busy Canvas
Photo Credit Coenraad Buys

The Bushmen believe that in the beginning there was only a shadowy darkness all over the world. The sun, moon and stars didn't even exist. Therefore it was night or what they call “Ga” all the time. The darkness they called “Gagen” and it was present all over. But Night (Ga) and Darkness (Gagen) existed as “ou volk” or beings from the ancient times. Nobody knows how old they are and where they came from. What we do know is that old Night and his wife Darkness live in a cave deep in the Ghost Mountains of the Kalahari Desert. They never had a son, only three daughters. They lived their quiet life deep in the stone cave while the whole world was covered in cold and darkness. 
The three daughters were called Mountains, Plains and Waters. These daughters loved to dance and their parents enjoyed watching them. Often people from far away would come and visit them just to watch the girls dance. Their trickster god was called Kaggen and he existed in the form of a insect, the praying mantis. This insect has a round tummy with long stick-like limbs and it likes to hold its thick front limbs together like “hands” in prayer. One day the praying mantis was sitting on a bush watching the girls dance. He wanted to get a better look at them and changed himself into an antelope the size of a Gemsbok (Kalahari Oryx). He walked closer and watched the girls with curious eyes. 
“Ga” saw the buck and crawled behind a bush with his bow and arrows. There he waited until the buck got very close. Kaggen in the form of a buck was watching the girls dance and pretended not to see “Ga”. Old “Ga” was very good with a bow and arrow and at that distance this buck's name was “braaivleis”, which means meat on the fire. The poisoned arrow hit him right in the neck and after a few steps of running away it staggered and then dropped dead in its tracks. 
The whole family gathered around their next meal and proceeded to gut it and cut it into more manageable pieces. The father (Ga) took one of the hind quarters and the skin up on his shoulders and started to carry it home. The mother (Gagen) took up the other hind quarter and the intestines and followed her husband home. The oldest daughter (Mountains) took one of the front quarters and put that on her shoulders. The other daughter (Plains) took the other front quarter and the youngest (Waters) carried the head with the backbone still attached to it. 
Next thing the head starts blinking its eyes and groaned painfully: “Why did you hurt me so badly?” Waters got a fright when the head started talking to her and shouted at the others that the head was talking to her! The others didn't pay any attention to the youngest daughters stories and carried on walking. Again she shouted at her family that the head was coming alive, look it is blinking its eyes and it is talking to me! Again they made it off as her imagination and just kept walking towards their home. The third time she shouted with a lot more urgency in her voice that the head was talking to her and blinking his eyes. When she threatened to throw it down and leave it just there the father stopped and turned around to see what the commotion was all about. 
When they reached the youngest girl they all got a fright when each of the different parts turned towards each other. They quickly put the pieces down and stepped back carefully. Right in front of their eyes the four quarters wriggled towards the head and each one of the quarters attached itself to its correct place on the backbone. The family stood back even further when the intestines slithered back into the buck and attached itself to the animal. They watched in fear as the naked buck got to its knees and crawled back into its own skin. The buck took a final good look at them, shook itself back into shape and ran off into the distance. There it changed back into its insect form and became again the praying mantis, what the Bushmen call “Kaggen” and the Boers call a “Hottentotsgod”. 


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