/Xam sidereal narratives and Gideon Retief von Wielligh's 'Boesman Stories'

posted: 4087 days ago, on Wednesday, 2006 Jul 12 at 01:10
tags: astronomy, ethnoastronomy, Milky Way.

/Xam sidereal narratives and Gideon Retief von Wielligh's 'Boesman Stories'

W P Koorts, A. Slotegraaf

Presented at the 2005 African Astronomical History Symposium, Cape Town.

Abstract: The primary source of /Xam sidereal narratives are the well-known works by Bleek and Lloyd. We present two new /Xam accounts, explaining the origin of the Sun and the origin of the Evening Star, as collected and retold in Afrikaans by G R von Wielligh in Boesman-Stories, Part 1. We also give an English translation of those parts of the book containing astronomical references.

Introduction

The investigation we're reporting on here began with a comment made to us by Pieter W Grobbelaar, professor of Afrikaans cultural history and folklore. He pointed out that the southern African ethnoastronomical bibliographies deposited at the SAAO do not list G R von Wielligh. His Boesman-Stories (in four parts) appeared 1919-1921 and recounts narratives collected from /Xam informants by the author c.1880-1883 in the Calvinia-Bushmanland area. Part 1, subtitled "Mythology and Legends", is of particular interest here, because it contains a good deal of astronomical references.

Why, we wondered, had his work gone unnoticed? We speculated that since it was in Afrikaans, it was less accessible to the primarily English-speaking scholars. We resolved to translate those sections containing astronomical information and make these available to a wider audience. Before presenting highlights from von Wielligh's collection, including two new /Xam astromyths, we first take a closer look at this extraordinary man and his work.

G R von Wielligh (1859-1932)

Gideon Retief von Wielligh was born on April 1, 1859 in the Paarl district of the Western Cape. His first encounter with "the wild Bushmen" was at age 11:

"… at that time we undertook a [trade] journey with our father through parts of Namaqualand, Bushmanland and the Hantam. During the evenings, and also during the day, many of these chaps would join us around the campfire and talk. There were still many of them that lived solely from hunting in the wilds. For a small reward they were willing to tell the little master stories, which we absorbed with mouths agape." (Von Wielligh 1921:i)

Upon his return home, he went to school at Paarl Gimnasium, and within five years he had qualified as a land surveyor. From 1876 to 1878 he undertook surveys in the Karoo, and met several /Xam shepherds, but it wasn't for another two years before he began to seriously study their stories. From 1880 until 1883 a surveyor's office was established in Calvinia, south of the Hantam mountains,

"… the surveying of land brought us back again to Bushmanland and the Agter-Hantam, which afforded many opportunities for taking notes." (Von Wielligh 1921:i)

This was perhaps the last contact he was to have with the /Xam, as in August 1884, aged 25, he was appointed Land-Surveyor General of Transvaal (a position he held until June 1895). On official business in 1903, his life took an unexpected twist when an accident left him almost totally blind.

"He went to Delgoabay [present-day Maputo Bay, Mozambique] to fetch the astronomical equipment of the Transvaal government. At this event during a carnival, lime was thrown into his eyes. Medical treatment improved his condition so that he 'now has recovered in his right eye a quarter normal vision. He reads with strong spectacles and a double magnifying glass – his nose almost against the paper, and even then he sees only five or six letters at a time.' " (Langenhoven 1922)

It is remarkable that after this debilitating accident he went on to write at least 16 books and numerous magazine articles. From the material he had collected amongst the /Xam, he eventually published Boesman-Stories in four volumes. Fittingly, his final book, published in 1930 (two years before his death) was called Staan jou man (stand your ground).

Von Wielligh and scholarship

Since Von Wielligh's name wasn't mentioned in the available ethnoastronomy bibliographies to our disposal, we started this study with a general literature search and found that he was, as mentioned above, a prolific author of primarily Afrikaans fiction. It also soon became clear that his work was controversial.

It seems that he was regarded, amongst some influential academics of Afrikaans literature of his day, as a second-rate author, and his work was vilified by them. In his defence, C J Langenhoven, himself no literary slouch, wrote a strongly-worded article in his widely-read column in the daily newspaper Die Burger :

"Some authors, myself included, who are of lesser merit, have been honoured with membership to the South African Academy. There are others, who deserve it less … who have received honorary Doctorates of Literature. Had these distinctions not, recently, become as ridiculously cheap as political and military titles … I would have advised our Universities to honour themselves by issuing honorary degrees to Von Wielligh.

"But Von Wielligh's honour is greater than any academic merit that may be awarded to him, greater than what any academic authority can take away from him. He has the honour that he worked in the darkest twilight to bring the light of day nearer to his people." (Langenhoven 1922)

More recently, van Vuuren (1995) has echoed Langenhoven's sentiments. With specific reference to Boesman-Stories, she writes that his work:

"… demands to be reincorporated in what we consider to be the corpus of South African literature. The 'recovery' of the /Xam tales … has important implications for a new understanding not only of our literary history, but also of South African history-writing." (van Vuuren 1995:25)

[ 1 ] In chronological order these are: Bennun, N. (2004) The broken string: the last words of an extinct people.; Hollmann, J. C. (2004) Customs and beliefs of the /Xam bushmen.; Krog, Antjie (2004) The stars say 'tsau'.; Kowen, D. (2003) Nyama and the eland.; Skotnes, P. (2002) A story is the wind: representing time and space in San narratives.; Szalay, M (2002) Der Mond als Schuh.; McNamee, G. (2001) (ed) The girl who made stars and other Bushman stories.; Fourie, C. (2001) Splinters uit die vuur.; James, A. (2001) The first Bushman's path: stories, songs and testimonies of the /Xam of the northern Cape.; Winberg, M. (2001) My eland's heart: a collection of stories and art.; Lewis-Williams, J. D. (2000) Stories that float from afar: ancestral folklore of the San of southern Africa.; Skotnes, P. (1999) Heaven's things: a story of the /Xam.; Lewis, I. M. (1997) Why ostriches don't fly and other tales from the African bush.; Deacon, J. & Dowson, T. A. (1996) (eds) Voices from the past: /Xam Bushmen and the Bleek and Lloyd collection.

It is heartening that since van Vuuren's article, at least fourteen substantial publications, academic and literary, have appeared on San folklore [1]. These include Bennun's The broken string (2004), Hollmann's Customs and beliefs of the /Xam bushmen (2004), Krog's The stars say 'tsau' (2004), James' The first Bushman's path (2001) and Lewis-Williams' Stories that float from afar (2000). In addition, Voices from the past, edited by Deacon & Dowson (1996), contains papers presented at the Bleek & Lloyd Conference held in Cape Town in 1991. Yet, Von Wielligh is rarely mentioned, and is at best included in a bibliography.

James, in discussing the manner in which the /Xam tales have been presented over the years, illustrates the tension between the formal scholarly approach, and the more-interpreted literary style adopted by others:

"An alternative method of delivering those narrations to the general reader is to provide accessible and persuasive literary versions of the translation texts as products that are at the same time aesthetically instrumental and responsibly mediatorial of the texts from which they draw their life. In the twentieth century, two South African writers, Markowitz … and Watson have taken up this method – and Von Wielligh … has published literary 'Boesman' stories based largely on /Xam sources." (James 2001:20)

Guenther appraises the amount of original folklore material available to the San student, concluding it is quite small. He painted a rather bleak picture:

"The need for fresh data on Bushman and Khoikhoi oral traditions is the more pressing because so much of what is available in the field of early and fairly recent published Khoisan folklore is stale and of dubious scholarly merit … Most of the texts are actually re-writes, with or without acknowledgement, of what others had written previously. … these recycled works could ultimately be traced back to only a handful of solid field collections, prime of them the published and accessible works by W H I Bleek and Lucy Lloyd." (Guenther 1989:13)

Hewitt in reviewing Bleek (1875) and Lloyd (1889) says:

"much prominence was given to collected materials which related to the Sun, the Moon and the stars, and it is indeed true that their informants had much to say concerning celestial bodies. However, the actual number of narratives collected – as opposed to beliefs and superstitions – is extremely small indeed. … at the very most, only nine distinct stories, out of the total collection of over a hundred, were concerned with celestial phenomena." (Hewitt 1986:91)

It is beyond us to decide where Von Wielligh's work should be rated along the academic and literary dimensions. However, it contains much astronomical lore that has been ignored:

"Probably the relative inaccessibility of [von Wielligh's] publications because of the medium of Afrikaans, plays a greater role here than one might expect. In the formulation by Biesele, an American, this is evident, as she says 'However, the tales are in Afrikaans …'. (It would be an interesting exercise to translate the four parts into English, publish a new edition, and see how it is received in this extremely fast-expanding and competitive field of 'bushmanstudies'.)" (Van Vuuren 1995:28-29)

To this end, careful English translations of chapters and selected paragraphs from Boesman-Stories, which made any mention of astronomical phenomena, were made (Appendix 1).

Comparing von Wielligh's /Xam stories and the Bleek and Lloyd records

Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd interviewed a small group of /Xam in Cape Town between 1870 and 1884. The Bleek and Lloyd manuscripts, totalling almost 12 000 notebook pages, "provides a glimpse into the life-styles, language and beliefs of some of the survivors of a population that at one time inhabited the whole of southern Africa." (Deacon & Dowson 1996:1)

At about the same time (1880 – 1883) von Wielligh was collecting his material in Bushmanland (see Figure 1) Years later, von Wielligh would note this correlation; in a postscript to the foreword of Boesman-Stories, Part 2, he wrote:

"When I had almost finished writing this Part, I came upon dr W H I Bleek's Specimens of Bushman Folklore … Reading through Bushmen Folklore I was struck by the strong resemblance between the stories he and I present.

Because how is it possible that a primitive people could have distributed their folktales over so wide an area and preserved it so well? At closer inspection is appears that dr Bleek and I collected our material at about the same time and in the same area." (von Wielligh 1920:iv)

In Boesman-Stories Part 1 he mentions some of the locations: "Katkop, Limoenkop and at Klipfontein, next to the Hantam River (district Calvinia)", and "the farm Zovoorbij, next to the Hantam River, district Calvinia." These places are indicated on the map above.

In order to compare the narratives a subject index (Table 1) was compiled of: Bleek, W.H.I. (1875) Second Report Concerning Bushman Researches, Lloyd, L. C. (1889) Short Account of further Bushman Material collected, Bleek, W.H.I. & Lloyd, L.C. (1911) Specimens of Bushman folklore, and Von Wielligh, G. R. (1921) Boesman-Stories. Deel 1: Mitologie en legendes.

Table 1. Subject index of astronomical themes in /Xam lore collected by Bleek, Lloyd and von Wielligh

SubjectBleek 1875
page (par.)
Lloyd 1889
page
Bleek & Lloyd 1911
chapter
von Wielligh 1921
page
 
 
Sun: moral order...92-, 104, 105
Sun: worshipped/honoured8 (A/II)..iii, 92, 187-
Sun: origin, armpit8 (A/II/15).6
Sun: origin, head...87-93, 151, 171, 173
dawn: morning star, heart of Dawn11 (A/II/25)[8 A/III/30](12)159
dusk: evening star, large eye of Dusk...167
Moon: cold7 (A/I/3)..98
Moon: cause new life/rebirth/healing..5, 6, 7, 8118, 146, 189
Moon: death of, and rebirth..698, 99
Moon: emissions from.8 (A/II/25)898-, 103, 118
Moon: hunting.5 (A/I/4)8
Moon: opposed by the Sun9 (A/II/16).698, 189
Moon: origin of death of humans9 (A/II/17), 10(A/II/ 18, 19)7 (A/II/22)799, 100
Moon: origin, as a feather.5 (A/I/4).
Moon: origin, as a man, cut by Sun9 (A/II/16).6
Moon: origin, as a shoe7 (A/I/3), 9 (A/II/16).697-99, 103
Moon: phases mentioned/implied9 (A/II/16), 10 (A/II/20)7 (A/II/22)6, 7, 8098, 116, 146, 188
Moon: spirits..80116
stars: noise/talk/sing.8 A/III/26-2810, 11, 34183, 190
stars: description of..9115, 190
stars: origin, as coals from a fire...103-, 115
stars: origin, from roots/food10 (A/II/23)8 A/III/299
stars: origin, were once people10 (A/III/24 & 26)8 A/III/26.159
stars: worshipped/honoured8 (A/II).11iii, 187-
Milky Way: described..9104
Milky Way: Heavenly Road...105, 115
Milky Way: origin, wood-ash10 (A/II/23)8 A/III/299103, 104, 115
meteors/comets..43, 79115
 

An examination of the index reveals the strong resemblance von Wielligh remarked on. For example, the accounts of the origin of the Moon, stars and Milky Way are similar.

However, von Wielligh recorded a unique tale of the origin of the Sun. Introducing the account, he remarked: "This Story is told in different ways: what follows is as recounted by the best storyteller." (von Wielligh 1921:87).

Briefly, Dancer, the Fire-Man, or the Fire-Maker, was once a man and of the ancient race. Light shone from his head, and it was he who put fire in stones, in the wood and in the clouds. Hunters would follow him to see where the game was, but sometimes he was lazy and wouldn't cooperate. Out of frustration the hunters killed him as he stood near a river. He fell into the water and his light was snuffed out. They hacked off his head and placed it on the river bank, but the light didn't return. Later, when it had begun to dry out, a woman saw the head and sent her children to throw it up into the sky, and so it became the Sun. The decapitated body is still searching for it's head, but has withered and became the crab, scuttling about at the water's edge. And the head searches incessantly for his body – in the mornings he starts searching at the mountains in the east, climbing into the sky until he comes to the mountains at the western side.

The Sun, it is said, also has two sons, Dawn and Dusk. They help him with his daily tasks, bringing him breakfast or supper, helping him out of or into bed, and so on. Dawn, the elder son, spurns the advances of a maiden (since he is happily married). The maiden's spiteful father, Wolf, murders him and skins him, but at the first incision, Dawn's sparkling heart flies out and goes up into the sky, to become the morning star. Dawn and his wife, their child, and their children's children were:

"turned into Stars; and those Stars still follow behind their parents and are now the brightest Stars in the heavens … [Dawn] came to fetch his wife, children and grandchildren, to live with him at the sunrise side of the sky. Though the big bright Morning Star, we must understand, is the Heart of the Dawn." (Von Wielligh 1921:159)

The motif of the morning star being the heart of Dawn is perhaps one of the most familiar astromyths from the Bleek & Lloyd collection, in part because the "Dawns-Heart Star" has, somewhat mysteriously, been identified as the planet Jupiter.

Von Wielligh then presents a second narrative, explaining the origin of the evening star, remarking: "This Story we heard once, on the farm Zovoorbij, next to the Hantam River, district Calvinia. One evening in 1881 there was a Bushman dance party, when one of the old guys showed his talent for story telling."

The Sun's younger son, Dusk, had big eyes so that he could see to perform his daily tasks that began at sunset and lasted until dark. Wolf's daughter , the jilted lover who was rejected by Dawn in the previous story, now latches on to Dusk, who is also happily married. His wife becomes grief-stricken, turning into the Owl, when their child is stolen by Wolf's daughter. Dusk seeks revenge and finds her at Wolf's house, but Wolf calms him with the news that his wife and child are waiting for him at a nearby cliff.

"The two walked together, and when they stood on the edge of the precipice, Wolf pushed Dusk down the cliff. Dusk fell to the bottom. One of his bright eyes burst there, but the other flew up into the sky and became the large shiny Evening Star." (Von Wielligh 1921:167)

To this day, the Owl cries out at night, lamenting for her child, while Wolf each evening still tumbles Dusk down behind the western ridges.

These two accounts – the Sun is the Head of Dancer, and the Evening Star is the eye of Dusk – do not appear in any of the standard texts we consulted and thus expand the collection of known /Xam astro-narratives. By making the English translation of von Wielligh's Boesman-Stories, where they contain astronomical themes, readily available, we hope that others may find even more material useful for their work.

References

  1. Bleek, W.H.I. & Lloyd, L.C. (1911) Specimens of Bushman folklore. George Allen: London.
  2. Bleek, W.H.I. (1875) Second Report Concerning Bushman Researches with a Short Account of Bushman Folk-lore. Saul Solomon: Cape Town.
  3. Deacon, J. & Dowson, T.A. (1996) (eds) Voices from the Past: /Xam bushmen and the Bleek and Lloyd Collection. Witwatersrand University Press. The Khoisan Heritage Series.
  4. Guenther, M. G. (1989) Bushman folktales: oral traditions of the Nharo of Botswana and the /Xam of the Cape. Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart.
  5. Hewitt, R. L. (1986) Structure, meaning and ritual in the narratives of the Southern San. Helmut Buske Verlag: Hamburg
  6. James, A. (2001) The First Bushman's path : stories, songs and testimonies of the /Xam of the northern Cape. University of Natal Press: Pietermaritzburg.
  7. Langenhoven (1922) "Stille Waters", Die dokter se viviseksie, Die Burger, 1922 December 25
  8. Lloyd, L. C. (1889) Short Account of further Bushman Material collected. David Nutt: London.
  9. Van Vuuren, H. (1995) Die mondelinge tradisie van die /Xam en 'n herlees van Von Wielligh se Boesman-Stories (vier dele, 1919-1921). Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, 33(1), 25-35.
  10. Von Wielligh, G. R. (1920) Boesman-Stories. Deel II. Dierstories en ander verhale. De Nationale Pers: Cape Town.
  11. Von Wielligh, G. R. (1921) Boesman-Stories. Deel 1: Mitologie en legendes. De Nationale Pers: Cape Town. (First edition in 1919)

Appendix 1. English translation of Boesman-Stories (1921)

Source: Von Wielligh, G. R. (1921) Boesman-Stories. Deel 1: Mitologie en legendes. De Nationale Pers: Cape Town. (First edition in 1919)

Von Wielligh's remarks about his stories

In his opening comments to chapter 24, "The Animals ask for Food and Water", Von Wielligh notes:

[page 179] Some of the Spirit Tales of the Bushman are quite nicely set out; yet for children, who would listen all too keenly, parents don't find these as effective as ordinary stories; so we thought it best to suppress such stories, and where they do pop up, to make as little acquantaince with them as possible; yet this type of story is intimately connected to Bushman theology. The spiritual elements of these stories are suppressed – read on without concern

"A few words before"

[ page i ] "A few words before"

[ page iii ] As far as we can make out from the stories, there is amongst the Bushmen no definite, worked-out system of religion. It can be no different, because amongst them there is no recognized priestly caste. Each individual has his own understanding of the power of good and bad spirits. They believe that a dim light used to exist before the Sun came. The ancient race, or ancestors, could change themselves as they pleased. The Sun, Moon and Stars, together with the Mantis (a type of grasshopper), are honoured. The existence of figmentary Animals (Spirits) are acknowledged and honoured.

"No. 1 How Bushmen tell stories"

[ page 3 ] "No. 1 How Bushmen tell stories"

[ page 5 ] 'In those days the white people didn't live in this country yet. To tell you the truth, I don't know if there were white people yet; because today's Bushmen, their parents' parents' parents weren't there. The Sun, Moon and the Stars only came in those days. Now you must understand: it's not about the things of yesterday and the day before yesterday that I'm going to tell you; I'm talking about the dark days…'

Here one of us interrupt him: 'But [outa], when did the Sun, the Moon and the Stars then come?'

Swiftly, the answer was there: 'Wait now, little master, I will soon enough tell you everything. Wait until I get there. You must take into account that I don't have as many tongues as teeth so as to tell everything at once – you must give me time.'

"No. 2 Night and Darkness and their three Daughters"

[page 11 ] "No. 2 Night and Darkness and their three Daughters"

Remarks: From this Story it appears that the Bushmen were completely convinced that everything was born out of the Darkness: it was evening first and then morning. The [outa] who told us this Story always using the Bushman words 'Ga and 'Gagen in stead of Night and Darkness. And the Mantis he'd called 'Kaggen in Bushman.

In the olden days there was just twilight – just like on a dark stormy day. It was cold, and the Sun, Moon and Stars didn't yet shine. Old 'Ga (Night) and his old wife 'Gagen (Darkness) lived in a stony cave. They had no sons, but only three daughters.

"No. 11 The large Watersnake."

[ page 77 ] The large Watersnake carries a beautiful shiny gemstone on her head. At a great distance, the gleam of this gemstone can be seen, and it shimmers with exceptional light rays that far exceeds the light of the Moon; because it can clearly be seen at noon on the brightest sunshiny day.

"No. 12. The Sun the Head of Dancer Fire Man"

[ page 87 ] Remarks: This Story is told in different ways: what follows is as recounted by the best storyteller.

Dancer is the Fire Man, or the Fire Maker. Once he used to walk about as a human, from his head light and heat radiated. He is the one who put fire in stones, in the wood and in the clouds. Where he walks or goes, there is always light and heat; that is why he always had a large following around him. The hunters in his vicinity could see where the Game was, and those in search of veld foods could find it easily by the light of Dancer's head.

But sometimes Dancer is lazy to walk and just calmly goes and sits. If the hunters beg him to just walk further, so that they can see the Game, then he sits and mocks them, asking them why they don't go and make their own light. He also had a habit of taking the shot Game from the hunters.

This angered the hunters; because the women are dissatisfied if their husbands come home without food, and when they have nothing to give their hungry children, crying for food; so the women suggested to their husbands [page 88] they should kill Dancer and then carry his head around on a long stick, so that the people can see.

One hunter, agreeing with the women's talk, said: 'Good, let's shoot Dancer with poisoned arrows so his head can be carried around on a long stick, so that we can get warmth and light.'

A second hunter remarked: 'Yes, this may be fine, but who of us has eyes tough enough to endure that light, and whose hands are tough enough to cut off that hot head? Speak up, let me hear!'

A third asked: 'And where do we get a stick that won't burn from the heat?'

The fourth one remarked: 'Good grief, you're bad at making plans! I'll tell you what we must do: We wait until Dancer walks through the water – something he does often – then we get at him with the poisoned arrows; when he falls in the water, then his light and heat are gone.'

To this a fifth replies and says: 'You think that you're very clever, but actually you're very stupid. Tell me, how does it help us if Dancer's light and warmth are extinguished? Then we're back to sitting in the same old darkness and cold.'

Then everyone called out together: 'That's nothing! That's nothing! Then for once he's gone from us, to not bother us further and mock us.'

Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Jackal, Cat and others intimated they want nothing to do with the murder; because they can see well enough in the dark. They were also people of the ancient race.

[page 91] But the other speakers stick to their plan: they watch Dancer, and just as he walked through the water, they all shot simultaneously; the arrows hit him, he fell forward into the water, and out goes the light and gone is the heat.

They run up, quickly cut off Dancer's head underwater, and then drag his body out and put his head down on the embankment, to see what happens to it.

But Dancer's head and body wouldn't die: the head's eyes look about and turn from side to side, and the body stood up and walked about headless.

The head can see and talk, but can't bestir itself, while the body can walk about, but can't see, hear, smell or talk. The head calls to the body, but the body doesn't hear; the body in turn searches for the head, but can't find it; so instead of walking closer to the head, he goes further and further away.

The murderers of Dancer then walked away.

But a woman [Afrikaans: meid] sent her children to throw the head of Dancer into the sky, so that light and warmth would come. She warned her children to be careful that the body, which was walking about, doesn't get hold of them, or it will murder them.

The children then cautiously walked there. The head was beginning to dry and give light, and it was so hot when the children touched it that they abruptly threw it up into the sky.

When the mothers saw this, they called out: 'Wind, Wind, come and take the head high up into the blue sky that we can have light [page 92] and warmth!' Then a strong whirlwind came up and carried the head up to above the clouds and left it there.

The head of Dancer, Fire Man, then became the Sun.

Then all the people cheered, now that there was light and warmth over the entire Earth. Now they had enough light and didn't have to freeze from the cold. They call out: 'Oh Sun, stay there and give us light and heat all day! For that, well will thank and praise you all day. Great is the Sun, that can see all the people simultaneously. Who now does mischief, who now steals, who now murders, will be seen. And the Sun will incinerate him with his heat, so that the crook will not dwell amongst us anymore.'

The head of Fire Man is satisfied to stay up there in the sky; but he still does search incessantly for his body. In the mornings he starts searching at the mountains in the east. He climbs searching higher and higher in the sky, and when he's climbed high enough, he descends still searching downward, downward, downward until he comes to the mountains at the western side, and then dives, so he can search there in the deep waters of the Ocean.

He rummages through all the places on land and under water to look for his body, but he doesn't find it, because the body has been emaciated and become so stunted that is has now assumed the form of a Crab. And now the body walks, all the while without a head, up and down, next to the water's edge to search for the head.

[page 93] When the Sun goes away, he ensures that the Earth is pitch, pitch black; because in those days there wasn't yet Moon or Stars to shine at night.

So it was that the people in those days did no mischief. Because in the day it is lit, then everyone sees well; so the mischievous had no chance. At night, on the other hand, it is pitch-dark, then nobody can see to go about causing mischief – thus one would just stay where you are. During the day the people hunted and went searching for food; at night they went to sleep and rested; and there was no vagrancy in the dark.

Even the wild creatures have to stay home at night and look for their food during the day. This was a time of peace and contentment over the entire Earth.

"No. 13 The Moon is the Shoe of the Mantis"

[page 97] "No 13. The Moon is the Shoe of the Mantis"

Remark: Also this story is told in many ways, but we concern ourselves only with the best storytellers, who include more or less everything in this tale. Here we are told that it is because of the Rabbit that Death came into the world – before that time, the perished or murdered always rose up and lived again.

The Mantis made for himself a pair of neat shoes, with which he was very pleased. Yet, one of the shoes – the right one – was hard and it pinched him painfully on his right foot; so he said to his daughter, the Hammer-head (bird) to go and put the shoe in the water to soften.

About this the large Watersnake was very upset, because the Mantis dared to put his dirty shoe next to the water. The Watersnake made the water very cold overnight, so that the entire dam was iced over rock-solid the next morning. The shoe was set within a piece of ice.

That morning, the Mantis sent his daughter, the Hammer-head, to fetch the shoe. She brought it with the large piece of shiny ice attached. He got so annoyed about it that he threw the shoe away – up into the sky.

The Hammer-head, who knew the Wind Bird well, called out: 'Wind Bird, Wind Bird, take the shoe up, up, up in the sky, that we may have light at night also!'

[page 98] Then a whirlwind came up which brought the shoe up into the sky, and left it there.

The shoe with the piece of ice then became the Moon.

The Moon with the shiny piece of ice attached began to shine at night. The people of the ancient race then saw the Moon for the first time. They covered their faces with their hands and praised and honoured the Moon. From then on they had light at night and didn't have to wander about in the dark. They could go and hunt Porcupines and ambush Game at the waters and see to shoot them.

This did not suit the Sun; because he wanted to shine alone in the sky. He picked a quarrel with the Moon. The Sun is hot; because he is the head of Dancer, the Fire Man. The Moon is cold; because he is the hardened Waters. So the Sun tries to radiate lots of heat to melt the Moon's ice. The ice melts, melts, melts until only the sole of the shoe of the Mantis remains.

Then all the people cried, now that the Moon is dead. The large Watersnake, who tends the waters of the fountains, heard the crying and caused a fountain in the Moon to continually make water in the shoe, so that the water can become ice.

The water in the shoe grows continually until the entire shoe was again filled with water; the water becomes ice, and the Moon again shines with full force.

The Sun again spits his hot arrows upon the Moon, so that the Moon becomes smaller and smaller. The melted [page 99] ice then became the night-dew, or moon-water, and the pieces of ice became light snow and the frost that falls at night.

When the Bushman see the New Moon again, they again covered their eyes with both hands and call out: 'Oh Moon, we thought you were totally dead; but now we see that you are returned to us alive. Now we know that the Sun will never slay you. You will die, but will always come alive again. Make us just like you, so that when we grow old, we again become young and don't die.'

The Moon replies: 'You will grow old and always become young again. Thus you will never die. You will, when you are old, just sleep, and from that sleep you will soon arise, youthful. You will hunt again, you will eat and drink again, your women and children will be with you again; because they too will not die.'

So the people of that time never died.

But how, then, did Death come about?

One evening while the Moon was shining pleasantly, he heard a young man crying inconsolably. He asked the young man why he was crying bitterly and sorrowfully.

The young man answered: 'My mother is dead, and I will never see her again.'

With deep empathy the Moon said: 'Be comforted, my boy. Your mother will return to you, alive. She is just sleeping for a while, but isn't dead.'

The boy argued and replied: 'My mother is really dead, the Wind has left her nostrils, and the Fire is gone [page 100] from her body, so she does not breathe anymore and she is stiff and cold.'

The Moon comforted him again and said: 'Look at me; each month I die and soon come to life again, and so it will go with all the people: they will just sleep a while and awake again.'

But the boy then really started to argue with the Moon – which made the Moon angry. He struck the boy with his fist a blow on his upper lip so that the lip split in two, and so the young man changed on the spot into a Hare, that, bent, jumps about at night and in the moonlight over the fields [Afrikaans: kweekplate, lit. 'cultivating plains'].

The the Moon said: 'Because of you I will curse all the people. Henceforth they will die and never return alive. But if they do not argue with me, and not, as you did, make me out as a liar, then I will again one day take pity on all the people and make them rise from their graves.'

So Death came into the world by a Hare's argumentativeness.

"No. 14 The Stars are Coals and Ash"

[page 103] "No 14. The Stars are Coals and Ash"

Remark: In this story we are told where the stars come from, and how Evil on Earth spread.

The Moon arose out of the right shoe of the Mantis,'Kaggen. The Mantis made a second shoe in its stead. Though, the Moon didn't like it at all that 'Kaggen tramped his buddies, the shoes, when he walked. So the Moon let moonwater fall, that the shoes may constantly be wet, so that 'Kagen can't put them on.

The Mantis then called his other daughter, who later became the Owl, and he told her to place the wet shoes next to the Fire to dry.

The Sun wasn't overjoyed about this, that 'Kaggen dared put his dirty shoes next to the Fire. So he made the Fire flame up fiercely, so that the shoes would burn. When the Mantis sent for his shoes, they were burnt, and he scolded the Owl severely.

The Owl was annoyed and she took the coals and threw them up in the air and called out: 'Come on, coals, become Stars that we may have light at night while the Moon and Sun sleep!' And to the glowing Ash she said: 'Come on, Ash, become the Milky Way to help the Stars give light. Come give light, that the people may see at night and don't need to sit at home.'

[page 104] Then a big whirlwind arose again and took the coals and ash far above the clouds: the glittering coals then became the twinkling Stars, and the glowing ash became the Milky Way, that stands like an illuminated arch over the Earth. Then there was enough light to walk about at night.

When the Sun rose the next day behind the mountains, he saw the Owl sitting and he asked her: 'Who threw the sky full of coals and ash?'

The Owl answered: 'Me; because at night its so dark that nobody could see to walk about.'

The Sun replied: 'Do you know that you've done a great evil? Now people will walk around at night to do evil. I made the nights so dark that people couldn't see their hands before their eyes, and so they had to stay at home and sleep – the day is surely long enough for hunting and walking around, for talking, and for having fun; but now you will see that the door has been opened for doing wicked things. I will try hard to get the Moon out of the sky, so that there is no moon-shine. In the day, I will brush the Stars away infront of me. But what about you, my sister? Henceforth you will have to fly about at night by starlight; because should I see you in the day, I will burn you to ashes, just like I did with the shoes. Everyone who sees you, will mock you because of that stupid deed. Now then, get out of my sight and go haunt the night! And you will see that the Stars give you pitifully little light – just enough for the evil-doers to make mischief. The Stars are too distant to give you warmth; thus you will sit at night and shiver and shake.'

[page 105] The Owl then flew away to go and hide herself; because while flying about during the day, she is mocked.

And now she sits and ponders over what she did – if it was right or wrong. As she sits, she calls out 'Ho, hoa,' which in the Bushman language means 'lift up, lifted up'. So she is asking herself if she did wrong by throwing or lifting up the coals and ash into the sky.

The Sun blinded the Owl by day; so from that day on she never saw her brother, the Sun, again. She now takes delight in the Stars and Milky Way, or Heavenly Road, that she has made.

So it came to pass, just as the Sun predicted; henceforth the Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Jackal and Porcupine again went about at night to murder and rob. Henceforth the mischief-makers multiplied; because they now had sufficient light to see at night, while others can't recognise them from afar.

"No. 15 The Hammerhead Bird and the Frogs"

[page 109] "No 15. The Hammerhead Bird and the Frogs"

Remark: This Story gives us something about the superstitions of Bushmen and tells how the Hammerhead Bird can see everything in images on the water. It also gives us the origins of Flowers and Frogs that grow and live in the water.

[The Hammerhead Bird] … is on good terms with the Waters, that show to her views of everything that happens and still will happen. All that the Hammerhead has to do it just to look in the Waters and then she sees everything therein. During the day the Sun, Sky, Trees, Animals and everything roundabout, reflects in it. Colour for colour is visible in it. During the night we can see the Moon, Stars, Milky Way and all the other stuff in it…

"No. 16 The Owl and the Mice"

[page 115] "No 16. The Owl and the Mice"

Remark: In this Story we find further tales of Bushman superstitions and also of Resurrection.

The Owl is also a Bird of great significance. Just like the Hammerhead Bird he can see all the little things that happen and will still happen. The difference is just this: the Hammerhead sees things happening in the day in the Waters, and the Owl sees things at night in the Moon and Stars. The Owl is after all the Bird that made the Stars and the Heavenly Road, by throwing coals and ash up into the sky. Now those Stars and Milky Way tell her everything that will happen. Each person has his own Star. When a star shines particularly brightly, or flashes past, or gets a tail, then the Owl already knows exactly whose Star it is, and where he must go and deliver the tiding or message. … Us humans also look at the Stars. And what do we understand of it? But the Owl understands all. She notices if the Star blinks, becomes red, white or blue, if the Star has a tail, or cometary tail [Afrikaans: roei], and then in which direction the Star shoots, and in which direction the Star's tail point.

[page 116] The stars also speak to her through messages sent via the Fire Flies. To this all the Owl pays attention. Therefore those who are clever and ingenious listen to the Owl; because she does not lie: she always tells the truth. … The Moon also tells many things to the Owl; because the Moon can see far across the world. The Owl understands the Moon well: she looks at what direction the Moon's horns are turned. The Spirits ride across the sky in the hollow bowl; but as the hollow fills, the [page 117] Spirits leave, and when it is Full Moon then there is no place for them anymore – its disembarkment time.

Now, the Owl isn't as secretive as she appears. She comes to tell this to us; but we must just listen carefully.

[The story of the origin of Mice tells of two people who were torn to tatters by Lion, without spilling blood, or eating a piece of the meat]

[page 118] In the night the moon-water fell on the pieces of meat, life came into it, and each piece became a Mouse.

"No. 20 The Bullying Ways of the Tortoise"

[page 145] "No 20. The Bullying Ways of the Tortoise"

Remark: In this Story we are certainly dealing with an Evil Spirit, who takes pleasure in torturing people.

[Two men have their hands bitten by the Tortoise so badly that all the flesh is stripped off, leaving just sinew and bone.]

[page 146] 'When they got home, the Moon was still young. In the mornings, after getting up, they take some of the [page 147] dew, which is the water of the Moon, and wash their hands with it. And as the Moon grows, so too grows the flesh over their exposed sinews and bones. When the Moon was full, their hands were perfectly healthy and just like before.'

"No. 21 The Morning Star is the Heart of the Dawn"

[page 151] "No 21. The Morning Star is the Heart of the Dawn"

Remarks: This Story we heard at Katkop, Limoenkop and at Klipfontein, next to the Hantam River (district Calvinia), and from these it is compiled. To the Bushman, Wolf is a clever man, and here is told why he has an emaciated hindleg; also why the Lynx has tufts of hair at the tips of his ears and only eats meat.

The Sun used to be one of the ancient race, and in the light of his shiny face would walk about, hunt and have fun. But the other ancient ones got angry at him and then murdered him, and their children threw the Sun's brilliant head into the sky, from where it's been shining every day.

The oldest son of the old man was very fond of his father, and became the messenger of his father and performed various tasks for the old man. The name of the son was Dawn. [Afrikaans: Daeraad = red dawn].

His first task early in the morning was to dowse the lights of the Stars, and then to hang out the blue sky, behind which the Stars are hidden. Then the Sun gets out of his bed, and the son's work for the day is done. He then goes to hunt, dig for food or chat.

When his old father, the Sun, was done with his daily task, and fatigued, goes and sits in the evening in the west on the mountain ridges, [page 152] then the second son, named Dusk, comes over to his father, the Sun, to put him in bed. Then Dusk also is free to do what he wants. But never did Dawn and Dusk – though they were brothers – like each other; so they went to live far from each other.

One day, after getting up early and taking food and water to the bed of his old father, the Sun (as is his habit), Dawn went walking and saw a pretty young girl of the ancient race. Wolf's daughter was also there. Dawn wanted to get married to the pretty young girl; but Wolf's daughter was infatuated with the handsome Dawn; she became jealous. …

[Dawn's wife is tricked by Wolf's daughter into eating ant-eggs magicked by the addition of sweat. This transforms her into a wild Lioness. The spell is eventually broken, although she is now the Lynx.]

[page 159] She could now again look after her own child; and that daughter had children, and the children also had children. Everyone was turned into Stars; and those Stars still follow behind their parents and are now the brightest Stars in the heavens.

When Wolf's daughter returned home, she spoke of all the harm they did to her, also that Dawn wanted to kill her with the spear. Wolf's blood boiled with spite. On the spot he decided to kill Dawn.

He walked at night to where Dawn was sleeping, and tackled him. He murdered him and started to skin him. But just as he cut open the body, the sparkling Heart flew out and went up into the sky, and from then on was the Morning Star.

It was then that he came to fetch his wife, children and grandchildren, to live with him at the sunrise side of the sky. Though the big bright Morning Star, we must understand, is the Heart of the Dawn.

"No. 22 The Evening Star is the Eye of the Dusk"

[page 161] "No 22. The Evening Star is the Eye of the Dusk"

Remarks: This Story we heard once, on the farm Zovoorbij, next to teh Hantam River, district Calvinia. One evening in 1881 there was a Busman dance party, when one of the old guys [Afrikaans: outas] showed his talent for story telling.

The two sons of the Sun, Dawn and Dusk, haven't gotten along since their youth. As children they always argued and wouldn't sleep together. Dawn's work was from daybreak to sunrise, and his eyes weren't very good – thus he usually went to sleep early. If he was to stay up into the night, then a large fire was needed, to make light for him.

But Dusk had two big eyes, that in the dark shone like two flames. His work began at sunset and lasted until dark; then he gallivants at night, or goes hunting or looking for food. Since he didn't like his brother, Dawn, one bit, his first task was to put his father, the Sun, to bed, and then to give food and water to his exhausted father. Then he goes to pull down the blue sky, which Dawn hangs out in the morning, so that the Stars can again have the opportunity to twinkle and shine in the heavens.

[page 164] One morning, as Dusk was returning homeward from the hunt, and Dawn was preparing to make light – thus just at the beginning of daybreak – the two brothers met up and right away began to argue. They tussled and punched. Dawn grabbed sand and dust and though he wanted to throw it into the big eyes of Dusk, it was a miss. Then Dawn called out: 'This sand and dust will become mosquitos and midges, to bite you in the evening and at night.' Dusk, not to be outdone, grabbed water, to throw into the narrow eyes of Dawn – this too was miss. So he called out: 'It will become Dew, to wet your path in the morning!'

Because Dawn didn't have such good eyes, everyone who goes about in the morning twilight also can't see so well, while, on the other hand, Dusk had large eyes; thus everyone can see better at night than in the grey pre-day.

[The tale continues with Wolf's daughter, shunned by Dawn, who now falls for the other brother. But Dusk is already married and has a child. So Wolf's daughter poisons their food and steals the child. Dusk's wife is griefstricken and turns into an owl, mourning in the night for her lost child. Wolf's daughter, returning the child to Dusk, gets married to him. But Hammerhead Bird reveals the mischief to Dusk, who in his anger decides to kill his new wife. He arrives at Wolf's house (where the daughter is hiding) but Wolf calms him, telling him that his wife and child are waiting for him at a nearby cliff.]

[page 167] The two walked together, and when they stood on the edge of the precipice, Wolf pushed Dusk down the cliff. Dusk fell to the bottom. One of his bright eyes burst there, but the other flew up into the sky and became the large shiny Evening Star.

The child mourned and mourned over his parents and was not satisfied to be with Wolf's daughter. He wasted away until he became a Porcupine, who comes out when it becomes evening twilight and is sure to be home in the rock crevice before daybreak. Owl still sits and laments for her child, while Wolf each evening still tumbles Dusk down behind the western ridges.

"No. 24 The Animals ask for Food and Water"

[page 183] Yet at that time, there was no water. This the large Snake had promised to take care of. Thus the Animals asked the large Snake why he was delaying making water.

Straight away he crept under the ground and make the underground waters that stand or bubble out of springs.

The grass and trees next to the springs grew lush and rank; but the plants on the mountains and plains wither, wilt and dry up. Then those plants cried and begged the Stars and Moon to please pour some of their water over the trees, creepers and grass at night.

But the Moon and Stars replied that they had just enough water for their own use and none to spare.

Which made the plants that grow on the mountains and plains cry. The plants at the water sources also cried over the lot of their brothers and sisters. This mourning was too much for the Moon and Stars, who also started crying along with the thirsty; and their tears fall at night in drops on the leaves of the plants, so that in the morning they are wet with dew.

The situation now is: the Animals have enough drinking water at the springs, made by the large Watersnake; the plants that grow at the springs also have ample water, but the mountains and plains are dry and barren. Added to this: the Sun's rays are warm and thirsty, and the wind is dry and also thirsty; thus the sun's rays and the wind lap up the dew-tears early in the morning.

"No. 25 Bushman prayers"

[page 187] "No. 25. Bushman prayers"

Remarks: The Bushmen are thoroughly aware that higher Powers have been placed over Man and Beast. Where these Powers are to be found is not so well established. But the Sun, the Moon, the Stars and imaginary Spirits or Animals, in their view, possess such power. That is why the Bushmen turn, for help and guidance, to those heavenly spheres or creations of their own thoughts. …

[page 187] The winter nights are cold and long. As a faithful father the Bushman must provide meat for his wife and children and, during the scarcity of Game, has to be up early morning to go and hunt; the woman and her children sometimes go, unprotected, looking for veld-food like fruit, roots and edible bulbs. That's why they are pleased when the Sun comes out to warm them, so that their daily burdens will not become too heavy.

When the Sun comes out after a bitterly cold and hungry night, then the father or mother turns their faces, hands infront of the eyes, towards the rising Sun; and sometimes they tell their [page 188] children to do it also. Then he or she calls out: 'O Sun, I am so glad to see you perfectly returned again, arising to take on your work, without tiring. Make me just as strong as you that, when hunting Game, I don't tire, get hungry or thirsty. …'

Then they briskly go hunting. If the Sun becomes too hot during the day, then the beg for relief and coolness.

If the Sun goes down, and a cold and hungry night lies ahead, then they again turn their faces, with hands before their eyes, to the disappearing Sun and beg: 'Again a day is past, and we are still hungry…

When it becomes New Moon, then the Bushmen repeatedly look to the spot where they expect the young Moon. And [page 189] when one sees the re-newed Moon – the Moon that was dead and became alive again – and one points out the sliver of [Afrikaans: strepie, dim. of streep, 'a line'] Moon, then they again look at the place he is pointing. And when they see the Moon, then they close their eyes with their hands and call out: 'Its New Moon! Again New Moon! Take my old face away from me. Give me your new face. Take my face away, which isn't so joyful and is always sad, and give me your happy and joyful face, that dies and comes to life again, that diminshes and laughs again. …

When it's Full Moon, then prayers of the same nature are recited – but added to it is: 'The Sun shoots quickly with his arrows. He hits with his arrows, shooting off piece by piece of the Full Moon. But be courageous! You are immortal!'

The stars also earn the religious attentions of the Bushmen – specially the Planets and the big shiny Stars. In the summer there is a type of Grasshopper-Bug that screeches 'Tsau, tsau!' at night; yet the [page 190] don't want to hear of it that it's a big Bug that is going 'Tsau, tsau!', and say that it is the Stars. They claim that the Stars curse the bright eyes of Lions, Tigers, Wolves, Jackals, Cats and Springboks, because they also shine in the dark. Thus they say that it's the Stars that call 'Tsau, tsau!' on summer nights – they curse those who have bright eyes.

If a big bright Star makes its appearance at night above the mountain ridges, then in great reverance it is called out: 'Take my heart, which has shortcomings. Give me your heart, which beats with abundance. Because I don't believe you can have shortcomings. Everything up there with you is rolling and shiny in abundance …'

In this way each of their honoured Beings are taken in turn. Each is addressed to their nature. …

[page 191] To the imaginary Watersnake they call out: 'Your breast gurgles, because it is full of water. The Stars love you – therefore the gemstone gleams on your head. …

nothing more to see. please move along.