Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 1


Replica of a San family living in the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn in the Klein (Small) Karoo. Picture by Robbie Cheadle

The San peoples, previously know as Bushmen, are members of the various Khoe, Tuu, or Kx’a-speaking indigenous hunter-gather cultures which are also the first cultures of southern Africa. The territories of the San peoples include Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa.

The hunter-gatherer San peoples are one of the oldest cultures on Earth and are believed to be descended from the first inhabitants of what is now Botswana and South Africa. The San were traditionally semi-nomadic as they moved seasonally within certain defined areas based on the availability of water, game, and edible plants. The areas occupied by the San were semi-desert or desert areas, including the Kalahari Desert.

During the colonial period, much of the land occupied by the San peoples was conquered. The pattern of lost land and reduced access by the San to natural resources has continued and is a primary contributor to the current displaced position of the San and the destruction of their ancient traditional lifestyles.

Rock art – human hand

The San are well known for their rock art which is found in caves and rocky overhangs where the San lived. These rock paintings comprise mainly of animals and human figures. On a recent trip to Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, I saw a reddish handprint of a San Shaman. It is believed that the San didn’t view rock as a solid surface and these handprints indicate so-called energy points, where the San believed a person could travel through a cave wall’s illusory solidity.

Rock art – human handprint. Picture by Robbie Cheadle

IXam mythology

IXam, formerly spoken by the IXam-ka peoples of South Africa, is considered an extinct language. Fortunately, some of the IXam stories were recorded by linguists Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in Cape Town in the 19th Century.

This is the IXam story of the sun’s origins:

“The sun was an old man of the Early Race who lived in a hut on earth. The light of the sun shone out of his armpit and only lit up the space around his house. The earth was dark and cold and the mothers couldn’t dry the ant or termite larvae that they collected to eat. Everybody was hungry and cold because there was no warmth from the sun who refused to share his light.

The mothers gathered the children together and told them to pick up the old man and throw him into the sky. They did this and now he sheds light over all the earth.”

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the San peoples and IXam story. Next month, I’ll be sharing more about the culture and traditions of the San and another traditional story.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5


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44 Comments on “Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 1”

  1. Staci Troilo says:

    I love the San belief about energy points in rock. That’s fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Loved learning more about the San’s People Robbie… Africa, holds a wealth of Historical evidence still to be acknowledged.. I love Michael Tellinger and his findings in Africa.. … Many thanks for sharing Robbie , really enjoyed reading and learning ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on and commented:

    Today is my first Dark Origins post of 2022. This year I am focusing on African myths and legends and I hope you enjoy this introduction to the San peoples [previously known as the Bushmen] and one of their mythological stories as well as some rock art. Thanks for hosting, Kaye Lynne Booth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A pleasure to host your posts, always, Robbie. 🙂

      I am pleased that you decided to go this way in 2022. It offers the opportunity to delve into legends that may not be as familiar as those you’ve explored so far. I’ve learned a lot about South Africa just from knowing you, but I am eager to learn more.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You shared such varied and interesting facts about a land I know so little of and it is most appreciated!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s interesting to learn about San’s People, Robbie! It’s also interesting to learn the legend and myths before science.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Darlene says:

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this information with us. The First Nations people of Canada have similar stories and legends. Unfortunately, colonization had a terrible effect on the original inhabitants of many countries.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Darlene, the colonists cannot take all the blame for the demise of the Bushmen. The Bantu peoples were also migrating at the time and they displaced many of the original inhabitants and took their hunting grounds over. Next post, I’ll share a picture which was a warning to other Bushmen about the direction of hostile Bantu tribes and to take care. It is all so very fascinating.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I did enjoy the San people’s sun origin story! Interesting that it took the mothers to address the problem of the selfish old man who was causing other people to go hungry.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You knew this would intrigue me, didn’t you. Hunter-gatherers–what an ancient lifestyle. I have a big book I’ll be reading about it in a few months. Can’t wait. Fascinating tribe.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Fascinating about the IXam language and the linguists in the 1800s who preserved it. Cool post, Robbie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Priscilla. I enjoy delving into the culture and myths of southern African people. It is so different and interesting. We visited the IXam centre in Nieu Bethesda and the guide was a descendent of this extinct people. He was knowledgeable and interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. memadtwo says:

    Smart mothers! (K)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I really enjoyed this VERY much! Outside of Africa, so little is known about these people — and much of what we supposedly know is also wrong. Thank you!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    This was really interesting and great pictures to go along with it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Jim Borden says:

    thanks for the history lesson; my favorite part was the IXam story about the sun…

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Chris Hall says:

    Of course you know, Robbie that I’m fascinated by all things San – I’ve read about them extensively too. I read about the red handprint which guided a shaman into the spirit word in ‘The Rainmaker’ by Don Pinnock. Brilliant novel!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Resa says:

    Roberta is amazing! Love this history.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. […] Last month, I introduced you to the San (previously Bushmen) of southern Africa and shared about their rock art. You can read the post here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/01/26/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-san-previously-bus…. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. artrosch says:

    41 comments! I call that success! I, too, have walked through walls, though at the time I thought I was somewhere else.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. artrosch says:

    What I meant to say is BRAVO, Robbie, for bringing the energy of the remarkable San people to our attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. […] Part 1 provided an introduction to the San and some information about a specific rock art form of the human hand. You can read it here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/01/26/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-san-previously-bus… […]

    Liked by 1 person

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