Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 2Posted: February 23, 2022
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-bushmen-part-1/.
Today, I am going to share a poem from the extinct IXam tribe and a little more about the San.
San hunting methods
The San are excellent hunters. They do some trapping of animals but hunting with a bow and arrows is their preferred method. The San arrows are smeared with a deadly poison that kills the animal slowly. As the animal takes a long time to die, the hunters have to track it sometimes for a few days.
The San make their poison from a caterpillar called ka or ngwa or from the larvae of a small beetle. Sometimes they use poison made from plants or snake venom. San poisons are highly toxic. In order to prevent accidental contamination, they reverse their arrow points and keep them inside the reed collar of their arrows. They also smear the arrows with the poison just below the tips.
The San use every part of the animals they hunt. Hides are tanned for blankets and the bones are cracked and the marrow eaten.
Water is scarce in the areas inhabited by the bushmen. During the dry season, moisture is collected by scraping and squeezing roots. They also dig holes in the sand to find water and also carry water in the shells of ostrich eggs.
Myths of the IXam
One of the myths of the IXam is about how the Milky Way was formed. They have a poem/story called The Girl Who Made Stars which tells this story.
You can listen to me reading this story here:
This story demonstrates the San belief that feminine energy is dominant in the creation of the cosmos.
In this story, a girl who is menstruating for the first time throws wood ash and edible roots into the sky. The ashes and roots become stars and light the people’s path as they walk by at night. This myth depicts the creator of the Milky Way and all the stars in the dawning womanhood of a pubescent girl.
The girl in this story is confined to a small hut during this time. She may not eat the young men’s game as her doing so would destroy their abilities as hunters. A look from her can turn a springbok wild. She is a fragile girl but she is powerful and to be feared at this time. She is also kind and benevolent, creating the stars so that people can see at night.
The Bushman Heritage Museum in Nieu Bethesda
During our road trip earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to visit The Bushmen Heritage Museum in Nieu Bethesda and see the beautiful wall hangings that have been created by the descendants of the now extinct IXam tribe to celebrate their mythology and to help remember it.
This short video shares a bit about the creation of this museum and what it stands for. The story of the bushmen is a tragic one and this video will give you gooseflesh.
The picture above is of the restaurant at the museum which also has some wonderful local art made by the descendants of the IXam tribe available for purchase.
If you would like to learn more about the Bushman Heritage Museum, you can do so here: https://bushmanheritagemuseum.org/
Next month, I will share the last post in this short series about the San or Bushmen of southern Africa.
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.
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