Dark Origins – African myths and legends: The San (previously Bushmen) Part 3

In January and February, I introduced you to the San or Bushmen of Southern African and shared some of their cultural ways and traditional stories.

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-bushmen-part-1/

Part 2 provided an overview of the San hunting methods and I shared another traditional story. I also introduced you to the Bushman Heritage Museum in Nieu Bethesda. You can read it here: https://writingtoberead.com/2022/02/23/dark-origins-african-myths-and-legends-the-san-previously-bushmen-part-2/

Today, I am sharing a bit about the traditional religious beliefs of the San.

God and the afterlife

The bushmen traditionally believe in a greater and a lesser Supreme Being or God.

The greater God first created himself and then the land and the food it produces, the air and water. He is generally a positive power and protects, wards off disease and teaches skills to people. When angered, however, he can send bad fortune.

The lesser god is seen to be bad or evil, a destroyer rather than builder, and a bearer of bad luck and disease. The bushmen believed that bad luck and disease was caused by the spirits of the dead, because they want to bring the living to the same place they are.

Cagn is the name the bushmen gave their god. They attributed human characteristics to him as well as many charms and magical powers.

The bushmen believed in the afterlife and a dead man’s weapons were buried with him. They turned the face of the dead towards the rising sun, as they believed that if he was faced to the west the sun would take longer to rise the next day.


The bushmen heritage includes a deep belief in witchcraft and charms. They have a dread of violating them and bringing bad luck upon themselves. The hunters believe that if their shadows fall on dying game it will bring disaster upon them. No matter how thirsty a bushman is, he will not dig a hole in the bed of a dried-up stream until he has made an offering to appease the spirit of the stream. The spirit is thought to take the form of an enormous man with either red or green skin and white hair. The spirit can make himself visible or invisible at will.

San rock art

San rock art found in Namibia date back at least 25,000 years. The Bushmen continued with their rock art painting right up until the time of the European settlers. We know this because some of their more recent artworks depict wagons. Archaeologists believe that the San artworks were a way for the entire community to share mental images while in a group trance state.

The San artwork depicts non-human beings, hunters, and half-human half-animal hybrids. The half-human hybrids are believed to be medicine men or healers who performed healing dances.

Here are a few examples of San rock art we saw on our recent road trip to Nieu Bethesda:

San Bushman Moon Dance in the Kalahari Desert

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 3”

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:

    My Dark Origins post today provides some insight into the religious beliefs of the San (Bushmen), rock art and a YT video of a San Moon Dance. Thanks for hosting, Kaye Lynne Booth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great and very interesting tradition. I like how the deities are structured. 😉 Above all, the whole system does not require a lot of administration. 🙂 xx Michael

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Chris Hall says:

    The look on that little one’s face is adorable! I wonder how the situation will be for the San when he grows up.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Staci Troilo says:

    I love that you went on a trip and took your own photos. Fascinating culture. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Mae Clair says:

    The rock art is fascinating. Thanks for another intriguing look at the San, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It fascinates me how cultures develop beliefs in God and love of music. I so enjoyed watching the dancing, how it brought smiles to all of them and seemed to last a long time. My hands would hurt! But I suppose that wasn’t a consideration for them. Fascinating, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. CarolCooks2 says:

    I love rock art and its fascinating to learn more about the San and their beliefs, Robbie 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jan Sikes says:

    I love the San rock art! It was their only way of recording history or telling a story. A great post! Thank you for sharing, Robbie, and thank you, Kaye Lynn, for hosting.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. 25,000 years of history on those walls- that’s amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Darlene says:

    Fascinating as always. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It’s amazing that many cultures believe in after-life. I remember when my grandma passed away, one of the rituals was to burn the paper house, paper maids, and paper money on the seventh day and the 49th (7×7) day so that she could have those things on her after-life. We visited her graveside twice a year and burned paper money for her to “spend.”

    The dancing is very cheerful and the audience looked happy. Thank you for the post, Robbie. Thank you for hosting, Kaye.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What interesting rituals, Miriam. Fascinating. It brings to mind the an isn’t Egyptians, who included personal belongings in the burial chambers, things they might need in the afterlife, even pets. But I think that may have been only for royalty. I think it is wonderful that you do this each year. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • That was almost 40+ years ago when we visited grandma’s graveside. When my parents passed away, they were cremated. We got a “double occupancy” cubicle for them. My dad passed away first and my mom four years later. My sister visited them often and brought flowers to them. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Miriam, that really is fascinating and rather lovely too. It is nice to think the spirit has a home. The Zulus have some very interesting beliefs about ancestors and spirits which I’ll be covering next in this series.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Jim Borden says:

    it’s interesting that they would use the same name – god – to refer to the greater and lesser ones. I think of my religion where we would refer to the evil one as the devil. thanks for this fascinating insight into their religious beliefs, Robbie.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. artrosch says:

    I have some serious catching up to do to read these posts, Robbie. You know how sometimes there’s so much stuff flying at and through your head? This is a priority now and I’ll get back to you once I’ve read these posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thank you for another informative post about the cultural heritage of South Africa’s indiginous peoples. I’m curious about what type of pigment(s) were used to make the cave paintings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Liz, thank you for visiting I had to look for this answer. I sort of new it but wanted to ensure I was correct. This is what Wikipedia says about the paint: “They usually used red rock, which they ground until it was fine, and then mixed it with fat.” They then rubbed this on the rock to form the pictures. This paint that they used withstands the rain and weather for very long periods of time.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you very much for taking the time to seek out the answer to my question, Robbie! It’s amazing to think how long those paintings have lasted and how far back humans’ need for creative expression goes.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. memadtwo says:

    Their art and beliefs reflect their close connection with nature. It wouldn’t hurt us to try not to offend the earth. (K)

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Twenty-five THOUSAND years? Amazing that there is some of the art left. I tell you what, if history had been this intriguing and provocative in school, I’d have probably become a history professor! Thank you, Robbie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Annette, thankfully the methods of teaching history and other subjects have moved on since your and my day. We just used to have to sit and learn by heart pages of historical facts. Now the kids learn all about sources and cartoons and the whole experience is interesting and interactive.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Chel Owens says:

    I learned so much, like that there are San Bushmen. The superstitions are interesting as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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