By J. D. Lewis-Williams
-draws from the original nineteenth century Bleek/Lloyd documents, newer ethnographic paintings, and San rock art;
-includes famous San tales akin to The damaged String, Mantis goals, and production of the Eland;
-extrapolates from our knowing of San mythology right into a greater version of ways humans create that means from myth.
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Extra resources for Myth and Meaning: San-Bushman Folklore in Global Context
SePhuti was the language in which he spoke (Orpen 1874:3). He ‘proved a diligent and useful guide, and became quite a favourite, he and his clever little mare, with which he 49 Chapter two dashed among the stones like a rabbit when his passion for hunting occasionally led him astray’ (Orpen 1874:2). As the military column laboriously journeyed through the mountains, Qing took Orpen to painted rock shelters and there, in the presence of the images, explained them to him. 3 Orpen did not have the linguistic ability to record Qing’s words in phonetic script.
But the salutation is a nugget. It invokes sharing relationships that underlie San society and many myths. All San tales should be read in terms of these relationships. To understand them, we need to expand our southern nineteenth-century sources by turning to the San who still live in parts of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia and Botswana and were the subject of the Kalahari Debate. Widely Separated San Groups Since the 1950s, when the Marshall family and a group of researchers from Harvard University began to study them, the Kalahari San have become one of the best known hunter-gatherer peoples in the world (Gordon 1986).
Although I continue to use the word, we should remember that ‘religion’ is not a neat given. It is a construct put together by scholars, a construct that is more easily seen as a bounded entity in some cultures than in others, the San being one of the latter. This is an important point that some writers ignore or downplay. For reasons that seem to flow from their essentially Western viewpoint they discount the prominent role of San religion and, as I go on to show, specifically the San’s principal religious experience: the altered states of consciousness that grade in intensity and that routinely occur in the frequently performed trance dance and other circumstances, such as dreaming and ‘special curings’ (for example, Guenther 2014).