Religion and folklore among the Basarwa [east-central Kalahari]

pp. 5-11 – IV. Yo/wa




"When Yo/Wa becomes an old man, he always turns himself into a baby. After he turns himself into a baby, he turns himself into an old man again." {cf. self-tranfiguations of Zagreus}


"Yo/wa is now dead. ... The Botleti people killed him because he has dug a well at Xia. {cf. wells dug by} They found him inside the well. ... The people used stones to kill Yo/wa. {cf. martyrdom of St. Stephanos} While the people were killing him he did not say anything. {cf. "as a sheep is dumb ... so he opened not his mouth"} ... When they came back the next day, he was alive again. After he was alive again, he started to dig again. The people came and killed him again with fire."


"Yo/Wa’s footprints ... have been reported to have been seen ... at ... Xia". {cf. the 3 footprints (steps) of Vis.n.u}


"Yo/Wa had three wives :

/osune {cf. [Yoruba goddess] OS^UN} (who resembled a baboon),

/usabas (who was very beautiful,) ["an ostrich, the daughter of the chief of all the ostriches"] and

Ga/wagu. The first two wives were killed by Dimo and Ga/wagu turned herself


into a bushbuck".

pp. 12-16 – V. death & ghosts




"while the person turned into a ghost, the soul went to [the] sky."

"After he dies, a person becomes a ghost. ... Ghosts live in the house in the day where they were buried. They sit there. In the night, they come out."


["outer, tangible signs which announce the death of a human being"] "the falling of a star and the appearance of the "tsheto bird" which "flies around people and calls to them" to announce death. "After the bird calls to the man, the man will follow him and the bird will lead him to where the dead man is.""


"Another informant, who maintained that he could speak to ghosts, stated that a ghost had beat him because he could not answer a difficult question which the ghost had posed to him."


"ghosts make apparitions in the form of light. The colour of the light was reported to be green, red or blue."


"Ghosts ... sleep by day."

pp. 21-27 – VI. story of fire




Saying "Gagaga", the ostrich cooked, under its wing, meat for Gi/wabe.


Gi/wabe stole the fire from under the wing of the ostrich and fled, telling the thorn-tree to close the way behind him. That tree caught the ostrich.


It was the thorny seedpod of the makakamare tree that caught the ostrich.


The kakamare tree caught the ostrich by its legs.


After the ostrich cooked hare in the fire under its wing {cf. the jataka about the Buddha casting himself into the fire in order to be cooked in his hare-incarnation; and the Algonkin myth of theft of fire by Manaboz^o the Great Hare}, then that fire was stolen; the ostrich laid eggs while "the squirrels are sewing the blankets";


ostrich-eggs are "the food which is eaten by the squirrels."

pp. 27-31 – VII. stories of Yo/wa




Gi/wabe owned a well nigh Xia;


the people set him afire.


"Yo/wa put the man Koto/wase on his back." 7 women who "looked up ... in the sky" found Koto/wase as a dead bushbuck and "cooked him as meat. ... Then Koto/wase jumped out of the pot. He turned back into a person. He went whistling".


Yo/wa found a [bush]buck which lacked a leg. {cf. [Zaratustrian mythic] 3-legged ass standing in the sea Vourukas^a} "He went on the buck’s back. He could not see the buck." {cf. gazelle as vahana of Vayu, god of the (invisible) wind}


"Yo/wa ... made ... a whistle. ... When the hornbill whistled, the hut built itself."


Expecting likewise to be able magically to make a new house, Yo/wa caused his wife to burn their house, but he was unable to make another; that wife moved into another woman’s house, but Yo/wa was not allowed to move into it with her, so Yo/wa was rained upon out-of-doors. "He turned himself into a stone. ... Yo/wa turned himself into water." {cf. Bodish legends about saints who were able to transform themselves into pools of water, with pebbles in the pool retained in their bodies as ailments.}

p. 28 "the dream gives clues or indications of what Yo/wa should do to remedy his situation or predicament. ... In this case, he turns himself into another story."

pp. 40-43 – IX. stories about an old woman and about Dimo




"Dimo killed a man who had one eye on each foot. The man’s name was Kare/echaibe... . ... They had some mojanje nuts in their sacks."


An old woman told a girl, " ‘... half of my body has been eaten by Dimo.’ The old woman told the girl she must get into the third house to find the beads. The girl ... went inside right to the back of the house. She found the beads. Then the door shut itself while she was inside. The owner of the house was Dimo. The girl became the wife of Dimo. Her name was Ntswakae." They had 4 children, 1 horned boy and 3 girls (2 horned). To visit his parents-in-law, he put his wife & their 4 children into a drum; but the parents-in-law secretly substituted bees for the wife & children, so


Dimo was stung by the bees on his way back home.


"One of the children took her marabe (kaross) – And threw it in the river. ... She opened the hut and got inside and locked it. And when she was still inside, she just heard Dimo -- ... banging the drums".


"The old woman who had teeth on both sides of her head ... saw the two boys on the top of the tree. ...


[When fire was invoked by the boys,] ... the old woman was burned by the fire. ... Then the girl ... went to cut the old woman’s toe. ... The toe began to grow into a baby. ... The husband took that baby and ... went to a crossroad ... . ... The mother ... went ... to the zebra."

p. 17 "Dimo is a combination of man and animal. He is giant-sized, has four legs and the fur, ears and tail of a lion. His face, however, is half-human and half-lion. He has a mouth on both sides of the head and his eyes are located far to each side of the head."

pp. 44-52. – X. stories of creation




"Yo/wa created the sun by the wing of the Mokweba bird. He threw the bird’s wing to the sky and that wing turned to the sun." {cf. Kemetian and Akhaimenian winged sun-disks}


"They used to throw the wings of the guinea fowl to the sky and when the wings were in the sky, they have light. When the wings come back, they have night."


"Yo/wa ... found a squirrel playing with the moon. ... He took the moon and threw it to the sky."


"Yo/wa ... found a hare eating magubala nuts. ... he took many nuts and threw them up to the sky. ... The nuts changed into the stars."


"The woman zebra was going to look for the nuts. ... The zebra’s husband ... took the nuts and threw them to the sky and they became stars."


"Kekataba/webe is the brother of Tetaxagomang." Tetaxagomang had an elephant-woman as his wife; but she was treacherously killed by Kekataba/webe, while the as-yet-unborn Ketkataba/webe was on a temporary leave of absence his own mother’s womb.


"They took the spider web. Kekataba/webe said, ‘Bring the web and let me climb up to the sky.’ Kekataba/webe climbed first. ... When his brother climbed, Tetaxagomang cut the web. His brother fell down."


"There was an old woman. She had two mouths, one in the back of the head and one in the front. ... There were two boys. ... Those boys’ names were Thatagatshu and //atsaraka/we. ...


That old woman took her child, which was a snake and swallowed it. ... The snake told her, ‘There are those boys at the top of the tree.’ ... [Thatagatshu summoned his pets,] the fox and the hyena ... . [//atsaraka/we summoned his pets,] The lion and leopard". Those pets slew the old woman; thus they recovered "those boys’ father, who had been swallowed by the old woman. ... They went up to the heaven."


Thatagatshu is producer of the thunder-sound; //atsaraka/we is producer of the sound of rainfall.


Thatagatshu married an elephant-woman; while he abode amongst the elephant-folk, "his mother became pregnant and when she was pregnant her husband was swallowed by one of the old women called Xum Xum Dilo." While that unborn brother was temporarily absent from his mother’s womb, "the child opened the bag and the birds came out from the bag and just rushed on his brother’s wife." {if Pandora’s box be comparable, then Thatagatshu = Epi-metheus}


Leopards & hyaenas were given by //atsaraka/we to his brother Thatagatshu as pets; while //atsaraka/we retained tigres & lions as his own pets.


When the tree wherein the brethren were hiding was about to be chopped down to be chopped down by the old woman, they summoned their pets; thus the boys recovered their father. "//atsaraka/we ... went to the sky. ... there, the small boy turned himself into thunder."

Linda M. Barnes : Religion and Folklore among the Basarwa in Letlhakane, Botswana. Remote Areas Development Programme, Republic of Botswana, Gaborone, 1980.