Nyae Nyae !Kung Beliefs and Rites, 11-13




233 to 240

p. 234 fire of /Ka-/Kani {cognate perhaps with /S.uQ/ 'oppress, distress' (Strong's 6693), or else <ar. /S.aKK/ 'to shut, lock'}

"The !Kung have the belief ... that a person's ... fingernail and toenail parings continue to be a part of the person's body ... . In the !Kung version of the belief, ...

get hold of ... nail parings ... and burn it. The burning substance makes Ka /Kani's fire, which ... can cause blindness."

{Mahuika : "inside the fingernail, ... that fire burnt" (WMR, p. 121).}

" Ka /Kani was the man who first had fire sticks, kept them in secret, and made the fire to cook his family's food. =Gao N!a took Ka /Kani's fire sticks, broke them into bits, and threw them over the whole world, so now

there is fire in all wood and all mankind can get it out with fire sticks" (Marshall 1976:348)."

{"Mahuika ... collected up what was left of the fire and put it inside the kaikomako ... tree" (WMR, p. 122).}

WMR = Anaru Reedy (transl.) : The Writings of Mohi Ruatapu. Canterbury U Pr, 1993.

p. 235 Lightning's teeth

"Lightning teeth (fulgurite {glass produced by lightning's smelting of sand}) placed in the rain horn calls the rain. Lightning teeth can also call lightning."

[7.1 (p. 166) "A duiker horn is used for a rain horn."

7.1 (p. 167) "In this horn is placed ... red heartwood of the /ana tree (Acacia giraffae Burch.) ... and the juice of gwe, the very succulent storage organ {tuber} of Raphionacme burkei N.E. Br."]

p. 238 flying lions

"The !Kung believe ... that malevolent healers do exist ... . They can take the form of lions and fly through the air. ... The !Kung said that even to see such a lion could cause a person to die of fright."

{Flying winged tigres are ridden through the sky by shamanesses (in their dreams) of some Siberian tribes.}

p. 239 magic bow

[Auen & Naron myth] "Tji-tji had killed a gemsbuck. Gaua arrived ... . ... Gaua then took the horns, made the little arrows out of them, invested them with //ai and before departing taught Tji-tji the dance. ... (Fourie 1928:104)."

{cf. <ar. /<AYY/ 'incapable'; /<aya>/ 'incapability, inability'.}

"magic bow and arrows. ... . ... the arrows ... could not be seen to strike."

{cf. the bow-&-arrows of Apollon and of Artemis, which invisibly shot at mortals in deadly fashion}

{Would the meaning 'incapability, inability' refer to mortals' inability to see these arrows, or to the arrows' incapacitating quarry?}



Supernatural Peoples

241 to 248

12.1 (p. 241) milipede

If a millipede were killed by a human, "the n/n berries (Grewia flava DC.) ... would not ripen properly."

{"N/N" may be cognate with "NiS.S.aN" 'flower' (Strong's 5339), and with "apam NaPat" : "AP" is 'plant-sap' (cognate with "OPium").}

Among the Naron and Auen, "The milipede, said to belong to Hishe, is only touched by them (the magicians) : They dry it and use it powdered ..." (Schapera 1930:197)."

"The /Gwi share with many Khoikhoi ... the belief that mllipedes have the habit of entering the ears of sleeping people and boring through to the brain to kill the sleepers." (Silberbauer 1981:75). {explanation for dying in one's sleep}

{Souls of the dead encountre their own brains in the form of berries (according to Passamaquoddy and Mikmak). Brains are used (by Amerindians) for curing hides; berries (by Amerindians) for praeparing sacramental meat.}

{no relationship to Sandwich-Islander divine caterpillars which encountre souls of the dead?}


12.2 (pp. 242-4) Mantis religiosa

p. 242 name of 'Mantis' (Mantis religiosa) as 'God' (Schmidt 1973:103-4)


'mantis, God'






hais^e, hase, hise





p. 242 "The Nyae Nyae !Kung ... Instead of giving the mantis the name of their deity, ... call it the messenger of //Gauwa (//Gauwa /koa !a)". {Its message from //Gauwa would be its omen to humans.}

p. 243 /Xam myth of Mantis and Ichneumon

"/Kaggen went to where the ticks live. ... /Kaggen escaped ... slowly home. There Ichneumon told him he should never have gone to the ticks". (Bleek 1923:30-2)

p. 244 omen-animals : mantis & chameleon (Schmidt 1973:112-5)

"As an oracle the mantis may be asked if ... has wandered off and in which direction ... . The turn of the mantis's head would indicate the direction. Mostly the mantis would be asked about rain. It was thought to predict rain if it stretched its arms high ... .

... the mantis is not the only creature that is believed to have oracular power; quite generally among Khoisan peoples the chameleon is also believed to have it".

p. 244 any humans who harm a mantis are divinely punished for this crime

"If anyone should injure a mantis ..., //Gauwa would see this, say his servant was being ill-treated, and punish the person with sickness."


12.3 (pp. 245-8) supernatural peoples

pp. 245-6 Gemsbok People

p. 245

"people who have the form of gemsbok live in the south. The Gemsbok People look exactly like animal gemsbok (!gwe) ... . ... Gemsbok People can talk. ... Their place is far to the south; but ... one could encounter them anywhere. ... If a hunter did kill one, however inadvertently, he would die.

Megan Biesele found that the !Kung in Botswana knew the Gemsbok People

by the name "!Xonsi."

{This may be cognate with /T.aH^iyahu/, the name (LA-L 3:45a) of the emmets who confabulated concerning Sulayman.}

The !Xonsi are gembok in the bush and people in camp ... .

{Some North American tribes believe that all animal-species are human tribes who deliberately disguise themselves as animals (whenever ordinary humans see them), but who return to their normal human shapes (whenever no ordinary humans are looking at them).}

Others said that the Gemsbok People have the heads of gemsbok on people's bodies. Some pointed out that the !Xonsi lived in the southwest -- that is, in Namibia ... . They claimed that Gemsbok People ... drank ostrich urine, and the men did not wear breechclouts ... .

p. 246

The Gemsbok People ... according to Nyae Nyae !Kung belief ... originated the art of making ostrich-eggshell beads; they bore the holes in the beads with their long horns."

p. 246 Wildebeest People

"the Wildebeest People ... look like the animals. ... . ... if a person killed one of the Wildebeest People he would surely die."

p. 247 'Knee Knee None' People

"The Knee Knee None or the People Who Eat the Sun are known also as "those who sleep standing up." ... They look like Bushmen except that their feet are thin as grass blades, and they have no joints in their knees. The !Kung usually call them !Koa !Koa Kwara (Knee Knee None).

... it is so hard for them to ... lie down that they always stand. When they sleep they lean against trees,

[p. 322, n. 12:2 : ""elks ... have legs without nodes or joints, and they do not lie down to sleep ... . Trees serve them as couches; they bear against them, and thus, leaning ..., take their rest" (GW 6:27).]

or, if they can, they wedge themselves into crotches in the trees. When they eat, they lift the food from the fire up to their mouths with long, sharp sticks.

These people regularly eat the sun. ...

[p. 322, n. 12:4 : "in Tswana mythology there is also a people who eat the sun when it sets. ... Their outstanding characteristic is that they have two mouths, one in the front of their heads for talking, the other, with huge teeth, at the back of their heads for eating."] [With the Tswana mouth "at the back of their heads", cf. the Nyae Nyae "place at the back of his neck" (p. 60) for ejecting sickness.]

Every evening the sun comes down to earth and turns into an elephant. ... The Knee Knee None kill it, and

when we see it round and fiery red at sunset, it is the meat we see. {This must be raw meat.}

{Pis`a ('raw meat') is devoured by the Pis`aca deities. The moon (Skt. /mas/), moreover, is deemed to be cooked meat (Skt. /mas/, /mams/, /mamsa/).}

The people then dance the Sun Dance. ... The adults then eat the meat. ... When they have finished, one of the men takes the elephant's

clavicle bone

{This myth would seem to imply that this "elephant" hath only a single clavicle-bone, a situation true of no mammals, but of all birds. Consider, in this connection, the winged "flying elephants" in the mythology of the Puran.a-s.} {There are also myths in West African tribes regarding a supernatural clavicle-bone.}

and throws it across the sky to the east. There it falls into water. By morning it has grown to be the sun again. It comes out of the water, dries itself in a tree, and bright yellow once more, begins its daily journey. ...

The !Kung told us that they sometimes hear the clavicle bone passing over them at night. {This would be while the sun is hurtling in its hurled career from west to east.} It makes a humming sound like a wind. They think if a short man throws it they hear it, but if a a tall man throws it, it passes so high over them that they hear nothing."

GW 6:27 = Julius Caesar : The Gallic Wars. Lib VI, Cap. 27.

p. 322, n. 12:3 sexual appetite

"the Dobe !Kung believe that the Knee Knee None have abnormal sexual appetite".




251 to 268

13.0 (p. 251) worship

Some other Khoi-san tribes "worship the moon or stars ... (cf. Schapera 1930:172ff)".


13.1 (pp. 252-3) the Sun

p. 253 how the sun was divinely made as a toy (according to the /Gwi tribe)

"N!iriba, whose other name is Pisiboro, is the great god of the /Gwi ... . ...

{This name would be cognate with <ar. /NuT.T.ar/ 'scarecrow', /NaT.iR/ 'lookout in crow's nest'. According to Chinese mythology, there is a divine crow in the SUN.}

To make the sun, N!iriba made a zini toy. ... N!iriba took a korhaan feather [the male korhaan "seeming to somersault" aloft (4.4 p. 106) {so that its feather would assist the toy to perform ae:rial acrobatics}] and shaped it ... . N!iriba tied it to a reed with a cord and tied a glowing coal {ember} to the reed in the position pf the weight. ... The third time he tossed it very high, and it stsayed in the sky and became the sun. ...

When there was light N!iriba went hunting. He ... to stalk ... crawled on his hands and knees. The sun had made the earth so hot that N!iriba's knees were badly burned. ... While he was shouting, a tree sprang up. This was the first tree that sprang from the ground. (Trees of the same kind ... have edible berries and thorns that grow in pairs.)"


13.2 (pp. 253-6) the Moon

p. 254 omens from the Moon (according to the Nharo tribe)

"when the crescent moon slopes {is concave} downward , it is said to be looking into a grave and to be a sign that many people will die ... .

A crescent moon pointing {concave} upward is a favorable sign.

The round full moon is a sign of satisfaction : people will find plenty of food."

p. 254 phases of the moon, according to the !Kun

"The !Kung observe five phases of the moon ... . ...

{Each of the 5 phases would be of 6 days.}

The phases are called

small new moon, older small moon, female moon ..., male moon, and waning moon."

p. 254 mythic origin of the moon (according to the /Gwi)

"Pisiboro dug up a //ha root one day. ["//Ha ... has a climbing vine."] Pisiboro cut away the bottom part of the root and ate it. A thin piece of the root was left. Pisiboro threw it into the sky. ... It is the moon."

pp. 255-6 myth about the Hare and the Moon (according to the Nharo)

p. 255

"The moon and hare went to ... their water hole ... to fill their ostrich-eggshell water containers ... . ...

p. 256

The moon ... told the hare that her face was still dirty. To think that the moon considered herself cleaner than she angered the hare so much that she took a handful of mud and threw it onto the moon's face. ... The people ... went to get the moon. They washed her and cleaned her and brought her home".

p. 255 "This myth admirably fits the Bushman way of life ... . For a person to set himself above others was unacceptable social behavior."


13.3 (pp. 256-7) the Galaxy

p. 256 spinal column

"The Nyae Nyae !Kung's name for the Milky Way is "Backbone of Night." ... Other !Kung groups, the Tshimbaranda !Kung, the Nharo, and the !Ko, also call the Milky Way the Backbone of Night."

p. 257 ashes

"the Cape Bushmen had a myth that tells of a girl ... throwing wood ashes into the sky and thus making the Milky Way (Bleek and Lloyd 1911:73ff)."

{In some North American Indian cosmologies, the Galaxy consisteth of the ashes of campfires of souls of the dead.}


13.4 (pp. 257-68) the Stars

p. 257 eyen of the dead

"In the belief of some ... southern Bushmen, stars were said to be the eyes of the dead."

pp. 258-9 meteors : emmet-lions or hedgehogs

p. 258

"The Nyae Nyae !Kung star lore holds ... about meteors ... that they are ant lions (Myrmeleontidae neuroptera).

{Emmet-lions catch emmets by causing the emmets to fall into their burrows by means of sandslides : cf. the "sand" (EH, p. 51) wherewith a visitor to the Abyss is plastered ("a wall of falling sand" -- EH, p. 55); that Abyss being opened by the falling of a meteor (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 9:1).}

From where they are in the sky looking down, their big eyes shining, the moving stars see ants. If they are hungry and want to eat the ants, they fall to earth."

p. 259

"The /Gwi, however, do have a lore about stars eating ants, lore that varies ... from that of the !Kung. ... They are up there in the sky watching for ants, and when they see some and want to eat them, they fall to earth.

The stars are ..., ... As one sees them on earth, ... like tiny porcupines {viz., hedgehogs}. ...

{With the spininess of this /Gwi hedgehog, cf. that of the barrel-cactus whereinto the Aztec meteor-goddess fell from the sky.}

The skin of a dead star, looking like a little porcupine skin, would then lie on the ground. ... A healer, curing the afflicted person, would take a star skin, pull out some of the spines ..., and

scratch himself with them on ... the tip of the tongue.

{cf. the Aztec custom (as well as similar Taoist and cult-of-Skanda/Guha rites) of votive piercing of one's own tongue with a sharp-pointed spine}

This would empower the healer to suck out the star sickness and cure the person."

EH = Josephine McCarthy : The Exorcist's Handbook. Golem Media, Berkeley (CA), 2010.

pp. 259-60 Canopus & its related stars

p. 259

"Canopus was called Bushman Rice Star by the Cape Bushmen (Bleek 1929a:307; Schapera 1930:173). "Bushman Rice" is the eggs of white ants {i.e., of termites}."

{Kanopos was loved by Theo-noe, daughter of (CDCM, s.v. "Theonoe") shape-shifter Proteus by Psamathe ('Sandy' [cf. the emmet-lion's sandy trap?]), who had earlier been married to (CDCM, s.v. "Psamathe") Aiakos. Aiakos allegedly prayed concerning "ants carrying grains of corn up a near-by oak" (GM 66.e), this prayer being answered "in a dream" : but because true emmets never nest in trees, these "ants" must have been termites carrying [not "grains of corn" but rather] their own termite-eggs. [The frequent African cosmogonies deriving the earth from termites' nests must intend to signify that the material universe originateth out of shape-shifting (distorting) the dream-universe -- a philosophy consistent with that of the Australian aborigines.]}

"Canopus is included in a constellation with the Pleiades by the Nyae Nyae !Kung."

p. 260

"The //Gana make a constellation of Canopus, Sirius, and the Pleiades, saying the Pleiades are the wives of the two stars.

{The Pleiades goddesses were erotically pursued by (CDCM, s.v. "Pleiades") Orion, who sexually violated (GM 41.b) the daughter of Oinopion, namesake of the island Oinopia, birthplace of (GM 66.b) Aiakos.}

Achernar is Younger Brother, namely, younger brother of Canopus and Sirius.

{The star Canopus is (S-N&ThM, p. 71) Agastya, a son of Varun.a, so that other sons of Varun.a may be these other 2 stars.}

CDCM = Pierre Grimal : A Concise Dictionary of Classical Mythology. 1990.

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

S-N&ThM = Richard Hinckley Allen : Star-Names and Their Meanings. 1899.

p. 260 tribal names of the star Sirius



Nyae Nyae !Kun





'Water Star'


'Side Star' ("by the side of Canopus")

p. 260 miscellaneous star-names

Spica is called Pig {Warthog?} by the //Gana.

The //Gwi pair Altair and Vega together and call them the Steenboks. Vega is the male, Altair the female."

p. 260 Arcturus

"Dao Toa Tao (Fire Finish Finish) is the Nyae Nyae !Kung name for a star that the !Kung associate with firewood".

{cf. name of the Maori mythical hero /Wahie-roa/ ('Firewood-long').}

Arcturus is the Finish Fire of the !Ko, the /Gwi, and the //Gana".

p. 261 stars of the Crux Australis and of Kentauros


its !Kun name

a Crucis


y Crucis


a Centauri


b Centauri


"The two stars of the Cross are named for the sons of =Gao N!a. ... . ...the boys set forth with two lions to [co-]hunt and were treacherously killed and buried by the lions. =Gao N!a, passing by, ... asked the lions to fetch some water, and in their absence he hid a pair of magic horns in a tree. Then ... he induced the lions to show what good dancers they were ... dancing under the tree. ...

{Kxoma and Khan//a may be the 2 lions; who may in turn be aequivalent to the 2 sons of Aphareus. =Toma and /Gais^ay, for whom the tree was arranged, may be aequivalent to the 2 Diokouroi (Kastor and Polu-deukes), who "hid inside a hollow oak" (GM 74.g).}

=Gao N!a then resurrected his sons."

{Zeus resurrected Kastor (GM 74.j).}

"The //Gana and the /Gwi call these stars Giraffe Eyes. The Pointers were said to be the male giraffes; the four stars of the Cross are female. ... a and b Crucis were mother giraffes, d and y were daughters."

p. 262 the 3 stars having women's names


its name


Bau {This is a Sumerian goddess's name.}



"Saturn" [whereby is intended a star nigh Arcturus, according to p. 260]


pp. 262-3 Orion & the Great Magellanic Cloud, according to the Nyae Nyae !Kun; Hottentot parallel

p. 262


its name



Great Magellan Cloud

//Galli ("soft ..., grayish-colored grass)

Orion's belt

3 zebras ("The !Kung word for ... "zebra" is "/kwe."... . ... the middle zebra was a mare between two stallions".)

Orion's sword


"=Gao N!a ... saw the zebras and shot an arrow at the middle one. ... he missed. His arrow fell

p. 263

short. One sees it lying there pointing at the zebras. After his unsuccessful attempt he decided to send the zebras down to earth".

"According to the Hottentot tale, the three stars of the belt "are three fugitive zebras against the middle one of which the hunter shoots his arrows." The hunter is Aldebaran, a Tauri, the husband of the Pleiades.

[quoted from Schapera 1930:415 sq :] "The /Khunuseti (Pleiades) said to their husband. "Go thou and shoot those three Zebras for us; but if thou dost not shoot, thou darest not come home." And the husband went out with only one arrow ... . But he did not hit, ... his arrow had missed the Zebras. On the other side stood the Lion ..., and the man could not go and pick up his arrow ... . And because his wives had cursed him he could not return ... . And the /Khunuseti said to the other men : "Ye men ..., we defy our own husband to come home because he has not killed the game"".

"the Nharo of !Go Tsao shared the tale of a hunter standing on the Great Magellan Cloud shooting at three ... zebras."

pp. 264, 266, 268 Horn star

p. 264

"The !Kung name for the Pleiades is Tshxum. ... Capella is singled out by the unlikely name of Green Leaf Horn."

p. 268

According to the !Kun, "Capella is the female horn."

p. 266

"the North Sotho name for Canopus is Naka, which is related to lenaka, "horn of a beast." ... the star Achernar, not far from Canopus ..., is called Little Horn."

p. 267 myth of how a woman put to sleep a man who was abducting her (Bleek & Lloyd 1911:193 sq)

"Rain is a mythical horned beast. ...

{Endumion was son of (GM 64.a) nymph Kaluke ('Calyx, circle of green sepals') = Green Leaf Horn.}

He comes to court a young woman. ... The young woman ... fears that ... when Rain takes her ... she will become a frog. ...

She rubs his forehead again with buchu and he falls asleep.

[GM 64.b] Endumion "The sleep, from which he has never yet awakened, came upon him ... because Selene found she preferred gently kissing him to being the object of his too fertile passion."

[S^apat.i^m 4:21] Sisra> "Ya<el ('Ibex'), H.eber's wife, ... smote the pin ...; for he was in deep sleep; so he swooned".

Quickly she climbs into the tree and along a widespreading branch until she is at a distance from the sleeping Rain. Then she climbs down". {Thus, this tree's branches extend along the ground, similarly as do the lowest branches of a liveoak. That she would naturally praefer to walk along a tree-branch may suggest that she is a squirrel-deity.}


Khoi-san bibliographic references

Biesele 1975a = Megan Biesele : Folklore and Ritual of !Kung Hunter-Gatherers. 2 voll. PhD diss, Harvard U.

Schapera 1930 = Isaac Schapera : The Khoisan Peoples of South Africa. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Katz & Biesele 1986 = Richard Katz & Megan Biesele : "!Kung Healing". In :- The Past and Future of !Kung Ethnography. pp. 195-230.

Katz 1982 = Richard Katz : Boiling Energy : community healing among the Kalahari ... . Harvard U Pr.

Marshall 1976 = Lorna Marshall : The !Kung of Nyae Nyae. Harvard U Pr.

Fourie 1928 = L. Fourie : "The Bushmen of South West Africa". In :- C. Hahn; H. Vedder; L. Fourie : The Native Tribes of South West Africa. Cape Times Ltd, Cape Town. pp. 79-105.

Silberbauer 1981 = G. Silberbauer : Hunter and Habitat in the Central Kalahari Desert. Cambridge U Pr.

Schmidt 1973 = Sigrid Schmidt : "Die Mantis religiosa ... der Khoesan-Vo:lker". ZEITSCHRIFT FU:R ETHNOLOGIE 98(1):102-25.

Bleek 1923 = Dorothea Bleek (ed.) : The Mantis and His Friends : Bushman Folklore. Blackwell, London & Oxford.

Bleek & Lloyd 1911 = W. H. I. Bleek & Lucy C. Lloyd : Specimens of Bushman Folklore. George Allen, London.

Bleek 1929a = Dorothea Bleek : "Bushman Folklore". AFRICA 2:302-13.


PEABODY MUSEUM MONOGRAPHS, No. 8 = Lorna J. Marshall : Nyae Nyae !Kung Beliefs and Rites. Harvard U, Cambridge (MA), 1999.