Khoisan tribe religion
Many Khoisan peoples believe in a supreme being who presides over daily life and controls elements of the environment. In some Khoisan belief systems, this god is worshiped through rituals or small sacrifices. A second, evil deity brings illness and misfortune to earth. This dualism between good and evil pervades other areas of Khoisan thought about the nature of the universe. Some Khoisan belief systems maintain that a person should never attempt to communicate with the beneficent deity, for fear of provoking his evil counterpart, and some believe that spiritual beings simply ignore humanity most of the time.
Traditional Khoisan religion also included numerous mythic tales of gods and ancestor-heroes, whose lives provided examples of ways to cope with social conflicts and personal problems. Also important was the use of dance and altered states of consciousness to gain knowledge for healing an individual or remedying a social evil. Healing dances are still among the most widely practiced religious rituals in South Africa, even in the 1990s, and are used in some African Independent churches to heal the sick or eradicate evil.
For many Khoisan peoples, the sun and the moon were gods, or aspects of a supreme deity. The cycle of religious observance was, therefore, carefully adjusted according to the cycles of the moon. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century observers in the Cape Colony noted the importance of ritual dances and prayers during the full moon each month. — Source: South Africa (Country Studies)
Belief in evil deities who bring disease and illness, and in sun and moon deities are basic belief s found in all early shamanic societies, as well as the concept of the worship of and ritual sacrifice to a supreme being presiding over the elements, daily life]
Khoisan legends and myths also refer to a “trickster” god, who could transform himself into animal or human forms, and who could die and be reborn many times over. The praying mantis, a predatory insect with large eyes and other features characteristic of animal predators, figures in San myths and folktales in a role similar to the clever fox in European [and Japanese] folktales. Khoisan herdboys still use mantises to “divine” the location of lost animals, and in Afrikaans, the mantis is referred to as “the Hottentot’s god.”
Trickster gods or spirits are particularly common beliefs across Eurasia, East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Kaang was provoked by the disobedience of the first men that he made. So he sent to the earth both destruction and death, removing his own abode into the top of the sky. Mankind were ungrateful in spite of the presence of his own sons, Cogaz and Gewi. These divinities had descended to become chiefs; they made digging sticks with sharp stone points and showed men how to dig with them for roots. Kaang’s daughter married a snake, and henceforth the snakes were called ‘Kaang’s people’.
The adventures and exploits of Kaang form the basic cycle of Bushman mythology. Once he was eaten by an ogre, who then vomited him up. On another occasion he was killed by thorns; the ants picked his bones clean, but this dying and rising god reassembled the skeleton and resurrected himself. The moon, say the Bushmen, Kaang created from an old shoe.
The principal enemy of the creator deity is Gauna, or Gawa, or Gawama, the leader of the spirits of the dead. Though weaker than his rival, Gauna seeks to disrupt his creation and harass the lives of men and animals. The origin of this antagonistic deity may well have been the pantheon of an enemy people. But the Bushmen dead themselves also play a conspicuously evil part in the affairs of the world. Ghosts dwell in a dim nether world from which they wish to escape.
Like many religions, at the center of the Khoisan religion is the belief in a supreme God, known as Tsui, Giab, gangwan!an!a (big big god). He is responsible for life where he alone causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall. The opposer of this “good god” who lives in the east is an evil one who lives in the west, known as Gaunab or gangwas matse (small god). This “evil god” uses his superhuman power to cause sickness, misfortune, and death. This coexistence of good and evil is combined in the personality of Kaggen or cagn. Kaggen is represented by an eland, an animal created by and special to Kaggen (picture of a live eland, right, and San rock paintings of elands, left). Many tales recount a story of the Kaggen trying to trick hunters to help the eland escape.
There are many differing Khoisan beliefs on death. Some believe that at death, a person’s spirit ascends into the sky and becomes a star. Others believe that the sight of a shooting star means death is occurring in the human community. Still others believe that a hole in the bowels of the earth serves as the destination of dead people and animals. However, others believe the dead’s final destination is the great God’s house in the sky.
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