San religion

The San religion is the religion of the San people.

Mythical figures


Further information: San healing practices

To enter the spirit world, trance has to be initiated by a shaman through the hunting of a tutelary spirit or power animal.[23] The eland often serves as power animal.[24] The fat of the eland is used symbolically in many rituals including initiations and rites of passage. Other animals such as giraffe, kudu and hartebeest can also serve this function.

One of the most important rituals in the San religion is the great dance, or the trance dance. This dance typically takes a circular form, with women clapping and singing and men dancing rhythmically. Although there is no evidence that the Kalahari San use hallucinogens regularly, student shaman may use hallucinogens to go into trance for the first time.[25]

Psychologists have investigated hallucinations and altered states of consciousness in neuropsychology. They found that entoptic phenomena can occur through rhythmic dancing, music, sensory deprivation, hyperventilation, prolonged and intense concentration and migraines.[26] The psychological approach explains rock art through three trance phases. In the first phase of trance an altered state of consciousness would come about. People would experience geometric shapes commonly known as entoptic phenomena. These would include zigzags, chevrons, dots, flecks, grids, vortices and U-shapes. These shapes can be found especially in rock engravings of Southern Africa.

During the second phase of trance people try to make sense of the entoptic phenomena. They would elaborate the shape they had 'seen' until they had created something that looked familiar to them. Shamans experiencing the second phase of trance would incorporate the natural world into their entoptic phenomena, visualising honeycombs or other familiar shapes.

In the third phase a radical transformation occurs in mental imagery. The most noticeable change is that the shaman becomes part of the experience. Subjects under laboratory conditions have found that they experience sliding down a rotating tunnel, entering caves or holes in the ground. People in the third phase begin to lose their grip on reality and hallucinate monsters and animals of strong emotional content. In this phase, therianthropes in rock painting can be explained as heightened sensory awareness that gives one the feeling that they have undergone a physical transformation.[26]

A San trance dance featuring the San of Ghanzi, Botswana appeared in BBC Television's Around the World in 80 Faiths on 16 January 2009.

Rock art

Main article: San rock art

Pictographs can be found across Southern Africa in places such as the cave sandstone of KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North-Eastern Cape, the granite and Waterberg sandstone of the Northern Transvaal, the Table Mountain sandstone of the Southern and Western Cape.[27] Images of conflict and war-making are not uncommon.[28] There are also often images of therianthrophic entities which have both human and animal traits and are connected to the notion of trancing, but these represent only a fraction of all rock art representations.[23] Most commonly portrayed are animals such as the eland, although grey rhebok and hartebeest are also in rock art in places such as Cederberg and Warm Bokkeveld. At uKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park there are paintings thought to be some 3,000 years old which depict humans and animals, and are thought to have religious significance.


  1. 1 2 Hastings, p.522
  2. 1 2 Lewis-Williams (2000), p.143
  3. Moore, p.113
  4. Meletinsky, p.169
  5. 1 2 3 Reconstructing the Past – the Khoikhoi
  6. 1 2 McNamee, p.52
  7. 1 2 3 Solomon, p.63
  8. 1 2 3 4 McNamee, p.53
  9. Lang, p.146
  10. Barnard, p.84
  11. 1 2 Lewis-Williams (2000), p.145
  12. Lewis-Williams (2000), p.146
  13. 1 2 Lewis-Williams (2000), p.148
  14. 1 2 3 David Chidester; Chirevo Kwenda; Robert Petty; Judy Tobler; Darrel Wratten (1997). African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press. pp. 68–70. ISBN 0-313-30474-2.
  15. Andrew Lang (1901). Myth, Ritual and Religion vol. 1. p. 172.
  16. 1 2 Arthur Flagg Cotterell (1986). A Dictionary of World Mythology. Oxford University Press. p. 242. ISBN 0-19-217747-8.
  17. James George Frazer; Robert Fraser (1994). The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Oxford University Press. p. 224. ISBN 1-85326-310-9.
  18. Edwin Sidney Hartland (1909). Paternity Or the Myth of Supernatural Birth in Relation to the History of the Family. p. 4. ISBN 0-7661-6710-0.
  19. Lang, p.124
  20. Hahn, Theophilus (1881). Tsuni-Goam: The Supreme Being of the Khoi-Khoi. Routledge. pp. 64–67.
  21. Richard Katz, Megan Biesele, Verna St. Denis. Healing Makes Our Hearts Happy: Spirituality and Cultural Transformation Among the Kalahari Ju\'hoansi, p. 43, at Google Books
  22. Dorothea F. Bleek, Bushman Dictionary, p. 502, at Google Books. ISBN 9785882327261
  23. 1 2 Jolly, Pieter (2002). Therianthropes in San Rock Art "The South African Archaeological Bulletin", 57(176):85–103
  24. Lewis-Williams (1987). A Dream of Eland: An Unexplored Component of San Shamanism and Rock Art "World Archaeology", 19(2):165–177
  25. H. J. Deacon, Janette Deacon. Human Beginnings in South Africa: Uncovering the Secrets of the Stone Age. David Philip Publishers, 1999, p. 170.
  26. 1 2 Fagan, Brian M (1998). From Black Land to Fifth Sun: The Science of Sacred Sites. Basic Books ISBN 978-0-7382-0141-2
  27. Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa (1973)
  28. Campbell, C (1986). "Images of War: A Problem in San Rock Art Research "World Archaeology", 18(2):255–268


External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/5/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.