Tag Archives: shaman

Happy Wind #13

Wound healing complications associated with lower limb amputation ‘The journey to the Northern Cape  was long and painful. CJ’s leg stump throbbed and the glands in his groin were swollen and tender. Near Upington he started sweating – when Francina placed a hand on his brow she glanced over at Geel. They both knew…’

Gertruida doesn’t have to tell them about the dangers. Molly (Loser’s wife) died of puerperal sepsis, didn’t she? ‘Blood poisoning’, the old folks called it – rather aptly, when one considers the pathology. ‘Geel reached over to the driver – another member of the Kruiper clan – and told him to step on it.’

***

Pure Cast Iron 3 legged Potjie size #2 Dutch Oven, Cauldron ... By the time they got to Oupa’s village, it was dark. Despite this, Oupa was waiting with a huge fire in the clearing in the middle of the circle of huts. A three-legged pot was steaming over some coals next to it. And next to Oupa, a grizzled old man – more wrinkles than anything else – was sitting on a magnificent Eland skin.

CJ Jnr stood behind Oupa. He had been prepared as well as Oupa could, but still the sight of his critically sick father was almost too much to bear. He fought to keep his emotions under control, straightened up and hugged his parents. Francina wept with joy – and with grief. How big her son had grown in just the few months! How tanned and healthy he seemed! And now, in the light of the fire, how terrible the sight of her husband; the deterioration over the last few hours had been dramatic and frightful.

Once a semblance of order had descended over the reunited family (Geel hadn’t seen Oupa for many months, as well) Oupa cleared his throat.

‘This here is !Garuksab, but we call him Andries. He is from the Original People, the parents of the Kruiper family.’ Geel translated smoothly. Oupa nodded his approval. ‘He had a dream, so he came here. He knew he’d be needed.’

***

‘Nobody knows how the San-people do this. Some call these clairvoyant members of the tribe shamans or witch doctors, but that is not correct.’ Gertruida, who likes to think she knows everything, tries to explain. ‘These people live near nature. In fact, if there is anybody on earth who understands the way of Time, of the seasons and of human nature, it will be found in the San culture. These ‘wise men’ as they are called, are able to imagine (or travel) different times – future or past. They are the keepers of oral history and the prophets of the future.

‘Westerners are skeptical of this, of course. It is because we’ve confused the term ‘modern’. We think smart cellphones and Space-X are modern. But…to really come to an understanding of Life and Nature and Time – now that is really modern. I’m afraid we, the Western civilisation, have lost the desire to explore the most important aspect of the Universe: the reason for time, for humans  – and for our relationship with Nature. Exploration shouldn’t be out there,’ she says, pointing, ‘but in here, where you feel the regular pulse of your heart.’  She places a hand on her chest, smiling sadly.

***

!Garuksab, also known as Andries, had ordered his two apprentices (nameless young men who have been with Andries for a few seasons) to lay CJ down in one of the huts. He lit a precious candle and told the older apprentice to remove the bandage on the stump. As layer after layer of bandage was removed, the cause of CJ’s deterioration became clear. Green pus stained the bandages. The remainder of the leg was grossly swollen and red. The stench made the younger apprentice gag – something which drew a hiss of disapproval from old Andries. He said a few words in a rapid sequence of clicks.

”Andries says there is bad blood under the skin. It needs to come out, he says. And tomorrow they will hunt for an Eland. It is a holy animal, but it is necessary to save a life.’

The Eland in San Rock Art PaintingsBy this time, little CJ Jnr had learnt not to question the older members of the tribe, but Francina had not. ‘How will an Eland save my husband? We need to get to a hospital. Can’t you see he’s dying?’

Andries smiled. He put a withered hand in to the pouch the younger apprentice carried. Took out what looked like a piece of root. He held this out to Francine. Clicked a few words.

‘Andries, he say, you must chew.’

Francina only woke up the next day, when the men were slaughtering the huge bull Eland.

To be continued…

 

 

The Diary (#2)

Sowa (Sua) Pan, Makgadikgadi

Sowa (Sua) Pan, Makgadikgadi, the last remnant of the superlake that once covered Botswana.

“My gosh!” Gertruida takes off her reading glasses to stare at the ceiling. “He’s had an out of body experience!”

“What? They took him to the abattoir?”

She glances at Vetfaan, sees the twinkle in his eyes and ignores him. “Let me read to you what he says here…”

***

The feeling I got was completely foreign to me. I’ve never used drugs or anything like that, so maybe it was just the smoking herbs on the embers. However, while a second before I still felt embarrassed and shy, I suddenly found myself relaxing. The night’s sounds faded away. The glowing coals of the fire seemed to enlarge and envelop me with a peculiar warmth – a sensation so comforting and relaxing that even the faces surrounding me disappeared.

Then, slowly, a new face stared at me. It took a second to realise it was me, looking at me. This didn’t bother me at all – in fact, it felt like the most natural thing ever. I could see myself smiling. Then I opened my mouth and spoke to myself.

“You are here for a specific reason, Koos. And these wonderful people saved you, because that’s the way it had to be. They have an important message for you.”

“What,” I asked myself?

“Listen to them….”

The face disappeared. The next thing I knew, was that I looked down at myself, sitting there under the karos next to the fire. Once again, this didn’t cause any problem – it simply felt…right. I went higher and higher up in the sky until I could look down on Earth. It was beautiful, peaceful. I saw seasons change, animals migrate, rivers flow. Somehow I realised I was looking into the past – until eventually the desert changed into a sea. I saw boats on the waters and an island where a harbour bustled with activity.

‘This is what was,’ I heard a voice say – it could have been my own. It sounded like me, anyway.

9[PHO]AMy view became sharper, clearer, as I neared the island. I could see men in long, purple robes strutting about. There were slaves attending the boats, while others patrolled the beach around it, armed with bows and arrows. Off to one side I saw a tented town, where women in white garments prepared meals and looked after children.

“This was the stronghold of Kubu. These men and women came from far away, worked hard and supplied the Kingdom,” my voice said. I sounded calm and in control.

“Which kingdom,” I asked.

My voice sounded tired when it answered. “It is far away. It no longer exists.”

“But why,” I eventually asked, “am I here?”

“To see, to observe, to learn.”

“What?” I asked.

“To know what you have to know.”

Suddenly I was elevated again to a high spot, from where I once again saw the Earth change. The sea disappeared and the desert formed. Seasons changed. 

And I woke up – or whatever one can call it – in the smoky haze next to my fire with my saviours staring at me.

***

“Man, he went on a proper trip, that guy. Shew! Drugged beyond recognition, I’ll say!” Vetfaan laughs at the idea. “I’d love Boggel to start serving that stuff!”

Tsodilo

Bushman geometric pattern, Tsodilo Hills.

“The herbs certainly had something to do with it, I’m sure. The old San shamans used herbs to put them in a trance. That’s the explanation for many of their weird paintings, according toe researchers. Those geometric patterns are similar to the ones the Incas did, as well. You get the same patterns repeated in Europe, Egypt and wherever ancient witchdoctors understood trance-like states.

“But then you get strange things, as well, like the whale at Tsodilo Hills – where no known sea existed.” Gertruida thinks for a moment before adding, “Except for Spook’s inland sea where only the salt plains remains – the Makgadikgadi Superlake, of course.”

“Yeah, right!” Vetfaan snorts and signals for a new round. “He was whacked out of his little mind, I tell you. Dehydration and disorientation does that. Add to that the death of his nephew and the obsession to find out what really had happened to cause the suicide, and you have the perfect example of stress aggravating a post-traumatic disorder. Spook had a post-suggestion hallucination, that’s all.”

“I don’t think so,” Gertruida says haughtily, “not if you read the rest of the diary, anyway. Something very, very unusual happened to Spook. And I’m not at all sure you’re going to understand half of it, Vetfaan. Listen…”

(To be continued…)

Fanny’s Surprise (# 7)

They reach the Valley of the Buried Wagon at sunset, to find !Tung patiently waiting. She’s collected a few twigs and used some of the old wagon’s timber to make a small fire, which acted as a beacon to guide them there. When Vetfaan stops a few yards away, she gets up to walk to the back of the vehicle. Silently, softly, she strokes the injured leg while making soothing noises.

“Thank you, mister Vetfaan.” The language is certainly foreign on her tongue, but she manages quite well. Before Vetfaan can wonder about how she knew his name, she continues. “And it’s good to see miss Fanny again. Thank you.”

While Fanny has spent some time with the family, Vetfaan has never met !Tung. Still, he shakes her hand and says he’s happy she’s there.

“Look.” She points to the full moon rising slowly over the horizon.

Vetfaan carries !Ka over to the fire; the small man has improved remarkably over the last hour, proving the resilience of these men and women who are used to the harsh life in the desert. He still complains about the pain in his leg though, and only settles down after !Tung gives him a few herbs to chew.

“!Ka, I have no idea what happened today. Fanny arrived. Vrede ran across the veld. You got injured. !Kung left the family to wait here for us. I do care how you stitch it together – it doesn’t make sense. There are just to many coincidences and unexplained events. It has no logic to it, at all. Can you tell us more?”

!Tung holds up a withered hand, preventing !Ka from answering, and launches into a long monologue with !Ka.  The clicks of the strange language melt together in a steady rhythm; an almost hypnotising melodious cascade of words; as she tells !ka why.

“”!Tung, says she’s sorry, but her own tongue is better for this story. She asked me to tell you what she said…”

When the people of the wagon arrived at this spot, they had nothing left. No water, no food. One after the other, they laid down to enter the final sleep so that they may enter the New Life. Only a little boy was still alive when the Bushmen arrived later. His mother, it seems, saved him by burying him in sand up to his neck, to keep the heat and the sun away from him. The boy took so long to recover, some members of the family gave up hope.

But, he did get better. Slowly. And the family fed him and gave him new skins to wear. And he grew up with them and stayed for many years.

Then, one day, men came with guns. That was the custom in those days. Men with guns and horses would come and shoot any Bushman they could find. This they did, because the men didn’t think the Bushmen had the right to stay here. The boy – almost a  man now – ran towards the horsemen and tried to stop him. He told them his family had done nothing wrong and why are they shooting his brothers and sisters? Of course, he had no knowledge of the language of the horsemen, but they soon saw this boy wasn’t a Bushman. He was different. He was like them.

So the men on the horses said to themselves: this is very strange. And they took the boy with them and they stopped shooting.

Now that boy was taken to a big place near the sea, where he learnt to speak the language of the horsemen. His story of survival made him very popular. Then, one day, he got into a ship and sailed away to a far country. He never came back here.

“That’s a fascinating story, !Ka, but how does it relate to today’s events?”

In the far country, the boy – who was a man by then – married a woman. They had a little girl. But over there (!Ka points to the south) the people of this country and the far country were fighting with each other. The far country made the man come here to fight. He didn’t want to. In the first fight he was involved in, he stood up to protest, just like he did when the horsemen came to kill his brothers and sisters. He died there.

His wife – in the far country – became ill. She coughed and coughed and died. Her daughter was put in a place with other children. One day a rich man came and took her away. She was happy there. And later, she married a man. They had a daughter, too: and she was your mother, Fanny.”

“What?” The word jumps from Fanny’s mouth. “These people were my family?”

Yes. She, !Tung wasn’t sure at first. But since Fanny went back to England, she had vision after vision that repeated this story over and over again. It would come in the night, and sometimes even during the days. All of them with the boy becoming a  man, the horsemen, the far country, the war, the mother coughing and the girl later staying with the rich people. The same. Again and again. Yes, !Tung is sure.

Fanny is dumbstruck and can only shake her head. “I knew my grandmother was an orphan, but…”

!Tung claps her hands in delight.

You see? You see now?

“But why…”

The boy who later became a man, learnt the art of the shaman while he stayed with his Bushman family. It was thought he had special gifts, because he was the only one to survive. He was taller than any of us. So it was natural for our people to see him as a sort of magic man, even as a god. That’s why he was taught. The family agreed it was a good idea.

Now, once a boy who becomes a man is taught these things, it stays with him. And it stays with his children. And it stays with all his children, but not all of them. Some will inherit this gift, some not. But always, always it will be carried on to the next generation. That’s how it is. Many times the child won’t know about it – it’ll just be there, waiting to wake up. Sometimes it remains sleeping.

“Then…then you are saying that I may have inherited this gift?” By now Fanny has stopped trying to understand the story. It defies logic. It is weird. It is simply unbelievable. And yet…how would the old woman know these things, if it didn’t come too her as a vision?

Yes, you have the gift of the shaman, Fanny.  I am sure. Before you take !Ka away, we must make sure it wakes up inside your mind.

!Tung shuffles over to !Ka and thanks him for translating. Then she sits down next to the injured leg and starts singing in a crooning voice. The same words over and over again.

Vetfaan fetches the rest of his emergency supplies to divide it equally between them, sharing some with Vrede. He can see Fanny is in deep thought and that she doesn’t want to talk right now.

When at last !Tung finishes her singing, she gets up. No, she won’t eat. And no, she won’t drink.

There’s too much to do under this full moon.

Then she tells Fanny to undress and sit down next to the fire

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None shall sleep! None shall sleep! You too, princess,
In your cold room
You watch the stars
Trembling of love and hope…

But the mistery of me is locked inside of me
No one will know my name!

 

Wait for it…604043_532682216772817_1360375968_n