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141 New maidens are also said to be potent, as it at this powerful stage in their lives when early signs of fertility emerge that they are considered to be full of strong potency.

Associations with other supernatural potency symbols

San ethnography shows that supernatural potency is central to their religious beliefs and symbolism. Notions of potency permeate all aspects of San life, ritual and folklore. These notions also resonate in many ways in the art. Some writers have, therefore, argued that formlings symbolise this potency. I have argued that, what formlings depict (subject matter), termitaria and bees’ nests, contain powerful substances—fat and honey—that the San believe possess supernatural potency. I argue further that various powerful animals often found in formling contexts build upon this association connoting the saturation of strong potency. These include giraffe, kudu, hartebeest, tsessebe and roan or sable antelope. The formling at Nanke Cave (Plates 3, 3a) also features eland. The Ju/’hoansi consider eland and giraffe to be particularly powerful (Marshall 1999: 5). These ‘great meat animals’ possess both n/om and n/ow (Marshall 1957: 235, Biesele 1993: 9495, 108), and some also possess /ko:öde (D.F. Bleek 1924: 10), which is an especially dangerous level of potency. The repeated choice of giraffe and potent antelope (not other animals) is significant in the symbolism of formlings. Some formling contexts feature subaquatic trance metaphors, such as, fish (Plates 3, 3a) and crocodiles (Goodall 1959: plate 8; see Dowson 1988: 120-121 and Lewis-Williams & Dowson 1999: 57 on such metaphors). Walker (1996: 73) associates fish particularly with ‘rain

Continuity and change in San belief and ritual  

A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand,Johannesburg, for the degree of Master of Arts. 2002, by Siyakha...