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143 ‘boiling potency’, and rather than being indications of a trance state, her status as a new maiden might also be shown with erect hairs. The ‘erect hairs’ and similar finger-like crenellations that grow at the base of Figure 3 motif probably associate this formling with a notion of saturated supernatural potency. ‘Erect hairs’ are associated with excessive potency that causes violent trance states (Lewis-Williams 1981a: 97). The /Xam spoke of “lion’s hair” growing on the back of healers in trance (D.F. Bleek 1935: 2, 23; Hewitt 1986: 100, 188) apparently describing violent throes of trance. Recently, a central Kalahari healer said his most powerful trance state is when “fur grows out of my skin and claws grow from my hands”; that is when the lion’s spirit changes his (the healer) mind and body (Keeney 1999: 93). Therefore, the graphic metaphor of erect hairs on formlings alludes to dangerous degrees of potency. Another link between caterpillars and dangerous potency can be found in Central Kalahari. The San of Xade believe that hawk moth caterpillars (Herse convolvuli⁽²⁾) go underground and change into a very poisonous black scorpion (Nonaka 1996: 34). This convoluted belief is not literal. San people are known for the depth and accuracy of their knowledge of the faunal and floral species they interact with (Heinz & Maguire 1974; Silberbauer 1981: 76; Barnard 1988) Therefore, the Xade San must be aware that scorpions and caterpillars are different invertebrates. Rather than it being a mistaken biological association, I argue that it is a conceptual one. Since these scorpions live underground and inflict a fatal sting, it is unsurprising that the ‘stinging’ metaphor is conflated with the ‘growing hairs’ metaphor of prickly hawk moth caterpillars, which, in their life cycle, also go underground (= the spirit world) and have stinging spines.

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...