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145 San concepts of God’s dwelling place

Beliefs concerning the dwelling place of God and supernatural beings vary amongst San groups (Keeney 1999: 61, 62). The Oschimpolveld San believe that God “lives in a house in the sky to which the souls of the dead are brought” (Marshall 1962, 1999: 18, 21). Their eastern and northwestern cousins believe the same for their God, Huwe or Xu (Schapera 1930: 397). Honey, locusts, fat flies (or flying termites) and butterflies are all superabundant in Huwe’s house (Schapera 1930: 184). There are also large animals: leopards, zebras, lions, pythons, mambas, elands, giraffes, gemsbok, and kudu (Biesele 1978: 933, 1980: 59, 1993: 94) in Huwe’s house. The G/wi believe that termites as well as other invertebrate taxa are N!adima’s creatures and that he protects them (Silberbauer 1981: 75). The Nyae Nyae San believe that ≠Goa N!a lives in a two storey house with a single tree near it in the eastern sky, both of which are associated with the spirits of the dead. //Gauwa’s house (choo) in the western sky has two trees. While its exterior is “hairy like a caterpillar” this house resembles an ordinary San hut. //Gậuab, a Damara sky god, lives in a village resembling a Damara village, but has a shady tree and a holy fire in the middle. In //Gậuab’s heaven life is similar to life on earth except that hunting there is more successful and foraging easier (Vedder 1928: 62; Barnard 1988: 227). Although these varied beliefs are not very precise on the nature of God’s house, it does not differ markedly from the ordinary San dwellings. Interestingly, one can also see the infiltration of foreign elements in the beliefs, such as the concept of a double storey house. Other testimonies even mention corrugated iron sheeting, iron poles and reinforcements. God’s house has a tree or two trees in the middle, powerful animals and other creatures occur in abundance there. The

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...