Page 174

164 The use of herbs is also found in ritual contexts. Qing (Orpen’s San guide in the 1870s) told Orpen that canna charms were used to resuscitate “people who have died from the dance� (Orpen 1874: 10). He was here referring to the trance dance (Lewis-Williams 1988b: 137-142). He also related how, during rain rites, charms were used to catch and lead a rain animal (Orpen 1874: 10). Canna was therefore used for its restorative or restitutive qualities as well as calming and controlling rain animals. So far, no unequivocal representation of the former function has been identified in the art. Paintings of people calming down and controlling rain creatures have been identified in the Drakensberg region. This function is attested widely among the /Xam who used buchu.

b. Buchu In /Xam tales, buchu (generic term for plants in the Rutaceae family) was used to charm and calm down rain bulls (D.F. Bleek 1933) and other spirit divinities. /Xam traditions recount that buchu was given to rain creatures living in waterholes from where they would be subdued and then led across the land to desired places for rain rites (ibid.). As a ritual magic, when new maidens emerged from confinement they treated their families with buchu to ward off danger from the anger of !Khwa (rain divinity) and ensure the ultimate return to normality for the band (Hewitt 1986: 198). Because menstruating girls were said to have an odour that attracted !Khwa, they used buchu to counteract this odour and keep danger at bay (Hewitt 1986: 78). Buchu was also used during hunting rites. A /Xam hunter avoided touching the arrow that he had used to shoot antelope (D.F. Bleek 1932: 233), but he would pick the arrow up using a leaf. Although

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...