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172 this feature) and the squatting figure has additional ones from the knees. Cooke interpreted this panel in literalist terms, as a “witchdoctor in disguise” engaged in “tree worship”. It can be read differently if this detail and San ethnography are taken into consideration. Cooke’s view is inadequate, first, because the San are not known to have worshipped trees and, secondly, the figure in question is a therianthrope and not merely in disguise. Similarly, Figure 19 depicts a standing man with one leg raised onto a tree trunk as if climbing into it. One hand holds a branch and the other carries four sticklike objects. Another tasselled or bristled object (may be a narrow bag like a quiver) is strapped on his shoulder (Walker 1996: 32). A second man on the right hand side holds five stick-like objects in one hand, while the other is handing over a curious object to a figure climbing into a tree. A similar context in Parry (2000: 98) depicts a tree with eleven branches. Three grossly elongated human figures, varying in height with the shorter one closest to the tree and the tallest farthest from it, stand to the right hand side of the tree. All three, with stretched hands, hold onto one of the branches. These contexts suggest non-ordinary reality because of therianthropes and human figures with bristling lines. These motifs frequently appear as graphic representations of blood or perspiration. Sweat, which usually exudes from people’s chests, armpits and other places during curing dances, is a significant trance symbol. It is also a key element in curing rituals (Lee 1968: 44). Because sweat is rich in potency, healers rub it onto people during trance dances (Marshall 1962: 251, 1969: 371, 378; Lee 1968: 44) in the belief that it combats evil and sickness.

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...

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