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177 1975a: 178-182, 1993: 124-131) reenacts the mediatory role of trees. !Gara (trickster) avenges the death of his two sons, Kan//a and !Xoma, whom the lions imprisoned in the chyme of an eland that the boys had killed. He tries to call a thunderstorm, first by hanging the neckbones from the eland carcass in a tree so that lightning may come. The neckbones did not work, but the horns did; lightning came and killed the lions. After his revenge, he stood back in surprise and said, “What will I do now…how will I powder myself with sᾶ so that my brains won’ t be spoiled by the killing I have done?” (Biesele 1975a: 181). Trickster !Gara’s action invokes supernatural powers in the sky realm to kill the lions. The mediation for the communication between him, in the material world, and the supernatural in the sky is the tree in which he hangs the eland horns. The tree here evokes the idea of axis mundi, allowing the connection and communication between two cosmic zones. The symbolism in this tale centres on the ‘height’ of the tree. I argue that ‘height’ is metaphoric for proximity to the sky realm and its supernatural beings. !Gara acts out a shamanic role of using a power animal, the eland, and a tree as intermediaries to communicate with the spirit realm. Ordinarily, trees as symbolic cosmic mediators may act as axis mundi to be used by shamans to transfer their persona into other planes of being or to access the spirit realm. At another level, the role of a healer parallels that of trees—both can link various realms of existence, the earth, the sky and the underground (Fig. 28, Appendix 1 Fig. 1.9). Trees as axis mundi thus mirror supernatural abilities of shamans. This connection is echoed in the art. The panel in Figure 24 depicts a context that can be used to show the connection between San shamans and trees. There are two short-tailed therianthropes

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...