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53 example, bees and beehives at Botha’s Shelter or the thin red line in many Drakensberg panels, that suggest strong potency. It should be asked why are eland, and not other animals, shown in these contexts. And at that, LewisWilliams (1992: 14) showed that San “artists were principally concerned with [the eland’s] symbolic associations: it was a polysemic symbol that had resonances in a number of ritual contexts.” Those various contexts were investigated and their symbolic associations demonstrated (Lewis-Williams & Biesele 1978; LewisWilliams 1981a). The eland was highly esteemed as a powerful animal in San thought (Biesele 1993), not from a random association but because of its special intrinsic attributes. Eland, especially bulls are endowed with great amounts of fat, far more than any antelope. Fat (Chapter Six) is a substance the San believe to possess strong potency. In studies that I have mentioned, combined ethnography and ethology showed that, in addition to possessing elements believed to contain very strong potency, the behaviour of eland mirrors that of San trancers and other ritual contexts. In this approach, the exegesis intertwines painted contexts of eland, their natural behaviour and their symbolic associations in San thought. Equally, it is important to understand trees, and their associated formlings, in terms of their intrinsic symbolic associations in San thought and then proceed to their conceptual links with potency as revealed by their varied contexts. In this explanatory process the significance of painted contexts is unquestionable, but they should not, in themselves, be final. The unifying factor in the new interpretations of botanical motifs and formlings lies in their incorporation of supernatural potency as an element in their meaning.

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...