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68 Marshall’s (1969: 379-380) view, reiterated by Guenther (1981: 21), the dance works at both “psychological and sociological levels” (see Barnard 1979: 68) to enhance cohesion among individuals and groups. Some authors argue that the dance and its songs are “the basic vehicles of transcendence, enabling curers to achieve trance” (Biesele 1975b: 6). Similarly, Guenther (1999: 182) argues that, “The objective of the curing dance is to achieve the state of trance (or !kia in Ju/’hoan, Katz 1982) and thereby transcend ordinary life and reality.” He notes that the explicit purpose of the trance dance is to heal (Guenther 1981: 21-22, 1986: 253), or as Lee (1984: 103) puts it, “healers enter trance to be able to heal the sick.” Some shamanic rituals other than healing or curing, such as rainmaking among the /Xam, would also have drawn potency from the dance. These key San supernatural activities are achieved through the successful manipulation of n/om. I argue in this chapter that since n/om is activated at the dance, the dance is therefore primary for varied spiritual ends. The Ju/’hoan ritual specialists say that they dance n/om, suggesting that it is the object of the dance, which then allows them communion with the supernatural. The synergy (Katz 1982: 197-201) of potent elements in the dance, such as the fire, medicine songs, and women’s rhythmic clapping (Marshall 1969: 374) are all geared to activate or cause n/om to boil in the stomachs of medicine specialists (Katz 1982; Barnard 1979: 73-75; Marshall 1999: 68). Singing medicine songs is said to “awaken n/om” (Keeney 1999: 38, 41, 47, 60). In Ju/’hoan, ‘gam’ (‘to get up in the morning’) describes the effect of music on potency (Marshall 1969: 352). The dance context is very rich in potency, it is here that the concentration of n/om is stronger than in any other situation in San life (Marshall 1969: 352). Even women sitting around the central dance fire, singing and clapping the rhythm of

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...