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Specimens of Bushman Folklore, by W.H.I. Bleek and L.C. Lloyd, [1911], at


The Bushmen's letters[3] are in their bodies. They (the letters) speak, they, move, they make their (the Bushmen's) bodies move. They (the Bushmen) order the others to be silent a man is altogether still, when he feels that his body is tapping (inside). A dream speaks falsely, it is (a thing) which deceives. The presentiment is that which speaks the truth; it is that by means of which the Bushman gets (or perceives) meat, when it has tapped.

[3. The above piece of Bushman native literature is described by Dr. Bleek as follows: "99. Bushman Presentiments.--They feel in their bodies that certain events are going to happen. There is a kind of beating of the flesh, which tells them things. Those who are stupid, do not understand these teachings; they disobey them, and get into trouble,--such as being killed by a lion, etc.--The beatings tell those who understand them, which way they are not to go, and which arrow they had better not use, and also warn them, when many people are coming to the house on a wagon. They inform people where they can find the person of whom they are in search, i.e., which way they must go to seek him successfully." ("A Brief Account of Bushman Folk-lore and other Texts." By W.H.I. Bleek, Ph.D. Cape Town, 1875. pp. 17 and 18.)

2. The word !gwe was used by the Bushmen to denote both letters and books. ||kabbo explained that the beatings in their bodies, here described, are the Bushman's "letters", and resemble the letters which take a message or an account of what happens in another place.]

The Bushmen perceive people coming by means of it. The Bushmen feel a tapping (when) other people are[1] coming.

With regard to an old wound, a Bushman feels a tapping at the wound's place, while the tapping feels that the man (who has the old wound) walks, moving his body. The one man feels the other man who comes; he says to the children: "Look ye around, for grandfather, for grandfather seems to be coming; this is why I feel the place of his body's old wound." The children look around; the children perceive the man coming. They say to their father: "A man is coming yonder." Their father says to them: "Grandfather (his own father) comes yonder; he would come to me; he was the one whose coming I felt at the place of his old wound. I wanted yon to see that he is really coming. For ye contradict my presentiment, which speaks truly."

He feels a tapping (at) his ribs; he says to the children: "The springbok seem to be coming, for I feel the black hair (on the sides of the springbok). Climb ye the Brinkkop standing yonder, that ye may look around at all the places. For I feel the springbok sensation." The other man agrees with him: "I think (that) the children (should) do so;

[1. The Bushman, when an ostrich is coming and is scratching the back of its neck with its foot, feels the tapping in the lower part of the back of his own neck; at the same place where the ostrich is scratching.

The springbok, when coming, scratches itself with its horns, and with its foot; then the Bushman feels the tapping.

2. When a woman who had gone away is returning to the house, the man who is sitting there, feels on his shoulders the thong with which the woman's child is slung over her shoulders; he feels the sensation there.]

for the springbok come in the sun; for the Brinkkop standing yonder is high; they shall look down upon the ground. And then they can see the whole ground. They can therefore (?) look inside the trees; for the springbok are wont to go hidden inside the trees. For the trees are numerous. The little river beds are also there. They are those to which the springbok are wont to come (in order) to eat in them. For, the little river beds have become green.[1] For I am wont to feel thus, I feel a sensation in the calves of my legs when the springbok's blood is going to run down them. For I always feel blood, when I am about to kill springbok. For I sit feeling a sensation behind my back, which the blood is wont to run down, when I am carrying a springbok. The springbok hair lies behind my back." The other agrees with him (saying): Yes, my brother.

Therefore, we are wont to wait (quietly); when the sensation is like this, when we are feeling the things come, while the things come near the house. We have a sensation in our feet, as we feel the rustling of the feet of the springbok with which the springbok come, making the bushes rustle. We feel in this manner, we have a sensation in our heads, when we are about to chop the springbok's horns. We have a sensation in our face, on account of the blackness of the stripe on the face of the springbok;[2] we feel a sensation in our eyes, on account of the black marks on the eyes of the springbok. The ostrich is one, for whom we feel the sensation of

[1. i.e., the grass and the little bushes of the river bed.

2. A black stripe that comes down in the centre of the forehead, and terminates at the end of the nose.]

a louse;[1] as it walks, scratching the louse; when it is spring,[2] when the sun feels thus, it is warm.

Then it is that the things go from us. They go along, passing opposite to the hut. Therefore, we early cross the things' spoor, when we early go to hunt. For, the things which are numerous are us, to come first, when we are lying in the shade of the hut; because they think that we are probably lying asleep in the noonday's sleep. For we really lie down to sleep the noonday's sleep. But we do not lie sleeping at noon, when we feel this sensation. For we are used to feel like this when the things are walking; when we have felt the things coming, as they walk, moving their legs. We feel a sensation in the hollows under our knees, upon which blood drops, as we go along, carrying (the game). Therefore, we feel this sensation there.

Therefore, the little boys do not lie in the shade inside the hut; they lie in the shade above yonder, so that they may beckon to us, when they have perceived the things, when the things walk at that place. They will beckon, making us see; for we are wont, sitting at a distance, to watch them, as they sit above yonder. Therefore, we say to each other, that the children appear to have seen things. For, they beckon. They point to that place, while they point to the place towards (?) which the things are walking, where the Brinkkop, mountains lie thus spread out (?). So we may quickly chase

[1. An insect which bites the ostrich, a black insect; an "ostrich louse" as the Bushmen describe it.

2. ||kabbo explains that ||gu means "de bloem tijd."]

the things at the hill which lies across, to which the things are walking. The things walk, putting themselves in front of it;[1] we will quickly pass behind it, while it still lies away (from the springbok). We will stand nicely (ready) for the things, that we may not steal up abreast[2] of the things, (but) that we may steal up in front of the things, at the place[3] to which the leader goes.

[1. That is, putting their faces towards the mountain.

2. That is, not at the side of the game as it goes along, but right in front of its path.

3. The Bushmen are at the back of the hill, waiting for the springbok to cross it, coming to the place where they (the Bushmen) are.]


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