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First He Created a Tremendous Tree — The Creation Story of the San People of Southern Africa

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First Kaang created a wondrous tree, with branches stretching over the entire country. At the base of the tree he dug a hole that reached all the way down into the world where the people and animals lived.

First He Created a Tremendous Tree — The Creation Story of the San People of Southern Africa

The San peoples, also known as the Bushmen are members of various indigenous hunter-gatherer groups that are the first nations of Southern Africa, and whose territories span Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa.

The San People believe in one creator ‘Kaang’ and a number of lesser deities. They also believe that every living thing has a spirit and that not only are plants and animals alive, but also rain, thunder, the wind, spring, etc. They believe that what we see is only the outside form or body. Inside is a living spirit that we cannot see. These spirits can fly out of one body into another.

The Creation Story of Bushmen of southern Africa

Kaang is the creator god of the Bushmen of southern Africa and is said to have made all things. He is regarded as the god of natural phenomena, present in all things.

The San believe that they used to live underground with the animals until Kaang brought them all above the ground. This is their theory of their creation.

At one time people and animals lived underneath the earth with Kaang, the Great Master and Lord of All Life. In this place people and animals lived together in peace and harmony. They understood each other. No one ever wanted for anything and even though they were underground and there was no sun, the whole place was always brimming with light. During this time of bliss Kaang began to plan the wonders he would put in the world above.

First He Created a Tremendous Tree — The Creation Story of the San People of Southern Africa
First kaang created a tremendous tree. Photo: cs.williams.edu

First Kaang created a wondrous tree, with branches stretching over the entire country. At the base of the tree he dug a hole that reached all the way down into the world where the people and animals lived. After he had finished furnishing the world as he pleased he led the first man up the hole. He sat down on the edge of the hole and soon the first woman came up out of it. Soon all the people were gathered at the foot of the tree, awed by the world they had just entered.

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Next, Kaang began helping the animals climb out of the hole. They continued racing out of the world beneath until all of the animals were out.

When he saw that they were all out, Kaang gathered all the people and animals around him. He instructed them to live together peacefully. Then he turned to the men and women and warned them not to build any fires or a great evil would befall them. They gave their word and Kaang left to where he could watch his world secretly.

As evening approached the sun began to sink beneath the horizon. The people and animals stood watching this phenomenon, but when the sun disappeared fear entered the hearts of the people as they had never witnessed darkness before. They could no longer see each other as they lacked the eyes of the animals which were capable of seeing in the dark. They lacked the warm fur of the animals also and soon grew cold. In desperation one man suggested that they build a fire to keep warm. Forgetting Kaang’s warning they disobeyed him. They soon grew warm and were once again able to see each other.

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The Creation Story of the San People of Southern Africa

However the fire frightened the animals. They fled to the caves and mountains and ever since the people broke Kaang’s command people have not been able to communicate with animals. Now fear has replaced the seat friendship once held between the two groups.

© cs.williams.edu



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Fascinating Cultures and history of peoples of African origin in both Africa and the African diaspora

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