‖Gamab's Sharp and Deadly Arrow

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(Berg Damara/Namibia)

The highest divinity, the supreme being, dwells in heaven and is known as ‖Gamab. He was originally the god of the rising clouds and of thunder and fountains (the word ‖gami means “water”). ‖Gamab is not the deity of creation, for the Berg Damara do not believe that the world had a beginning and that it was created. The annual renewal of nature—the regularity of the rainy season, the hunting grounds teeming with game, crops growing fresh and ripening—is the work of ‖Gamab. He provides for the livelihood of all living beings and thus is the maintainer of life.

He is also the Lord of Death. From his place in heaven, he directs his deadly arrow at the bodies of men who become sick and die. Then the soul leaves the body, departing through the open door of the house. It takes the broad road that leads to ‖Gamab's village, where ∥Gamab gathers around him the souls of the departed. A narrow road, whose destination is not known, branches off from it. At a certain spot on the road is a precipice with a great fire below. If one is careless, he will fall over the precipice. ‖Gamab is the center about whom all deceased Berg Damara, the good as well as the wicked, gather. Whoever approaches the vicinity of the village is met by spirits who lead him into the village. ‖Gamab's village is laid out in the same manner as the Berg Damara villages on earth. In the center is a large fig tree, beneath which burns the holy fire. ‖Gamab, the elder of the village, sits at this fire or rests in his house. The other elders, who once dwelled on earth, also sit at the holy fire. The newcomer takes his place among them. The souls of children who die are delivered to the women in the other world to be educated. See also: Holy Fire.

Subjects: Religion.

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