Holy Fire and the Circle of Religious Ideas

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(Berg Damara/Namibia)

The first circle of religious ideas is grouped around the personality of ∥Gamab, the second around the harmful forces, of whose nature only vague conceptions exist. There is a third circle of religious ideas, whose center is the holy fire. It is at the same time the incorporation and the visible form of the thoughts that compose the first and second circles.

The holy fire is the center of the village. It burns near the village tree. Wherever possible the village is laid out where there is a shady tree. When such a tree has been selected, a cut is made in its bark and the heart blood of some game is poured into the cut. In this manner, the tree is consecrated as the village tree. On its eastern side, the holy tree will burn in the future. There, the elders will sit in council. When the field crop area is exhausted and the hunt has become unprofitable, the people must settle elsewhere where the prospects of livelihood are more favorable. In doing so, they never forget to take a burning or glowing piece of wood from the holy fire. It is the office of the great wife to carry this brand at the head of the procession. On the way, the campfire is lighted with it. From the campfire, a suitable brand is again removed, and the procession continues until a new site has been selected, when the village fire is lighted with it. See also: ∥Gamab, Kamangundu.

Subjects: Religion.

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