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Kaang


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Africa

Or Kang, Cagn, Kho, Thora. In Bushman mythology, the creator deity, a remote sky god. It is said that Kaang made all things, but met with such opposition in the world that he went away. In the arid fringes of the Kalahari Desert, the harsh habitat of the wandering bands of Bushmen, rain falls only rarely and then as a sudden heavy storm accompanied by a strong wind. When this happens, the Bushmen say Kaang is ‘god of rain, wind, and breath’. Otherwise he is regarded as the invisible spirit within natural phenomena, but especially manifest in the kaggen, mantis, or the ngo, caterpillar. The relationship between Kaang and I Kaggen, the praying mantis spirit, is hard to clarify, but it would appear that the former is rather the ‘great magician’, whose strength lies in one particular tooth.

Kaang was provoked by the disobedience of the first men that he made. So he sent to the earth both destruction and death, removing his own abode into the top of the sky. Mankind were ungrateful in spite of the presence of his own sons, Cogaz and Gewi. These divinities had descended to become chiefs; they made digging sticks with sharp stone points and showed men how to dig with them for roots. Kaang's daughter married a snake, and henceforth the snakes were called ‘Kaang's people’.

The adventures and exploits of Kaang form the basic cycle of Bushman mythology. Once he was eaten by an ogre, who then vomited him up. On another occasion he was killed by thorns; the ants picked his bones clean, but this dying and rising god reassembled the skeleton and resurrected himself. The moon, say the Bushmen, Kaang created from an old shoe.

The principal enemy of the creator deity is Gauna, or Gawa, or Gawama, the leader of the spirits of the dead. Though weaker than his rival, Gauna seeks to disrupt his creation and harass the lives of men and animals. The origin of this antagonistic deity may well have been the pantheon of an enemy people. But the Bushmen dead themselves also play a conspicuously evil part in the affairs of the world. Ghosts dwell in a dim nether world from which they wish to escape. Graves are considered to be places of danger, for the departed have an unhappy desire to drag the living with them into the nether world. The breaking of taboos seems to be the way of releasing these malicious ancestors. By proper conduct alone are the Bushmen able to avoid the wrath of Kaang and the dead. However, there are communal rites, including a dance of exorcism, that can be used as a defence against Gauna.

Subjects: Religion.


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