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The Rain Bull and the Shaman

"that animal which the men are catching is a snake(!). They are out charms to it and are catching it with reim... They are people spoiled by the - dance, because their noses bleed" -Joseph M Orpen, 1874, transcribing the words of the San guide, Qing as he describes a rock painting from the South African Drakensberg.

The San or Bushmen of Southern Africa are an ancient group of hunter-gatherer peoples who's ancestors have inhabited this part of the continent since the dawn of man. whilst living San groups are currently restricted to the western Kalahari desert, the rock art of these people is found throughout the southern Africa, especially in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa and Lesotho. fine paintings made with of natural  pigment and blood carry through the ages and give us insights into their culture and religion.

tough bushmen paintings are well known for their beautiful depictions of animals such as antelope, some of the creatures found in their art are more enigmatic and bizarre. Among these is the "rain bull" - an animal known to only inhabit the realm of the spirits. it's a strange, fearsome beast, sometimes appearing as a serpent and at other times as a bull or rhinoceros-like animal. in times of drought it is the role of the shaman enter the Spirit Realm through a 'Trance Dance' and hunt or tame a rain animal. If he (sometimes, but rarely she) catches a female 'rain bull' it's blood and milk will fall as gentle rain, whilst the blood of a Male 'rain bull' will come to earth in a fearsome thunderstorm. Like the Eland - a holy animal of both the spirit and living realms, the 'rain bull' is full of potent spiritual energy known as 'N|om' or '!Ghi'. in beings filled with Spiritual energy, like a shaman during trance, it may come to 'boil' out through  their nostrils as a nosebleed.

this is my interpretation of scene from real rock art panel from a rock shelter in the Drakensberg featuring a 'rain bull' and a humanoid figure (which i have interpreted as a shaman) seen here:…

you can learn more about San Religion :especailly the trance dance and human transfiguration in this piece:…
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