Saturday, March 24, 2018


The rule of three for survival tells us that; we can live three minutes without oxygen, three days without water, three weeks without food and three months without love. We could add to that three hours without shelter or clothing if we lived in a cold climate. "Fire" and shelter are included in these basic essentials. 
If we extrapolate these principles to our modern world - clean air and water, wholesome food, a roof over our heads, a loving connection with our fellow humans and include energy (the equivalent of fire) for cooking, transport and communication we have all we really need.

On my first of many trip to the Bushmen I spent a blissful month with the Kua San in 1987 as well as an even smaller more remote group living in pristine circumstances that had not become fully exposed to cattle farms, game fences and wells. I gathered with the woman and hunted and trapped with the men in the day and experienced their singing and dancing at night. 
Their out of body healing trance dance is a subject all of its own (and can be viewed at www. as well as their hunting and gathering techniques in another DVD - titled Wilderness Rapture.)


There is no natural water in the Kalahari and at that time the only water available was from sucking water from past rainfall out of a hollow tree stumps and from sip wells in the sand.  Tsama melons which were bitter were also used as well as large tubers growing deep in the earth (called "Baiee" by the Kua San.) These tubers retained enough water to be grated and squeezed out using a second plant that helped catalyze release of the moisture as well as offset the bitter taste. 
There were also wells that had been sunk by cattle ranchers that were usually too far away for them to reach or use effectively. Small, usually plastic containers. had replaced the traditional ostrich egg shells which had been traditionally buried in the ground for use in times of extreme need. 
This experience gave me an appreciation of what it is like to have water on tap.

Gathering of "veldkos" - food from the veld - was the main staple provided mainly by the women. Medicinal plants were also gathered for healing and spiritual needs. There were still guinea fowl, ostrich and koraan (a large bird) to trap as well as small antelope such as duiker and steenbok. Larger game had moved away but it was still possible to hunt gemsbok in some areas remote from the cattle ranches and the Tswana villages but too far away to be practical without transport. Around Dobe and Xai Xai further north and west near the Namibian border and in the Central Kalahari hunting of bigger game with other clans of Bushmen was more prolific at that time as were large predators.
 Most of the food came from berries and a rich variety of roots and tubers. Meat was a treat, usually acquired by an ingenious number of traps designed specially for each particular animal. It was easy, after a time, to see how to make a trap but to know where to put it and conceal it from the pray required years of technological know how. 

Fire was provided by the timeless technology of the hand drill and a tinder bundle which required a significant amount of skill.

The San had little use for shelter. They had previously been nomadic and their rudimentary shelters were only used in times of rain. They slept together around the fire at night for warmth and to avoid predators. In the heat of the summer days when temperatures reached 120 degrees fahrenheit in the shade an acacia tree provided protection from the sun and activities were delayed for when it was cool. Fire was essential for the cold desert winter nights as well as a skin kaross for a blanket. 
The San had an intimate relationship with all the 
 "Beings" and the Elements 
The Still Beings - earth, sand and rocks
Growing .. - plants and trees
Wild .. - game and fowl

and the Talking or Human Beings


 The Ancestors teach that ...

Everything was done by consensus and together - they were egalitarian without any leader and if anything the small clans were  more matriarchal. There was little or any judgment of others and a presiding humility as as well as humorous techniques of keeping hubris in check. They seemed to have an unconditional love for the children and universal self acceptance or unconditional positive regard for each other. Since they had no written language or scriptures this enlightened state seemed to arise purely out of their intimate contact with Nature and their supreme need to love Her and care for Her as well as each other in order to survive. In those days they were happy even with the bare survival essentials and with the little they had.

Even divination was done with consensus (photo below.)  The powerful healing dance was a welcomed clan event which spontaneously happened whenever tensions needed to be diffused or healing was necessary. The San healers were some of the most powerful I have ever experienced.

Their clapping and dancing coupled with complex chanting and accentuated by the rattles around their ankles around the fire was something otherworldly underneath the brilliant Kalahari sky. The dancing and trancing would often carry all night transporting everyone who was participating into an altered state of consciousness to a greater or lesser extent.

The Ancestors say that sacred song..
Sadly since Western influence the San are increasingly aware of what they do not have and are now tuning in to material wants as we do. As with many indigenous peoples alcohol is also being substituted for "spirit."
 The trance dance still carries on but maybe it has lost some of its power as they lose contact with their habitat and thus their technological wilderness know-how also slowly dissipates. They have been kicked out of their Garden of Eden and are now surrounded by the "stuff" provided by our 
Tree of  material Knowledge most of which is unattainable. 
They are not the happier for it just as Western spiritual seekers have found out for themselves.

Click to highlight the link below and the play. Chants and clapping recorded in the Kalahari at night during Trance dancing.
(Their chants interspersed by a song received by me in a dream  where I was participating in Bushmen activities.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks David for sharing this beautiful song. It reminds me of Tuareg rythm/music, from another desert, the Sahara.