The Salience of Animals and the Trickster in San and Hunter-gatherer Mythology

Session Date: 
May 19, 2023

Animals and tricksters are highly prominent beings in the mythology of the San Bushmen of southern Africa, as well as of hunter-gatherers in other regions of the world. Their actions and interactions provide the plot lines for most of the stories people tell about myth time (a time that, according to their world view both precedes historical time and continues on, and is accessible to people, up to the present). Why are these two beings so preeminent in San mythology and storytelling? Is there a connection between the two beings? My talk deals with these two questions and the answer I suggest reveals a deep – and deep-rooted –mystical connection also between animals and humans.

The hunting-gathering people that provide the cultural context for my talk are the San Bushmen of southern Africa, amongst whom I have done ethnographic field work. I will also consider hunter-gatherers from other parts of the world, both from present or recent times and from prehistory. These considerations may shed some light on certain aspects of prehistoric cave paintings (and, via these, of prehistoric mythology).

File 2023_05_19_05_Guenther.mp4342.57 MB