wednesday afternoon = walk to the mythological birthsite of the tswana people

i sat at the computer this afternoon when lucy came home with her friend, a traditional healer from south africa. they were off on an adventure to mochudi to see footprints of the earliest people in botswana. intrigued, i joined them.

we drive up the A1 just past mochudi to matsieng, the footprints site. a woman named maria sits in a small stone building, where she waits for the occasional visitor to arrive. she saunters with us across red sand and dark purple and orange sandstone to the prints to explain their history to us. she leads us to a water-filled hole in the sandstone, a light coating of grease shows in the surface reflection. fully red flying insects pass over the black water. bare thorny trees and yellow grass border the rocks, not yet having caught the onset of spring.

maria points to paw prints and footprints in the stone around the hole. they almost look like real footprints, only they are wide, as if someone has traced the wide part of the arch of the foot instead of bringing it into a concave curve. we walk to the left of the hole, to avoid rubbing off the prints, and she points with her stick over yonder to another water hole.

she tells us that there are two sets of beliefs about the site. the longest held belief is that humans were created from these holes. essentially, humans were born out of the earth, before the rock solidified, and left prints in the stone when it hardened. people have come to this place and prayed at the water holes.  another belief is that long ago, people etched footprints into the stone. in other words, they are a type of rock art. the second story is what the museum says, maria tells us, but she leaves it open for us to make our own decision between the two, offering an unbiased interpretation.  i’m partial to believing the latter, but also fascinated by the idea of humans crawling out from the hot center of the earth, peaking over the ledge of a hole, hoisting oneself up over the ledge, and setting foot on land where we walked for the first time just as we do now.  the story reminds me of ancient beliefs in the indus valley civilization where the earth was worshipped and caves were sacred places because they mimicked the womb of a woman.  similarly, at matsieng, humans were birthed from the earth here in botswana.

the three of us explore the area, scrambling on the rocks to get a view over the flat valley that surrounds us. i look out at the few hills that dot the landscape at the horizon in the direction of south africa.  many cultures and groups of people have imaginative explanations for how humans came to be. here we are at the site of the creation story for the tswanas.

3 Responses to “wednesday afternoon = walk to the mythological birthsite of the tswana people”
  1. Kenneth says:

    Beautiful. Very similar to the stories of the Hopi and other Pueblo peoples of the American southwest, who believe that they emerged from the last world out of a hole in the Earth (formed from a plant that grew up from the previous world below). Also the Dineh story of the emergence of people from the lake atop Mt. Blanca in southern Colorado, and the Havasupai people in Arizona who emerged from one of the caves in their area. I like those stories much more than the ones that say we got here on an asteroid, or some starship, because I think we’re so clearly “of the Earth” right down to our soles.

  2. Polprav says:

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

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