Witwatersrand University - Rock Art Research Institute


Page 6/9
One of the San shaman's tasks was to make rain. The San thought of the rain as an animal. The shamans would capture this imaginary animal, lead it to the place where they wanted rain and kill it. Its blood and milk would then become rain. This painting, from the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, shows a group of trancers in the process of capturing the "rain-bull".
San Rock Art South Africa
Dancing figures with sticks
Rain Bull San Rock Art South Africa
Capturing the "Rain-Bull"
Moving away from Drakensberg, to other areas of South Africa images of the dance remain common. This painting from the Eastern Free State is one example. The central figures are dancing, supported by dancing sticks. The dancer often bends forward during the dance as his potency begins to 'boil' in his stomach. In this position he supports his weight on one or two dancing sticks. The women on the left hand side are depicted in a characteristic clapping posture.
Below a Rock painting of a line of dancing shamans, from the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Some bleed from the nose; some carry dancing sticks. The figures of the leading figure extend onto the roof of the rock shelter. The lines radiating from his fingers probably represent sickness being cast back to the world of the spirits. The eland head probably symbolises the eland n/om, or power, that shamans are harnessing. Shaman San Rock Art South Africa
Nasal bleeding, hand-to-mouth postures, and the arms-back posture are all signs of depictions of trance experience in San rock paintings. Paintings of dances often depict blood flowing from the noses of shamans whose ecstasy has reached a climax. Nineteenth-century San who spoke of this phenomenon say that shamans smeared their nasal blood on people in the belief that its smell (that is, its power), would protect them from arrows-of-sickness. A hand raised to the nose is a typical, widely-painted shamanic feature.
Sometimes the painted dancers are shown with their bodies bent forwards so that they are almost at right angles to their legs. In this posture, they support the weight of their torsos on one or two dancing sticks. The San explain that, as the dance increases in intensity, the n/om in the shamans' stomachs starts to 'boil', their muscles contract painfully, and they bend forward in the way depicted above.
The dancers wear rattles on their legs. Scattered amongst them are a number of white flecks. Like arrows-of-sickness, these flecks probably depict something that is not seen by ordinary people. Perhaps they depict the n/om that infuses the place of the dance and that shamans can see.
Like us on Facebook & Follow us on Twitter to receive news & updates:
South Africa Rock Art Archive
Bradshaw Foundation
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates


First Name

Last Name


bradshaw foundation podcast
bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Bibliographic Database Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Privacy Policy Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Archive Index Rock Paintings & Engravings Sri Lanka Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery A Cultural Memory Izzy Wisher Biography Deer-tooth necklace Cave Art Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation