When darkness fell, Kalahari bushmen would meet in family groups around a fire where they told tales reflecting strange experiences, or tales sounding like translations of Aesop’s fables. Perhaps Aesop’s fables were a reflection of ancient tales brought by travellers from African desert areas. Their spirit figures, Mantis, Dasse and shamans, appeared mostly at night but, unlike European night walkers, these spirits came into the consciousness of the fireside gatherings to talk of peace and of unity with the animals and the flora of the desert.
!Nam!Koga, a shaman with whom I spent time in Western Bechuanaland, took me out most nights to the top of small hills. Even if it was cloudy overhead he would guide our search for areas where the gaunt trees, rocks and dunes had faint tinges of colour. He told me of spirits who would travel from one coloured spot to another and transmit their awareness of animals, or to places where a huge tuber containing water, could be found. But he would also identify certain colours using the names of the spirits who travelled within that specific hue.
On one occasion, when I was trying to make a decision that would affect my future in the RAF, he led me to an area illumined by moonlight shining down through a baobab tree. The leafage tinted the white moonbeams into a faint pumpkin tone which was the favoured colour of a Dasse who solved problems. We spent two hours under that baobab allowing the colour to enter into our consciousness. It was as though the colour had motion, swirling around my body like a breeze. Then it had a musical tone like a lute with both harmonic and atonal phrases. It also had a presence that was feminine.
Whoever or whatever it was. it didn’t solve my problem immediately, but on the long trek back to Tsetseng I kept my awareness of the colour open and my thoughts changed to a totally different objective with a workable alternative.
by David Chesterton