Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/226

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are not only disagreeable, but injurious to health. The lips crack, and the skin feels dry and harsh. Occasionally, at this time, tropical rains fall, but they do more harm than good, as a sudden cold which annihilates vegetation is invariably the result. In July and August the nights are the coldest, and it is then no unusual thing to find ice half an inch thick. Snow is of rare occurrence.

The Damaras and the Bechuanas have nearly the same notion as to their origin. Thus the latter believe that the founders of their nation and the animals of the country emerged from a cave, while the former declare that they sprung from a tree. When men and beasts first burst from the parent tree—so runs the tradition—all was enveloped in profound darkness. A Damara then lit a fire, which so frightened the zebra, the giraffe, the gnoo, and every other beast now found wild in the country, that they all fled from the presence of man, while the domestic animals, such as the ox, the sheep,[1] and the dog, collected fearlessly round the blazing brands.

The tree from which the Damaras are descended is to be seen, they say, at a place called Omaruru. But somehow there must be more than one parent tree, for both in going and coming we met with several Omumborombongas, all of which the natives treated with filial affection.[2]

The chief deity of the Damaras is called Omukuru. His abode is said to be in the far north; but it would be somewhat difficult to specify his attributes. Each tribe is supposed to have its own Omukuru, to whom it ascribes all its superstitious habits and customs, peculiarities, &c. The tribe is divided into castes or "eandas." Thus there are Ovakueyuba, those of the sun, or related to the sun, and Ovakuenombura, those related to the rain, &c., each of which has

  1. Some Damaras attribute the origin of the sheep to a large stone.
  2. The grain of this tree is so very close, and the wood so exceedingly weighty, that we gave it the name of the "iron tree."