Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/227

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RELIGION—WITCHCRAFT—SUPERSTITIONS.

its peculiar rites and superstitions. These, moreover, are derived from the mother, and not from the father. If a man of the Ovakueyuba marries a woman of the Ovakuenombura, their offspring adopt the notions, &c., peculiar to the latter, and vice-versâ. They can not account for this division of castes; they merely say it is derived from the "wind." Some religious notions, no doubt, lie at the bottom of this.

Though the Damaras do not profess absolutely to believe in a life hereafter, they have a confused notion of a future state. Thus they not unfrequently bring provisions to the grave of a deceased friend or relation, requesting him to eat and make merry. In return, they invoke his blessing, and pray for success against their enemies, an abundance of cattle, numerous wives, and prosperity in their undertakings.

The spirits of deceased persons are believed to appear after death, but are then seldom seen in their natural form. They usually assume on such occasions the shape of a dog, having, not unfrequently, the foot of an ostrich. Any individual to whom such an apparition (Otjruru) might appear, especially if it should follow and accost him, is supposed to die soon after.

The Damaras have great faith in witchcraft. Individuals versed in the black art are called Omundu-Onganga, or Omundu-Ondyai, and are much sought after. Any person falling sick is immediately attended by one of these impostors, whose panacea is to besmear the mouth and the forehead of the patient with the ordure of the hyæna, which is supposed to possess particularly healing virtues. The sorcerer, moreover, makes signs and conjurations.

Some very singular superstitions about meat exist among the Damaras. Thus a man will perhaps not eat the flesh of an ox which may happen to be marked with black, white, or red spots. Others refuse to partake of a sheep should it have no horns; while some would not touch the meat of draft-oxen, according to the rule of the "eanda" to which