Once upon a time when Unkulunkulu the great god of the universe finished creating the universe, he called upon his dear friend the rainbow serpent to keep the earth safe for all time. The giant serpent with all the colours imagined reflecting on his skin wrapped his body around the earth, putting his tail in his mouth to keep the mountains that rose from the mighty oceans from splitting the earth apart.
Unkulunkulu added the plants, animals and man. He knew for the earth to prosper he had to create perfection in his manifestation. And so was born the universal force of substance and matter. A reflection of as above so below with unlimited potential. Man would be natural explorers and adventurers. The sun, moon and stars pledged to guide man. The creation was magnificent with rainbows of colour bursting forth in the darkness. Stars finding stars and clustering together to crate their own families.
The great god said that my people would live in the lakes and rivers to protect the humans from the sun, moon and stars. These people will be known as “those who have gone before” the amaThonga, the ancestors. The pride of my tribe will be in the far north of the far south. These people will gather around a mighty river and seek counsel from the lake of the water people.
The emperor of the animals shall be the elephant, the king of the children of the sun god shall be the white lion and the protector of the tribe will be the crocodile. Each of these animals was called one by one to meet with the creator. He told them that they were to walk among the earth and shine their light for the people to follow. The lion was first to rise up forming his light cluster in the sky. The great elephant and the crocodile followed, each taking their positions above to shine and lead man.
The seven sisters took an oath to rise each winter as a promise of spring. They would dance for the mortals below and show them that time had come to plant for the year ahead. We will bring to man a sense of self confidence and esteem. Their light shall shine as bright as ours. They will lead generous and open hearted lives. They will be rewarded for their toils and labours. We will tell them when to start digging to prepare for the planting at the beginning of each growing season. We will watch over the family and when we appear in the east, the mothers will lift up their children and teach them to reach for the stars. We will mark the beginning of a new year.
Four great stars came together, with 3 cousins – this great constellation said that let it be known as long as we shine, no man shall ever be lost. We will always point to his home. We will drift across the night sky in the darkness as well as twilight, shining brighter than any other. We will be the symbol of hope, light and the great tree of life.
A lone star heard this, and believed that since he didn’t have family, he would have to be one of the brightest stars to shine for man. They call me by many names Naka, isAndulela, inKhwenkwezi, “The Brilliant Star” and Sirius he said. I bring reward and will tell the people when to gather their crops. I will shine brightest at dawn, so the vigilant will see me and sound the horn of plenty. When I shine at night man shall ask for supper. My signal is to begin the harvest and be the messenger of autumn and the warning that the cold winter months are coming.
The father sun and mother moon were not to be outdone. The sun said he would rise like a mighty warrior in the east; he will travel across the sky and burn out all the stars. When man looks to me he will be blinded, but if man looks to the ground he will see himself. As I travel across the world, I will bring heat, light and comfort. If man does not honour my mighty power I will burn his land and his people. I will dry up the rivers and the lakes. My lesson to man is that he is not alone, he is master of his own.
Mother moon heard this and said that she would shine, no matter what. She will be seen in the daylight and at night will cast her glow upon the people to guide their way. She will make herself new every 28 days to show man that as she diminishes in size and disappears, she will always return, slowly each night until her full radiance has been achieved. Then man shall stand on the highest mountain and bring their children to me.
As time moved on, Mother moon would watch the people below slumbering, and noticed that the plants lived as she did, they would grow, bloom, bear fruit and then in the autumn, they would drop their leaves and fruit and look like they had died, but in the springtime after the healing rains the cycle would begin again, new growth, new fruit, stronger trees.
With man she saw that they grew a little each day, until they we fully grown, then they faded out a little each day until there was nothing. Mother did not feel that this was right, so she called upon the great god of the universe to help the nations of men. Unkulunkulu called on the chameleon to take the message to man and tell them that they shall not die.
The chameleon set off at a pace, along the way he began to get hungry and he decided to stop for a snack, nibbling on the succulent leaves – after all his important message will let them know that they will not die, so it didn’t really matter how long he took. Unkulunkulu realised after some time that chameleon had not delivered his message to the nations of man. He then called on the speedy lizard to deliver his message. The lizard knew he could outrun the chameleon and he set off darting amongst the rocks. After a time he became drowsy in the sunshine, so he decided to take a break in the shade and said to himself, “I will take the message to the nations of man when the moon rises”.
Mother moons beautiful face rose as a big ball of fire from behind the mountains in the east. Growing lighter and brighter as she rose higher and higher. By the time she was high in the night sky, she saw that man had not received the important message from Unkulunkulu. She saw the lazy lizard under a rock and the chameleon still snacking on the plants. She decided that she would send the message to the nations of man. She called her faithful servant Mantis to deliver the message. She said tell man “as I die and dying live, so shall ye also die and dying live”. Mantis accepted the important task and began to make his way, along the mighty river, near the sacred lake of the ancestors.
Hare was sitting munching his dinner and overheard the message, “Hah” he said, “I am faster than any of these silly messengers, I will take the message to the nations of man”. He bounded off towards the village, repeating in his head “ as I live so shall you die”, no that wasn’t it. He tried again “as I live and die so shall you live”. Nope that wasn’t it either. “Aha – as I die and dying live, so shall ye also die and dying live.” Yes that’s it.
Hopping into the sacred kraal of man, hare thumped his foot hard on the ground. “Listen up beasts, man, woman and child, I Hare have an important message from mother moon”. The people gathered round, they were so excited to hear from the great mother. The head induna moved forward and said, “speak Hare, what is the message”. Hare was so excited being the centre of attention he blurted out “as I live so ye shall die”. The nations of man were struck with the pain of the message. Father looked to mother, mother looked to child and knew that their time together would end. A great sadness and darkness came upon man. This message had come from Unkulunkulu as well as mother moon. “We hear you Hare, we shall make the best of our time allowed”.
Just then mantis came hopping into the kraal, “don’t listen to him, don’t listen to him he is hare brained and stupid”. “The correct message is “as I die and dying live, so shall ye also die and dying live”. Man looked at mantis, you are too late my friend, as we are all already dying.
Mother moon heard the wailing from the people and she was so angry at hare that she slapped him across his face splitting his lip. “Huh! Is this the thanks I get for being your messenger?” Well take this … he sat his tail in the fire and leapt around so swiftly the coals rose up and burnt the moons face. Each time thereafter when man looked up to the moon, they saw the marking of Hare and were reminded that even the gods and ancestors cannot change the path of their destiny. They had to live each day the best they could for one day each one shall die.