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Kaang and the African Bushmen Creation Myth

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Africa is home to countless tribes and stories. Among them is the Bushmen people and their stories of Kaang, the creator god. 

These stories provide us with multiple motives seen in other mythologies, like those of the dying god, the benevolent god, the retreating god, and the commandment against using fire.

All these and more are what we’re going to cover today.

The Bushmen People

Bushmen are a tribe of people (also called the San people) who reside in Southern Africa.

They are know to be related to the Pygmies and Hottentots, sharing their shorter stature, similarly complicated languages, and their rich mythology.

Generally their tribes were small, amking them vulnerable when the threat of colonialism drove them into part so Namibia, and southern Angola.

Yet their mythologies lives on.

The Bushmen were a people that held a strong belief in animal spirits, and their connection to nature was apparent in their mythology.

Their creation story is, in addition to being a great story of a good god, is also a prime example of the dying god narrative.


Chief in their mythology is a benevolent god, usually referred to as Kaang in our western alphabet, but also spelled out as Kang, Cagn, Khu, Kho, or Thora. 

The Bushmen people also believed in a devil-like figure known as Gauna or Gawa, who was the lord of the dead, and the source of all things negative in the world.

The Bushmen Creation Myth

Kaang was the first being, and he caused all things to be made.

He created a tree with branches that stretched over the whole earth. At this time, humans lived under the earth, and Kaang created a hole at the base of the tree, allowing them to come up.

He then warned them that they could not use fire, and while they agreed at first, the cold nights drove them to do so. 

So they created fire, and had warmth. But the consequences of this act resulted in all the animals taking flight, scared of the flames. Thus, humans lost part of their connection to animals, including an ability to communicate with them.

Kaang’s Family

Kaang was married to a woman named Coti, and together they had two sons, and at least one daughter.

Their sons were named:

  • Cogaz
  • Gewi

Cogaz was the oldest, and takes an important part in many of the other myths related to Kaang.

Kaang’s Daughter

In one myth, Kaang’s daughter becomes upset with him, and tries to destroy herself by throwing herself among snakes. But rather than kill her, the chief of the snakes marries her.

Kaang then sent his son, Cogaz, to bring her back, and lent him his tooth to make him strong.

Cogaz and his companions wisely put on rushes all around their bodies, which ends up preventing the snakes from eating them.

At some point in this myth, the snakes are threatened by a flood, but a group of them are saved, including Kaang’s daughter and her husband. Kaang then instructs Cogaz to turn these snakes into people, and they become the people of Kaang.

Kaang and the Baboons

One day, when Kaang is asleep, his son Cogaz is making bows out of wood, when some men appear and kill him, stringing him up and dancing around the tree, singing and mocking Kaang.

Kaang awakes and visits the tree, where he discovers the men mocking him and desecrating the body of his son. 

As punishment, Kaang impales each of the men in the back with a wooden peg, turning them into baboons, the peg becoming their tail. 

Thankfully, Kaang is able to restore the life of his son. 

Kaang and the Eagle

In one myth, Kaang find an eagle, eating honey out of a cliff. Kaang, who apparently had a sweet tooth, asks for some honey. The eagle tricks him, however, and gets Kaang stuck in the precipice, unable to get down.

So Kaang sends out his charms to find Cogaz, his son, and ask him for help.

Cogaz helps him make water run out of the rock, which is somehow able to get him unstuck and back on the ground.

Kaang later reached the eagle and killed it, taking the honey that the eagle was hoarding.

But in killing the eagle, Kaang received a warning from Cogaz, that he would one day come to harm if he continued to fight everyone.

Kaang and the Cannibal

At one point, Kaang finds a woman named Cgorioinsi, who eats the bodies of men. And she is sitting by her fire doing just that.

Kaang decides to settle himself down by the fire and cook some roots, something Cgorioninsi is not having, so she tries to throw him into the fire.

Kaang, somehow, is able to resist her, and when he is finished cooking his roots, he throws her into the fire. 

Kaang and Quuisi

At one point, Kaang finds himself at a river, where he meets a person named Quuisi, who had been caught by the foot in the river by some creature, and has been unable to move for some time.

Kaang tries to help, but becomes stuck himself, and Quuisi escapes, doing nothing to help him.

Kaang once again reaches out to his son for help, who tells him to bring his clothing into the water. Kaang does so and the creature seizes it, letting go of his actual flesh, freeing Kaang. 

And, like the ending to many of these stories, Kaang then finds Quuisi and kills him in revenge.

Kaang and the Thorns

It turns out that Cogaz’s prediction that Kaang’s fighting would get him into trouble was prophetic. Because it was Kaang’s encounter with the thorns (also called dobbletjes or little people) that led to his ultimate demise.

One day Kaang found these people fighting amongst themselves. When he went to intervene, they ruined on him adn killed him, and his body was eaten up by ants.

But later, his bones were reassembled, and Cogaz managed to cure him of death, returning the favor that his father had given him before.

But it seemed that Kaang never truly learned his lesson because he, with his son’s advice, returned to the dobbletjes and killed many of them.

Kaang’s Departure

Eventually Kaang would leave Earth, becoming one of many retreating gods. The opposition that he found on Earth, and the genuine struggle he faced to try and guide humanity, was simply too much.

But the stories of Kaang remain to this day, and make up the central theme of Bushmen mythos.

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Jason is a Mythic Fantasy Author and creator of MythBank. He loves mythology, history, and geek culture. When he's not writing, his favorite hobbies include hiking, chilling with his wife, spouting nonsense words at his baby daughter, and developing this (and other) websites.

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