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Custom and Myth

Page: 73

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As far as we have gone, Tsui Goab, like Heitsi Eibib among the Namas, is a dead sorcerer, whose graves are worshipped, while, with a common inconsistency, he is also thought of as dwelling in the sky. Even Christians often speak of the dead with similar inconsistency. Tsui Goab’s worship is intelligible enough among a people so credulous that they took Hahn himself for a conjurer (p. 81), and so given to ancestor-worship that Hahn has seen them worship their own fathers’ graves, and expect help from men recently dead (pp. 112, 113). But, while the Khoi Khoi think that Tsui Goab was once a real man, we need not share their Euhemerism. More probably, like Unkulunkulu among the Zulus, Tsui Goab is an ideal, imaginary ancestral sorcerer and god. No one man requires many graves, and Tsui Goab has more than Osiris possessed in Egypt. {205}

If the Egyptians in some immeasurably distant past were once on the level of Namas and Hottentots, they would worship Osiris at as many barrows as Heitsi Eibib and Tsui Goab are adored. In later times the numerous graves of one being would require explanation, and explanations would be furnished by the myth that the body of Osiris was torn to pieces and each fragment buried in a separate tomb.

Again, lame gods occur in Greek, Australian, and Brazilian creeds, and the very coincidence of Tsui Goab’s lameness makes us sceptical about his claims to be a real dead man. On the other hand, when Hahn tells us that epical myths are now sung in the dances in honour of warriors lately slain (p. 103), and that similar dances and songs were performed in the past to honour Tsui Goab, this looks more as if Tsui Goab had been an actual person. Against this we must set (p. 105) the belief that Tsui Goab made the first man and woman, and was the Prometheus of the Hottentots.

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So far Dr. Hahn has given us facts which entirely fit in with our theory that an ancestor-worshipping people, believing in metamorphosis and sorcery, adores a god who is supposed to be a deceased ancestral sorcerer with the power of magic and metamorphosis. But now Dr. Hahn offers his own explanation. According to the philological method, he will ‘study the names of the persons, until we arrive at the naked root and original meanings of the words.’ Starting then with Tsui Goab, whom all evidence declares to be a dead lame conjurer and warrior, Dr. Hahn avers that ‘Tsui Goab, originally Tsuni Goam, was the name by which the Red Men called the Infinite.’ As the Frenchman said of the derivation of jour from dies, we may hint that the Infinite thus transformed into a lame Hottentot ‘bush-doctor’ is diablement changé en route. To a dead lame sorcerer from the Infinite is a fall indeed. The process of the decline is thus described. Tsui Goab is composed of two roots,


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