South African Astronomical Beliefs, Customs and Observations
Author: Peter G. Alcock
First edition, 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
Dewey No. 398.3620968
Page design and layout: Jo Marwick, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Copyright © 2014 P.G. Alcock, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
African indigenous celestial knowledge;
African concepts of heaven and the supreme being;
The Moon, the Sun and the stars as well as solar eclipses and lunar eclipses, comets and meteors in South Africa;
South African poems, riddles and other expressions associated with the heavens;
South African place names linked to celestial bodies.
“Dr Alcock’s book is the first comprehensive survey of Southern African cultural astronomy. It will be a touchstone for all future researchers in the field. It will also appeal to anyone interested in viewing the night sky with the naked eye, a natural birthright of all humanity.”
– Dr Keith Snedegar
Download the free PDF (4.2-Meg)
Table of contents
Chapter 1: Preamble (p 1)
Chapter 2: Heaven including the Sun (p 11)
A discussion of primary African deities and creation; The San; The Khoikhoi; The Zulu; The Swazi; The Ndebele; The Xhosa; The Venda; The Tsonga; The Sotho-Tswana; The Lemba; Other beliefs; Linguistic terms used to describe east and west; General solar beliefs; The San; The Khoikhoi; The Northern Sotho; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); The Tswana; The Zulu; The Xhosa; The Swazi; The Tsonga; The Venda; Retarding the passage of the Sun; Times of the day and night; The summer and winter solstice; The seasons in southern Africa; Heavenly bodies as national and other symbols in South Africa; A significant hill; Some mythical creatures and beings of the night; Riddles and other expressions relating to the Sun; The Northern Sotho; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); The Tswana; The Tsonga; The Venda; The Lemba; The Xhosa; The Swazi; The Zulu; The Southern Ndebele; Some stories and poems involving the Sun; San and Khoikhoi stories; Other stories; Poems; Music and the heavens; South African place names and the Sun.
Chapter 3: The Moon (p 98)
The lunar cycle; Linguistic terms describing the phases of the Moon; Perceptions of the Moon; The San; The Khoikhoi; The Zulu; The Xhosa; The Swazi; The Northern Sotho; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); The Tswana; The Tsonga; The Venda; The Lemba; New-born babies and the Moon; Lunar months in South Africa and adjacent localities; Zulu moons; Langa Ndebele (Mapela) moons; Southern Ndebele moons; Xhosa moons; Bhaca, Mpondo and Mfengu moons; Swazi moons; Northern Sotho moons; Southern Sotho (Basotho) moons; Tswana moons; Tsonga moons; Venda moons; Khoikhoi moons; The first landing on the Moon and artificial satellites; Moon stories; The Khoikhoi and the San; The Zulu; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); The Venda and the San; The Xhosa-speaking people: the Bhaca; Riddles and other expressions associated with the Moon; The Northern Sotho; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); The Tswana; The Tsonga; The Venda; The Xhosa; The Zulu; The Southern Ndebele; The Moon and poetry; The Moon and South African stamps; South African place names and the Moon.
Chapter 4: Solar eclipses and lunar eclipses (p 211)
A brief explanation of eclipses; Reactions to solar and lunar eclipses; Eclipse stories; Eclipse poetry.
Chapter 5: The stars and planets (p 220)
General overview; African stellar knowledge; The Zulu; Jupiter; Mars; Orion’s Belt; The Milky Way; Venus; The Pleiades; Other stars; Unidentified celestial bodies; The Swazi; The Xhosa; Venus; Canopus; The Pleiades; Further celestial objects; The Ndebele; The Northern Sotho; Achernar, Canopus and the Pleiades; The Southern Cross, Sirius, Orion’s Belt and the Pleiades; Jupiter, Venus and the Milky Way; Other stars; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); Jupiter and Venus; Canopus and Achernar; The Pleiades, the Southern Cross and other bodies; The Tswana; The Southern Cross, the Pleiades, Canopus, Orion, Venus, the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way; Unknown or unidentified Tswana stars; Sotho-Tswana stars revisited; The Tsonga; Venus, the Pleiades and the Milky Way; The Venda; Venus and Sirius; Achernar and Aldebaran; The Southern Cross, the Pleiades, Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way; The San; The /Xam; The !Kung; The !O Kung; The Naron and Auen; The !Xõ; The G/wi; The //Gana; The Hiechware; The Khoikhoi; Venus, Mercury and Jupiter; The Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds, Sirius and alpha/beta Centauri; Orion, the Pleiades, Aldebaran and additional stars; Some further thoughts on the first Morning Star; Pictorial and other representations of celestial bodies; The directional orientation of settlements and other structures in South Africa; Riddles and other expressions linked to the heavens and the stars; The Northern Sotho; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); The Tswana; The Tsonga; The Xhosa; The Swazi; The Southern Ndebele; The Zulu; The Venda; The Matabele; Some stories and poems concerning the heavens; Stories; Poems; South African flora and fauna with celestial names; South African place names and the stars.
Chapter 6: Comets and meteors (p 313)
Comets; Zulu comets; Xhosa comets; Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho (Basotho) and Tswana comets; Tsonga, Venda and San comets; Comets and South African literature; Meteors; The Southern Sotho (Basotho); The Zulu; The Tswana; The Venda; The Khoikhoi and the San.
Personal communications (p 328)
Bibliography (p 330)
Appendix A: Data illustrating the sighting of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mercury during designated periods
Appendix B: Two simple techniques, suitable for schools, to stimulate an interest in the heavens
Appendix C: The length of daylight in South Africa
Appendix D: Supplementary information on South African and other sources of astronomical data
Appendix E: The retrieval of historic and anthropological data
Also published by the same author:
Alcock, P.G. (2010) Rainbows in the Mist: Indigenous Weather Knowledge, Beliefs and Folklore in South Africa. South African Weather Service, Pretoria.