The praying mantis is a powerful symbol of spirituality in Bushman tradition. My sister in law told me that today, as we were looking over the pictures from our Spring Festival on Saturday. It seems appropriate for it to be hanging out on our stoep that morning as we prepared for our gathering of friends. Our seasonal festivals have taken on a life of their own now, almost happening independantly of any conscious decision on our part. Friends arrive, ideas flow and the celebration evolves each year, to become bigger, better, more elaborate until I am projecting into the future and seeing it turning in to a Glastonbury Festival in a few years time!
The themes for Spring are water and flowers. The last two years we have each made a flower crown with crepe paper and raffia to wear, then carried jugs of water into our circle, ceremoniously taking turns to pour into a bowl then sprinkle flowers on it. We give thanks for the rain and ask for blessings on the new season. This year I thought it would be nice to decorate the sand around the outside of the circle with a carpet of flowers and envisaged the children picking flowers and making patterns with them, as they often do when playing by our braai. Some of that did happen too.
A new initiative spontaneously happened though, that involved the boys to the exclusion of all else. I’d asked my husband to wet the sand around the circle in preparation for the decoration, a simple request that involved much re-plumbing of hosepipes to reach and provided the boys with an endless supply of water. When I went out to start decorating, a major earthworks construction was in progress, with the hose buried in a huge mountain of sand to produce waterfalls and a massive dam. Their creativity carried on the next day to produce a sand seal spouting water into a pool of water.
So next year the idea has been mooted we should create a two tier water feature, lining it with clay and pebbles, that cascades down the slope towards the circle. My flower carpet is still included in the plans. I can see that we’ll need everyone to come and spend the whole day preparing.
The main essence of the day is in the preparation time anyway. The actual celebration is just the finale. People arrive here stressed from their daily lives and take a while to unwind. Getting involved in making paper flowers, digging in the sand, filling paper bags with sand to take candles, picking flowers and decorating with them relaxes everyone, builds an atmosphere and forms disparate groups of friends into a clan.
By the time we are ready to process into our circle, conventional men are relaxed enough to wear their flower crowns without embarrassment and we are all comfortable with a simple thanksgiving and asking for blessings.
This year we had a written blessing open on the computer for anybody to add what they wanted to during the afternoon. We printed off copies and then each person took turns to read their words. This is about as organised as we’ve ever been but it worked really well and there was an amazingly spiritual vibe there.
Then as dusk fell we meandered back up the river of light formed by candles glowing in brown paper bags, towards the house and supper, forty of us in our elastic house, hardly making a dent in the lavish array of quiches and salads that everyone contributed to. My pavlovas were teeth gluingly sticky, so that I could hardly even slice them ( I put the cream on at the last minute, so it had no time to soften the chewiness) but no-one minded and the children ran about till way past bedtime, revelling in the unusual liberty of playing outside in the dark.