This is a story of how She – a shaman tracker, met He – a tall, handsome animal tracker, who took her on a bush walk. She was curious to learn more about animal tracking and surviving in the bush. He is a local young man who was raised in the bush by his father and grandfather, both animal trackers. Two of his brothers are also animal trackers.
When they stepped out the safety gate and into the bush, he started by saying how South African summer is the worst time to be walking in the bush. Because the grass is tall and bushes are thick, it is very difficult to see animals risking some close encounters. Apparently too close to be safe. So he went on explaining how she should behave in case of any such encounters, for example with a buffalo, rhino or an elephant. He said that both buffalos and black rhinos are very fond of chasing and smacking people in their way. The buffalo is the most quiet and very fast, and in his experience the hardest to get away from. Black rhinos can apparently run at great speeds of up to 55 km/hour. In his culture, they are believed to be of mean nature because they eat poisonous plants all day long. Summer is the mating season for elephants who tend to be tense and look for ways to release tension by smashing everything in their way.
Just in case, he told her she should never run before he says so, but if she does hear ‘run’, she’s gotta run as fast as she can in the direction he points. She jokingly told him she can already see how he, the tall and experienced guy, is gonna end up skillfully climbing a tree and hiding, while leaving her, the poor novice, to the mercy of the bush and it’s enraged inhabitants. No, he said he wasn’t gonna leave her, but come look for her in the direction he would point out for her to run. He said that if she followed the rules she would be safe. She learnt that nature has its rules, and as long as she knows and respects the rules she will be safe.
She still doesn’t know if he was trying to scare her off, but after all that she was even keener to walk in the bush. He told her many stories of his childhood, growing up in the bush, and the importance of knowing your environment to be able to survive. He showed her the uses of a few local plants and trees, from their healing properties to helping locate underground waters. He also described their practical uses, including making toothbrush and toothpaste, or as a substitute for toilet paper…
He pointed out various animal tracks along the way, and the differences between male and female prints of the same species. He told her that a successful tracker learns to use all his senses while tracking animals: sense of smell, taste, visual, hearing, while constantly situating himself in the space and time.
So my dears, if you still have doubts about whether shamans are born or taught, it is just like with animal trackers – a little bit of both. Those that come from families with long tracking histories inherit their knowledge and gifts. Yet amongst all family members, there will always be one who is better at it than others. One who can not only learn the rules but obey the rules. One who can use all her senses while tracking and never lose sight of where she is going. One who can lead others to where the treasure lies, while keeping them safe and well.
He is Prem, and his name means love.