This is one of two places which our people believe all life, all living things, emerged from. This one is the holiest one by far. Our people of all nations have known this place as the Womb of the Earth, or the Vagina of the Earth.
Emergence of the first animals and human beings from this womb
It is believed that many millions of years ago living things crawled out of this hole camera moves out of that water. It is said that first to emerge from that water were animals, pachyderms such as rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and elephants. It is said that when these animals emerged from here, the world was hard rock, unfeeling sandstone, without any greenery in it.
Then the Great Earth Mother commanded the elephant and the hippopotamus to dance all over this landscape and pound the rock into soil.
It is said that the first one to obey was the elephant, who danced and danced and danced for hundreds of days and months. He danced all over the land pounding the rock into soil and when elephant was exhausted, when his legs were badly swollen, the Great Earth Mother asked him to rest behind a tall rock, because now it was hippopotamus’ turn, but the hippopotamus was lazy. It danced and danced and danced and then soon got tired and bored and angry and it looked around for a way of escape from this unpleasant duty. It danced slowly towards a river and when the goddess was not looking, the hippopotamus plunged into the river and stayed under the water.
The Goddess called out to the hippopotamus: ‘Come out hippopotamus! Your task is not yet completed, only half of the world has been pounded into soil. Come out please!’ The hippopotamus dived even lower in the water defying the goddess and down there under water it found some algae and began to eat, its ears deaf to the command of the great Earth Mother.
Then the rhinoceros stepped onto the land. The rhinoceros was in a very angry mood. It was in a very determined mood. It danced and snorted and danced and danced and danced. It ploughed up the earth with its horn tearing the rocks apart and pounding them to powder under its feet. And it is said that rhinoceros danced back and forward across the face of the earth for ten whole years. Behind the rhinoceros rain was falling. Behind the rhinoceros trees and grass were growing, the land was becoming green and alive.
From this great womb of the earth animal life was pouring out.
Millions of antelopes, impalas, elands, kudus, springboks, steenboks, all of them, zebras wildebeests, buffaloes giraffes, all of them stormed out of this hole to spread across the world.
Then human beings emerged from this hole, which at this time was not filled with water, but with the white pure seed of the Earth Mother. Out of the white milk-like substance emerged the first Bushmen and when they emerged from the seed of the Goddess, they spread through the land, making bows and arrows and hunting.
Behind them came the Bantu peoples. People of many races and many nationalities came out of here and very, very soon the earth was alive with the song of creation. The earth was alive with the song of the birds, the howling of animals, the roar of lions and the coughing of leopards.
It is said that the first human beings to emerge from this hole, were women. Women were the first beings to step onto the earth up there and women were the first beings to worship God. Women were the first creatures to discover the miracle of religion, of faith, faith that sustains and faith that heals, faith that can enable a human being to do anything, no matter how seemingly impossible it was at first.
Here, we were told, the gods of the stars often appear, bringing a good spirit to the earth, visiting the womb of the earth, from which they themselves emerged, before we human beings appeared.
I wish that one day the full story of this holy place may be told.
This place is known to the Afrikaner people as ‘Wondergat’, which means the Wonder Opening or Wonder Cavern.
For thousands of years our people worshipped here. For hundreds of generations our people used to congregate here, men and women of different tribes, their tribal differences forgotten and buried, when they came here, to ask the great gods for rain, to ask the great gods for peace and to ask the great gods for fertility.
This place was governed by some of the strictest laws in Africa. No-one was allowed to drink the water from this place. In olden days clay pots encased within bark cloth nets were lowered into this water to fetch this sacred water but no-one was allowed to drink this water or use it for cooking.
It was so sacred… The water that was gathered here was used only in rain-making ceremonies. It was used only in the treatment of illnesses in human beings and animals and it was not to be used for ordinary purposes.
Many years ago, while I was undergoing initiation as a healer, I was brought to this place, a place I had heard much about, but which I saw for the first time. These steps had not been cut and I was expected to climb down a sheer rock face towards the edge of that water there.
It was at night because we were afraid of the local farmers. How I climbed down that rock face, I shall never know, but I came back with a bottleful of this sacred water which was used afterwards in my initiation.
A sangoma has to take very great risks in the course of his of her initiation. He or she has to go into the most dangerous places to face his or her deepest fears and emerge victorious.
Sometimes sangomas used to jump off those cliffs, placing their lives in the hands of the gods, saying that: ‘If I survive and am not drowned, then I am qualified to be a sangoma, but if I am drowned or mutilated by those rocks, then it means the gods have not chosen me for this great task.’
You had to jump over that cliff to show your absolute faith in the gods and in the ancestral spirits and then you had to swim out if you survived and make your way up those dangerous cliffs again.
Underground on this side of this great place, there is a huge cave filled with water and when a diver goes in there and speaks his voice echoes like thunder.
HISTORICAL STORIES OF THE PLACE OF EMERGENCE LOCALLY KNOWN AS ‘WONDERGAT’.
In olden days, a criminal who had committed a crime and who sought refuge in this area, was not allowed to be arrested, if the crime had not involved the taking of a human life. If the criminal had committed murder, the chief used to order him to leap into the Wondergat. If he survived, he was adjudged not guilty, but if he drowned, or broke his neck, it was taken to be a sign of guilt on his part. If a criminal had merely stolen a goat and he took refuge here, no one was allowed to apprehend him, unless he dared to emerge from this area.
One wily old criminal stayed here for some fifty years, until he died of natural causes. What had he done? He had stolen king Mzilikaze’s best bull and had eaten it, him and his friends. Mzilikaze’s warriors were after this man like a shot, but he took refuge here, bringing some of the bull’s dried meat with him. After that he lived on wild game that was plentiful around this place and birds and other things and he lived to a very ripe but wicked old age.
A sad story is told about this place, that when king Mzilikaze came from the south and invaded the land of the BaTswanas, a community of BaTswanas took refuge in this place, hoping that the Matabeles would not follow them here, but because this community possessed a lot of cattle, the Matabeles did follow them here and massacred many of them, until only a handful of people were left.
When these people saw that the Matabeles were after them, they stood along the cliffs up there, over a hundred men, women and children and one by one they committed suicide by jumping to their deaths over those cliffs. First the women pushed their children over, then they themselves jumped over, then the men jumped over as well. It was a horrible sight.
At long last only one woman survived and she was carrying a baby on her back. But she had sprained her ankle and had been left behind by her people when they came to edge of the cliffs here. She hobbled along to join her people in death, but a Matabele induna saw her, snatched the baby off her back and allowed her to hobble on, to jump over the edge of the cliff. The induna took that baby and brought it up as his own son and that baby grew up to be one of the mightiest Matabele warriors who ever lived.
Here, when a tribe formed out of a number of splinter communities, the communities used to assemble here and pouring the sacred water from here over themselves, would swear that they were now one people, never to be separated and they would emerge from this area as one nation, where before a few pathetic splinters had converged.
When the Voortrekkers came here they found villages here near this place and all those villages were sacred villages, healing places, our versions of hospitals, because it was believed there was great healing power.