AnimalsPraying mantis, bull eland, a louse, a snake, and a caterpillar
OffspringA porcupine

Cagn (also known as /Kaggen[1]) is the supreme god of the San of southern Africa. He is the first being and the creator of the world.[2] He is a trickster god who can shape shift, most often into the praying mantis.


Cagn is a trickster who is able to shape shift into the form of any animal.[3] He is most frequently represented as a praying mantis but also takes the form of a bull eland, a louse, a snake, and a caterpillar.[1][4][3][5] His wife, Coti, is represented as a marmot or rather a cape hyrax and is known as the mother of bees.[5][4][6] Their adopted daughter is represented as a porcupine.[7]

Eland myth[]

One of the first animals created by Cagn, and his favourite, was the eland.[8] Cagn's wife Coti gave birth to the eland, and Cagn hid it near a secluded cliff to let it grow.[8] One day his sons, Cogaz and Gewi, were out hunting.[8] Not knowing their father's love for the eland, they killed it.[9] Cagn was angry, and told Gewi to put the blood from the dead eland into a pot and churn it.[10] Blood spattered from the pot onto the ground and turned into snakes.[10] Cagn was displeased. Next, Gewi scattered the blood, and it turned into hartebeests.[10] Again, Cagn was unhappy. He told Coti to clean the pot and add more blood from the eland, with fat from the heart. She churned it, and Cagn sprinkled the mixture on the ground. It turned into a large herd of eland.[10] This was how Cagn gave meat to his people to hunt and eat.[9] The Bushmen attribute the wildness of the eland to the fact that Cagn's sons killed it before it was ready to be hunted, spoiling it.[9][11]

Ichneumon variation[]

The scholar David Lewis-Williams recounts a variation of the eland myth involving the meerkats. Cagn's daughter the porcupine married Kwammang-a, a meerkat.[6] They had a son called Ichneumon (a mongoose).[6] Ichneumon was close to his grandfather Cagn.[12] Cagn used to take honey to feed his favourite, the eland.[13] The people were curious as to what Cagn was doing with the honey, so they sent Ichneumon to spy on him and find out.[13] When Ichneumon saw Cagn giving honey to the eland, he reported his discovery to his brothers, the meerkats.[14] While Cagn was out gathering honey, the meerkats persuaded Ichneumon to show them where the eland was.[15] They called the eland out of its hiding place and killed it.[15]



  1. ^ a b Hastings, p.522
  2. ^ Asante, p.35
  3. ^ a b Stookey, p.184
  4. ^ a b Moore, p.113
  5. ^ a b Meletinsky, p.169
  6. ^ a b c Lewis-Williams (2000), p.143
  7. ^ Lang, p.38
  8. ^ a b c McNamee, p.52
  9. ^ a b c Solomon, p.63
  10. ^ a b c d McNamee, p.53
  11. ^ Lang, p.146
  12. ^ Barnard, p.84
  13. ^ a b Lewis-Williams (2000), p.145
  14. ^ Lewis-Williams (2000), p.146
  15. ^ a b Lewis-Williams (2000), p.148