Creation (demi-urge)
AnimalsPraying mantis, bull eland, a louse, a snake, and a caterpillar
Ethnic groupǀXam
ConsortǀHúnntuǃattǃatte̥n ("Coti")
OffspringPorcupine (adopted daughter)

ǀKaggen (more accurately ǀKágge̥n or ǀKaggən, sometimes corrupted to Cagn[citation needed]) is Mantis, a demi-urge and folk hero of the ǀXam people of southern Africa.[1] He is a trickster god who can shape shift, usually taking the form of a praying mantis but also a bull eland, a louse, a snake, and a caterpillar.[2]


ǀKaggen 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.[4][5][3][6] His wife, Coti,[clarification needed] is represented as a marmot or rather a Cape hyrax and is known as the mother of bees.[6][5][7] Their adopted daughter is represented as a porcupine.[8]

Eland myth[]

One of the first animals created by ǀKaggen, and his favourite, was the eland.[9] ǀKaggen's wife Coti gave birth to the eland, and ǀKaggen hid it near a secluded cliff to let it grow.[9] One day his sons, Cogaz and Gewi, were out hunting.[9] Not knowing their father's love for the eland, they killed it.[10] ǀKaggen was angry, and told Gewi to put the blood from the dead eland into a pot and churn it.[11] Blood spattered from the pot onto the ground and turned into snakes.[11] ǀKaggen was displeased. Next, Gewi scattered the blood, and it turned into hartebeests.[11] Again, ǀKaggen 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 ǀKaggen sprinkled the mixture on the ground. It turned into a large herd of eland.[11] This was how ǀKaggen gave meat to his people to hunt and eat.[10] The Bushmen attribute the wildness of the eland to the fact that ǀKaggen's sons killed it before it was ready to be hunted, spoiling it.[10][12]

Ichneumon variation[]

The scholar David Lewis-Williams recounts a variation of the eland myth involving the meerkats. ǀKaggen's daughter the porcupine married Kwammang-a, a meerkat.[7] They had a son called Ichneumon (a mongoose).[7] Ichneumon was close to his grandfather ǀKaggen.[13] ǀKaggen used to take honey to feed his favourite, the eland.[14] The people were curious as to what ǀKaggen was doing with the honey, so they sent Ichneumon to spy on him and find out.[14] When Ichneumon saw ǀKaggen giving honey to the eland, he reported his discovery to his brothers, the meerkats.[15] While ǀKaggen was out gathering honey, the meerkats persuaded Ichneumon to show them where the eland was.[16] They called the eland out of its hiding place and killed it.[16]

See also[]



  1. ^ Dorothea F. Bleek, Bushman Dictionary, p. 296, at Google Books
  2. ^ Bleek (1875) A brief account of Bushman folklore and other texts
  3. ^ a b Stookey, p.184
  4. ^ Hastings, p.522
  5. ^ a b Moore, p.113
  6. ^ a b Meletinsky, p.169
  7. ^ a b c Lewis-Williams (2000), p.143
  8. ^ Lang, p.38
  9. ^ a b c McNamee, p.52
  10. ^ a b c Solomon, p.63
  11. ^ a b c d McNamee, p.53
  12. ^ Lang, p.146
  13. ^ Barnard, p.84
  14. ^ a b Lewis-Williams (2000), p.145
  15. ^ Lewis-Williams (2000), p.146
  16. ^ a b Lewis-Williams (2000), p.148