Mythical stories that surround
I suppose it is inevitable that such a spectacular natural feature is surrounded by many different myths and legends. Arising from several different and often opposing cultures. The legends depict the mountain in many different forms. Ranging from a benevolent protector to a vicious destroyer.
In my walks on Table mountain I always try to imagine the mountain as it must have been in past. Teeming with a variety of wild animals long since extinct in the Cape. Nothing between the mountain and the Hottentots Holland Mountains but the natural wetlands of the Cape Flats. You can imagine how such an outstanding feature stood out in the mind of those already in the region and on those newly arrived.
Here is a synopsis of some of those legends.
Watcher of the South
One of the earliest legends is the African legend of the “watcher of the South”
Quamata, is one of the most prominent gods in Xhosa folklore. In the legend concerning Table Mountain when Quamata created the earth, the Great sea dragon Nkanyamba interfered and prevented him from creating dry land. To aid her son Quamata’s mother, Djobela, a one eyed earth goddess created four giants to assist her son.
These giants were assigned to guard the North, South, East and Western extremities of the new land.
Following many battles the dragon was defeated and the land created. The giants now asked The Great Mother Djobela, to turn them into mountain. So that even after their death they would be able to continue keeping watch over the land.
The greatest of these giants was “Umlindi Wemingizimu” – the watcher of the South. Who became Table Mountain.
In contrast to the African Tradition of Table Mountain as a benevolent father overseeing and protecting Cape Town. The Portuguese legend of Adamaster relates how after trying to overthrow the Sea Goddess Thetus, Adamaster was banished from the oceans altogether. For a while he wandered the Dark Continent until as punishment the Gods metamorphosed him into a mountain, and set him at Cape Point. There to guard the Southern seas.
On the approach of a ship he would transform into a huge and monstrous human figure who would tower over the poor sailors. Whipping up huge seas and storms causing death and disaster to anyone trying to round the Cape.
Van Hunks and the South Easter cloud
A later legend, dating from the time of the early settlement of the Cape is that of Van Hunks. An old pirate, Van Hunks took to escaping from the harsh tongue of his wife onto the lower slopes of Table Mountain. Whilst in the mountain he would relax and smoke his pipe. A habit his wife had banned from the house.
One day he met a stranger and the two men struck up a conversation with Van Hunks boasting that he could smoke more in a single sitting than any other man in the Cape.
The visitor taking up the challenge, said “your soul against a pot of gold”
Van Hunks, knowing he had lost his soul a long time ago was happy with the terms and so the two began to puff. Gradually a white cloud grew around them and before long the entire mountain was hidden in a cloud of smoke. Eventually, the stranger, pale in the face and unable to smoke any longer tumbled from the rock, gasping that he was the devil. However, not being a good sport the devil did not like to lose so when the mist cleared both men had disappeared.
Now whenever the South Easter covers Table Mountain they say that Van Hunks and Devil are continuing with their competition.