Wife of Dawn’s-Heart Star: Kalahari Bushmen


Specimens of Bushman Folklore, by W.H.I. Bleek and L.C. Lloyd, [1911], at sacred-texts.com


Method of Interpretation


Unconscious thought

Jung showed that a dream, a naive fairy tale, or a myth each expresses unconscious thought…. A dream compensates for a one-sided conscious attitude. When a man denied his imminent psychological peril, he dreamt that:

he was doing motorcycle tricks in Manhattan, while standing on one pedal.

Later he dreamt that:

he was flying through the air from a ski jump; while in the air, he realized that he did not know how to ski.

The man’s second dream found a different image to repeat the warning of the first. Repetition helps us to confirm the interpretation….

A naive fairy tale compensates for one-sided attitudes in the collective (in Europe, the collective attitudes are often Christian). A naive tale is orally transmitted – conserved by both teller and listener because a listener would complain if it were not ‘told right’ – among people who, lacking formal education, are open to the unconscious.

By contrast, when a fairy tale is retold by an educated writer it tends to be undermined by ruling conscious attitudes. The Grimm brothers, for example, bowdlerized their tales: they took out the sex but left in the violence….

A myth is preserved by the collective because it expresses vital unconscious ideas. (For example, the myth of the Flood suggests that psychological renewal can begin only after the ruling conscious position has suffered radical failure and mourning.) Unconscious thought develops internally, within one person, but it also develops through conversation with others. It uses an image from the outer world (in Bushmen myth an animal, a plant, a tool, the land, a star, or the weather is common) to represent an inner factor which would otherwise be inaccessible.

The apparent wisdom of the unconscious has led to mystical explanations. It may be, however, that the unconscious seems so wise only because consciousness is so ignorant! Consciousness sacrifices the big picture in order to focus more sharply. The unconscious synthesizes all relevant information, including archetypes.

Archetypes and renewal

The personality is creative and may evolve throughout life, fulfilling possibilities for which it was not prepared by parenting or early education. A new possibility may be found in the environment, but its essence is recognized as a organizing principle or archetype which is universal and timeless. The principle appears (in unconscious thought) as an image which guides renewal. Odysseus evolved as he faced a series of monsters and gods, each of which represented an archetype.

A cave, a grave, a womb, a crucible, a swimming pool, a physical therapist’s or psychotherapist’s office, a therapy group, all are images of the archetype yin. Yin is both the great mother and also the vessel in which an old adaptation may dissolve and a new one may gestate. When a person is transforming, he or she may dream of yin:

A 54-year-old, single patient had had a conflicted relationship with her mother, probably since a two-week separation at 18 months. Several years after her mother’s death, when the patient herself had ended a long-term romantic relationship, she suffered severe, prolonged somatic pain. Eventually she found a female physical therapist who, she felt, understood her physical problem: the therapist gave her exercises that helped. Then she had the following vision during meditation (the equivalent of a dream):

her mother’s dead body was floating down a stream in an open coffin.

Her vision suggests Ophelia who drowned, driven mad by Hamlet’s rejection. This may refer to her mother’s unhappy marriage and to her own frustrated relationships (with her ex partner? or with her therapist?), and perhaps also to her tendency to dramatize.

In dreams, death usually means transformation. Her mother’s dead body suggests that the relationship style she had developed with her mother had already transformed in some significant way.

The coffin suggests yin (the great mother, responsible for birth, life, and death: a container within which transformation can occur). Floating down a stream suggests how, when defenses have become conscious, physical or emotional  healing may occur – spontaneously, following a natural pathway, without steering. The woman dreaded that she could not change and would suffer somatic pain until her own early death. Her vision seemed to compensate for her dread by showing that some transformation had already begun and might proceed spontaneously.

She cried when I made this interpretation, an autonomic reflex, evidence that the interpretation was in some way accurate. About two weeks later her somatic pain diminished significantly, further evidence that the interpretation was in some way accurate. (I am not claiming that my interpretation cured the pain; only that her physical therapy, her image, its interpretation, and a significant reduction in pain all occurred at about the same time.)

Inner complexity and story

Unconscious thought creates a story (a vision, dream, naive fairy tale, or myth) and the story creates more unconscious thought. A story also helps to expand consciousness.

All this is necessary because, notwithstanding the claims of evolutionary psychology, inner complexity cannot be coded by genes:… By astronomical orders of magnitude there are not enough genes: a human has few more genes than a roundworm, one of the simplest animals….

Moreover, humans evolved from apes very quickly, with minimal genetic change. The genes of a human and a chimpanzee differ no more than the genes of a brown and a grey mouse….

Furthermore, nowhere in biology do genes specify complex structure. Complex structure is achieved by self organization;  genes function by triggering and limiting self organization. Nor can inner complexity be specified by education (how big would be the book that specified all inner complexity?).

Just as story represents unconscious thought, so too do other forms of art. A musical note or passage, a shape or color in visual art, a movement in dance, an image in poetry, each of these is a form in the outer world which evokes a response in the inner world. Because inner response is essential for human life, so too is art. A movie scene of a high-speed car chase grips us all because it evokes at least one inner truth, that we wish to live and fear to die.

Expansion of consciousness

The term ‘complexity’ refers only to a degree of organization. In the personality, what we can observe is the expansion of consciousness. Consciousness has many degrees. It begins as wakefulness, being aware of what the senses perceive. Self-awareness takes further mental work.

Here I speak of the expanded consciousness which only develops if a person enters into conversation with the unconscious and grows because of it. This expansion of consciousness is what Jung called individuation. Through it, Jung said, a person becomes more truly individual. Without it a person is controlled by unconscious forces.

A person has the potential to become conscious, in Jung’s sense of the word, just as a person has the potential to ride a bike. But neither is a given: some people never ride a bike and many do not become conscious.

Through conversation with the unconscious, a personality can renew itself throughout life. As new archetypal patterns emerge the personality transcends what was modelled by parents and schooling. Without such conversation skills learned early may develop further but the personality does not transform.


One person seeks counsel from a second. If the first is naive, then the second may compensate with a wider view. If the first is autonomous then he or she questions the second and listens critically. The same is true for a conversation with the unconscious. Neither side should dominate. If the person dominates then the unconscious is disregarded and the conversation is predictable and not transformative. If the unconscious dominates it tends to be destructive, like a runaway horse.

Different means

Such conversation uses a variety means. Some examples:

… Art because art is the conscious elaboration of forms which emerge from the unconscious

….Retelling or re-enacting a myth. For Bushmen this vital work could be done even at night, by firelight.


bushmen dance.jungian psychotherapy

Trance dances of the San people of Den/ui village

… A relationship in which intimates struggle to engage more fully, because this demands understanding at both conscious and unconscious levels. This is the psychological meaning of marriage

…. Psychotherapy, including the analysis of dreams and transference (both are messages from the unconscious).

Each of the above develops consciousness differently but each has in common that the person relates to the unconscious as an other. Both parties remain autonomous.

Across cultures

Unconscious thought is common to different cultures. A widely shared thought concerns a universal need, for example, the need for challenge, adversity, suffering, loss, achievement, autonomy, security, respect, companionship, mentorship, understanding, love, progeny, comfort, pleasure, play, creativity, inner growth, meaning.

The same image may appear in different cultures. For example flying, or travelling underground and returning to the surface, or a liminal region where water meets land (beach or lake shore or river bank) or where earth meets sky (mountain top, steeple), water itself, ice, mist, rain, wind, lightning, a home, a snake, a horse, a bird, fire, a spear or knife or arrow, birth, a baby, a mother, a crone, a man or woman who is beautiful, or death dealing, or heroic, or clumsy, or tricky, or wise.

From studying dreams and myths we know that a common logic applies in different cultures and different millennia (for example, that a story’s beginning gives the current psychological situation and that sequence in time represents causality). Furthermore, a common symbolic interpretation may apply throughout. This last statement, that there is a universal language of symbolic interpretation, may seem controversial but reflection will show that it is not. A story that grips Bushmen may also grip modern, urban people. I have already shown, by the example of the car chase, that a story grips us when it evokes a universal inner factor.

If the image of water in a Bushman myth represents something universal, then we need to know not only its context in Bushman culture, but also what water symbolizes elsewhere. (It usually symbolizes feeling – sorrow, love, happiness, unease, embarrassment, for example – because feeling seems to flow through our veins like water).


Scholars of Bushman myth recognize that a myth portrays the spirit world but they tend not to understand that the spirit world represents unconscious thought. Freud, Jung and others have proved this by showing close parallels between the findings of depth psychology and the content of religious myth. Thus one function of religion, including Bushman myth, is to support inner life, especially the expansion of consciousness. It is a category error to argue that gods and demons are not ‘real’: they portray inner reality.


Interpreting a dream or a myth is like interpreting a poem. I may be convinced that I have understood a poem and others may agree but there can be no scientific proof. You must decide for yourself whether my interpretation convinces you.

However, as a psychoanalyst who has spent many years interpreting dreams, I have special expertise. My method of interpretation derives from Jung, Marie Louise von Franz, and Edward Whitmont, with some development by myself, in particular my emphasis on the internal evidence of repetition (see below).

When working with a dream I check my interpretation against the dreamer’s verbal response (‘does that ring a bell for you?’) and also by watching for autonomic responses, perhaps a startled recognition, an involuntary ‘of course’, a sigh, sudden relaxation, tears, a blush. Because it shows unconscious recognition, an autonomic response has authority: without such confirmation, I assume that my interpretation is wrong, either in content or in timing (it may be unhelpful because it is premature). I can also observe over time whether an interpretation is linked to progress for the dreamer.

I learn to explore the details of each image carefully. The dreamer’s first affect-laden association suggests the unconscious meaning. The image’s objective meaning also signifies – for example a motorcycle is objectively dangerous.

I learn to recognize what Jung called a true symbol, an image representing a mystery. For example, I can observe what Jung called the Self  but I cannot fully understand it. My explanation, that it is the archetypal potential for unity, does not explain away its mystery. A true symbol requires contemplation (this is the psychological meaning of religious contemplation).

I learn to tolerate the anxiety of not knowing. Otherwise I would relieve my anxiety by imposing a preconceived interpretation: consciousness would dominate.

I ask, ‘Why this dream now? What is it trying to tell this person?’ Similarly for a myth: ‘Why is it preserved? What essential function does it serve?’

Though interpretation cannot be proven scientifically, a story-from-the-unconscious does include, within its text, objective evidence. I developed the concept of repetition. If an unconscious idea is important, then a series of different images symbolize it. A woman had recently reduced her work hours. She dreamt that she could not get home because she had lost her train ticket and forgotten her phone number. Each image independently suggested that she felt insecure about identity. The internal repetition helped confirm the interpretation.

For interpreting myths, experience with dreams is essential. The language and logic is the same and some techniques apply directly. Dreams allow us to confirm the validity of our interpretation process because we can refer back to the dreamer.

An overview of the myth

Text in italics is from Specimens of Bushmen Folklore by Bleek and Lloyd.


List of characters

Dawn’s-Heart: the star Jupiter, father.

Dawn’s-Heart’s wife: another star, mother, !Ko-g!nuing-tara, Lynx (when poisoned by Hyena she becomes a lioness).

Dawn’s-Heart-child: another star, daughter.

Younger sister: sister of Dawn’s-Heart’s wife, |Xe-dde-Yoe.

She-Hyena: envious female (pretends to be Lynx and takes her place as Dawn’s-Heart-wife).

Jackal: envious female.

Bushman rice: white grubs, ‘ants eggs’, !haken.

An overview of the myth

This tale’s plot is simple and logical but it seems confusing at first, in part because Bushman names are unfamiliar to us but also because the main character is polymorphic. She is simultaneously a human mother (!Ko-g!nuing-tara), a star  (Dawn’s Heart’s wife but, before the time of this story, she was his daughter), and an animal (mostly Lynx but, in the middle of the story, a lioness; there is also an envious she-hyena who pretends to be Lynx). The husband, Dawn’s Heart, is simultaneously a human and a star, as is their baby daughter. The wife has brothers who are human. She also has a younger sister, |Xe-dde-Yoe, who, to keep things simple, is only human though she seems to be related to the Son of God.

In order to throw more light on that portion of the story of !Ko-g!nuing-tara [Lynx] which is contained in the version here given, the following extract is supplied from page 11 of Dr. Bleek’s ‘Second Report concerning Bushman Researches’, printed at Cape Town, in 1875:

The ‘Dawn’s-Heart’ (the star Jupiter) has a daughter, who is identified with some neighboring star preceding Jupiter (at the time when we asked, it was Regulus or Alpha Leonis). Her name is the ‘Dawn’s-Heart-child,’ and her relation to her father is somewhat mysterious.

He calls her ‘my heart,’ he swallows her, then walks alone as the only Dawn’s-Heart star, and, when she is grown up, he spits her out again. She then herself becomes another (female) Dawn’s-Heart [now Dawn’s-Heart’s wife, the Lynx, who also is a beautiful woman], and spits out another Dawn’s-Heart-child, which follows the male and female [husband and wife] Dawn’s-Heart.


lynx's head.jungian psychoanalyst

Caracal Lynx (African)

Photo: bob_r photos at pbase.com

Dawn’s-Heart’s wife was a human who integrated both celestial (star) and instinctual (lynx) aspects. These aspects are universal and timeless and therefore archetypes; they are contents of what Jung called the collective unconscious.

The implication for Dawn’s-Heart’s wife is that she had an ongoing conversation with the unconscious. Therefore she symbolizes an unusual development of consciousness which Jung called individuation. I have shown in my analysis of another Bushman tale, !Gaunu-tsaxau, the baboons and the /Kaggen, that a chimera – part animal, part human, like a sphinx – symbolizes individuation. Dawn’s Heart’s wife is like a chimera.

(You or I can gradually integrate an archetype by conversing with it: let it speak through a dream or a myth or another source from the unconscious, listen to it carefully, regard it reverently, and then respond with some action which it calls for in your life.)

A star is a focal point of light (consciousness) in the dark (the unconscious).


jupiter and venus.jungian psychoanalyst

Jupiter (upper star) and Venus at dawn

Photo: Spaceweather.com. Hershey PA


Shakespeare compared love to a star:

“It is an ever-fixed mark,

that looks on tempests and is unshaken.”

Love emanates from a person’s enduring center; it transcends the petty concerns of ego.

“It is the star to every wandering bark,

whose worth’s unknown though its height be taken.”

The enduring center guides us but remains a mystery. A star thus symbolizes a person’s unchanging, archetypal center of  being which Jung called the Self.

Empirically, we meet the Self as the source of dreams. A dream seems to be designed with precision to lead the dreamer to the step which is next accessible to consciousness. To converse with archetypes is, step-by-step, over decades, to develop a more conscious relationship with the Self. Empirically, this seems to be the Self’s purpose.

The three wise men were led to Christ’s birth by the Star of Bethlehem. 

Jung  showed that Christ is the quintessential western image of the Self (Aion CW:9,2). Shakespeare’s poem suggests that relating to the Self also means connecting to love, which fits with Christian ideas about love.


wise men and christ. jungian analyst

Adoration of the Magi. (The star is above the manger)
Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, 1305

“To take up one’s own cross would mean to accept and consciously realize one’s own particular pattern of wholeness.” (Edinger, Ego and Archetype, p.135)

“The Self … is present in everybody a priori, but as a rule in an unconscious condition to begin with. But it is a definite experience of later life, when [if] this fact becomes conscious ” (CW:18:par.1638)

“The Self is “a living spirit (which) grows and even outgrows its earlier forms of expression…This living spirit … pursues its goal … throughout the history of mankind…the names and forms which men have given it mean very little; they are the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal tree.” (CW:11:par.538)

Dawn’s-Heart’s wife spat out another star which was also human (Dawn’s-Heart-child).

As is characteristic of someone in touch with the Self, Dawn’s-Heart’s wife helped another person to be in touch too, a repetition which helps confirm my interpretation.

The name itself, Dawn’s-Heart, suggests the dawn of consciousness because it integrates light (perception, understanding) with heart (feeling). True consciousness requires both. The marriage of Lynx and Dawn’s-Heart also symbolizes consciousness because it integrates yin and yang. The love implied in marriage also symbolizes individuation and consciousness.

Dawn is the border between light and dark, like the beach, where land (consciousness) meets water (the unconscious). In dreams a beach is a setting for individuation.

These repetitions – a series of different images which suggest the creation of consciousness – provide internal evidence that my interpretation is objectively accurate, that I are not merely assigning meaning to this story. Throughout the the tale there are more repetitions which provide more confirmation.

The mother of the latter [Dawn’s-Heart-child], the first-mentioned Dawn’s-Heart’s wife, was the Lynx, who was then a beautiful woman, with a younger sister who carried her digging-stick after her.

In another african story, Diirawic, I have shown that Diirawic’s younger sister represents a female version of Christ: she understood Diirawic’s danger, repeatedly warned her, guided her, and sacrificed herself to protect her. Here Lynx’s younger sister played a similar role, another repetition which confirms again that this story is about individuation.

Dawn’s-Heart hid his child under the leaves of an edible root (!kuissi), where he thought that his wife would come and find it. Other animals and birds arrived first, and each proposed herself to the Dawn’s-Heart-child as its mother; but they were mocked by the child, until at last it recognized its own mother.

Who was the child? Who was her true mother? This is about true and false identity. Winnicott used the terms, true self and false self: under favorable circumstances a child remains his or her own true, most vital self whereas, if  the parents are too needy, the child adopts a false self in an attempt to satisfy their needs.(Winnicott, D. W. (1965). “Ego distortion in terms of true and false self”. The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development. New York: International Universities Press, Inc: 140–57.)

Jung said a person becomes more vital if he or she engages in a true conversation with the Self. For a young child the parent represents the Self. Thus Winnicott’s and Jung’s concepts, though different, are related. The Bushman story uses extraordinary images to explore these ideas.

Among the rejected animals were the Jackal and the [she]-Hyena who, to revenge themselves …

A true self incites envy because the false self expects never to possess what the true self enjoys. Envy makes the false self destructive.


wild hyena.jungian analyst

Wild Spotted Hyena

Photo: EPA.

… bewitched the mother (Lynx) with some poisoned ‘Bushman rice’ (also-called “ants’ eggs”), by which means she was transformed into a lioness.

Dawn’s-Heart’s wife integrated a lynx’s and a human’s body with celestial wisdom, while the lioness was earth-bound and unconscious. Thus Dawn’s-Heart’s wife regressed. Envy poisoned individuation.


lioness in grass.jungian analyst

Lioness stalking in tall grass

Photo: Nina Tikari, www.ninatikari.com

In the dark, the [she]-Hyena tried to take her (the Lynx’s) place in the hut, on the return of the Dawn’s-Heart; but the imposture was made known to him by his sister-in-law. The Dawn’s-Heart tried to stab the Hyena with his assegai, but missed her. She fled, putting her foot into the fire, and burning it severely.

The Hyena was marked by her conflict with the burning star. When a person is consumed by envy he or she becomes visibly deformed.

The bewitched wife was enticed out of the reeds by her younger sister, and then caught by her brothers, who pulled off the lion skin, so that she became a fair woman again. But, in consequence of having been bewitched by ‘Bushman rice,’ she could no longer eat that, and was changed into a lynx who ate meat. [She kept the hair on the tips of her ears so that she could hear.]

Individuation is like adolescence in its cycles of change and confusion. As a lion, Dawn’s-Heart’s wife was reduced to an unconscious form. Then she was restored to her individuated form, celestial, human, and lynx. By losing these opposed parts and then recovering them, Dawn’s-Heart’s wife made them more conscious.

This myth, which contains many minor, and some beautiful incidents, is partly given in the form of a narrative, and partly in discourses addressed by the Dawn’s-Heart to his daughter, as well as in speeches made by the Hyena and her parents, after her flight home.

The myth in full

Explanations (italics) are from The Uncoiling Python: South African Storytellers and Resistance by Harold Scheu. Interpretations (black) are by McDowell.

As with a dream, the details are vital.

Dawn’s-Heart-Star was married to Lynx. While Dawn’s-Heart was away hunting…. 

several male figures amongst animals.Jungian analysis

Bushman rock paintings. Southern africa

Photo source: unknown



….the she-hyena bewitched Lynx with ‘Bushman rice’ (white grubs).

They sought for !haken, [1] they were digging out !haken. They went about, sifting !haken, while they were digging out !haken. And, when the larvæ of the, !haken were intending to go in (to the earth which was underneath the little hillock), they collected together, they sifted the larvæ of the !haken on the hunting ground.

As hunter-gatherers the Bushmen felt kinship with other animals. The larvae intended to burrow back into the soil while the Bushmen intended to collect them.

The larvae were white specks against the darker earth, an earthly parallel to stars in the sky. They thus represent ‘scintillae’ – a term used by alchemists to mean sparks of nascent consciousness. The Bushmen gathered together germs of independent intention from the unconscious, in order to develop consciousness.

This is what happens when we wake from a dream. The dream has unearthed new fragments of consciousness but we have only a few moments to gather them before they burrow back into the unconscious and are lost to us!

It took me several years to understand this meaning of ‘intending to go in’. When I suddenly saw it, I felt that I was in conversation with an elder of early behaviorally modern humans!

We cannot know the age of the myth analyzed here, but we do know that it was conserved by (expressed essential values of ) a culture which changed little in at least 44,000 years.  Bushman tool kits in the nineteenth century were identical to a recently-discovered 44,000-year-old tool kit. The myth may be that old.

The image of gathering !haken together also makes the point that consciousness is intentional work. A baboon or a bird might hunt larvae but would not gather them together.

I would not have reached the above insight (that the grubs are fragments of consciousness burrowing back into the unconscious) had I not first amplified the image, that is, expanded upon it with related images, in this case from alchemy.


alchemical tree. jungian analyst

Senior & Adolphus with alchemical tree of metals
Occulta Philosophia (1613), Rosicrucian Archives.

The sun, the moon and the stars (in this case planets) are the fruit of the tree of life, that is, life’s potential to illuminate the darkness, to create consciousness.


tree with stars and eyes in earth.jungian analyst

Tree of dark and light
Valentine Weigel: Studium Universale (1695).

The alchemical saying as above, so below, is first found in the Hermetica, pagan (Egyptian-Greek) wisdom texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. In the above image the sun and the stars, the spiritual potential for consciousness, nourishes growth through the tree’s fruit. The sun and stars also anticipate gleaming eyes in the earth which represent scintillae of consciousness in the human soul.

At night, when a dog or jackal faces a light, its eyes gleam in the dark revealing its spark of consciousness. Bushmen would see this when they sat by their campfire.


And the hyena [2] took the blackened perspiration of her armpits, she put it into the !haken.

Sweat is a natural body product, a sign of effort, but it had soured. Effort had regressed to become envy. The germs of consciousness were falsified by envy and they, in turn, would further degrade consciousness.

And they [3] gave to !Ko-g!nuing-tara of the !haken. And !Ko-g!nuing-tara exclaimed, she said to her younger sister: “Thou shalt leave this !haken alone; I will be the one who eats it. For, thou art the one who shalt take care of the child. [4] For, this !haken, its smell is not nice.”

The Lynx chose consciously to eat the poisoned !haken. (We know she was conscious because first she arranged for a baby-sitter!) Why this Christ-like choice? Individuation necessarily provokes envy. An individuating person must be prepared to metabolize envy’s poison.

Collective identity

Now Lynx lost her identity to the hyena.

Therefore, as !Ko-g!nuing-tara sat, eating the !haken, the ornaments [5] (i.e., earrings, bracelets, leglets, anklets) of themselves came off. [6] The kaross (skin cloak) also unloosened (itself), the kaross also sat down. The skin petticoat also unloosened (itself), the skin petticoat sat down. The shoes also unloosened (themselves).


man.child.apron.jungian psychoanalysis


Photo: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

The wife’s garments, like the !haken, had intentionality. The story is about consciousness and fragments of intention are everywhere. The wife’s garments (attitudes, beliefs, ideas) were collective because everyone wore similar garments. They molded her to support collective identity. Then they jumped ship. She was individuating, a dangerous transformation which collective attitudes could not abide.


Therefore, she sprang up, [7] she in this manner trotted away.

Now naked, she went to the reeds.

Her younger sister, shrieking, followed her. [8] She went; she went into the reeds. She went to sit in the reeds.

‘Sprang up; trotted; naked; sit in the reeds.’ These words show she became animal-like, that envy dehumanized her.

Thinking strings

The younger sister now had difficulty getting Lynx to nurse her own child.

Her younger sister exclaimed: “O !Ko-g!nuing-tara! wilt thou not first allow the child to suck?”

And she (the elder sister) said: ‘Thou shalt bring it, that it may suck; I would altogether talk to thee, while my thinking-strings still stand.’ Therefore, she spoke, she said to her younger sister: ‘Thou must be quickly bringing the child, while I am still conscious; and thou shalt bring the child tomorrow morning.’

Consciousness would be lost (and would later re-emerge in a deeper form). ‘While my thinking strings still stand’ is an extraordinary image. Consciousness is phallic, like music: it must be aroused, takes energy, has direction and purpose.

An analyst, like a shaman, enters the unconscious and is exposed to its destructive power. He or she must maintain a conscious sense of self through solitude and creative work. Creative work activates the ‘thinking strings.’


musical score.jungian analyst

Muybridge’s Strings.
Animation of Bach’s Crab Cannon

Breast feeding

Dawn’s-Heart’s wife is torn between her compulsion to revert to a wild lioness and her desire to feed her baby. Breast feeding requires consciousness, her thinking strings.

wooden sculpting.yoruba.jungian psychotherapist

Yoruba agere ifa. Painted wood carving.

Bowl on head is container for sacred palm nuts for divination ceremony. Nigeria, date unknown (pre-colonial?)

A baby represents the dawn of new consciousness. Regular feeding ensures that the baby’s world is predictable, rich and secure. It is akin to the cycle of day and night, the monsoon, the flooding of the nile, the return of the salmon. Around such rhythms more complex patterns of consciousness emerge, just as music is composed.


But the environment is not always benign. It includes unpredictable forces like the lioness, which lurk invisible and may destroy a secure pattern. As consciousness evolves it is always in danger.

The mother archetype includes both creation and destruction. The sister (a female Christ, or the Self) intervenes to support the mother’s constructive aspect.

The destructive aspect is also paradoxically constructive because the evolution of consciousness may leap forward – under the guidance of the Self – when a routine is disrupted. In biology too, disruption furthers new life.

False self

And so the hyena’s power over Lynx grew.

Her younger sister returned home, also the hyena, when the hyena had put on the ornaments; they returned home, while the Dawn’s-Heart and the rest [9] were (still) out hunting.

The hyena wore the ornaments of the lynx and sat in the lynx’s house, as a false self.

The Dawn’s-Heart returned home, as the child cried there, while his younger sister-in-law was the one who had the child.

He came, he exclaimed: “Why is it, that !Ko-g!nuing-tara is not attending to the child, while the child cries there?” The hyena did not speak.

The false, envious self neither nurtures nor communicates. Psychological vitality comes from a connection to the Self. Without that a person is empty.

The younger sister, the lynx, and the lioness

As the mother falls more and more under the hyena’s influence, it becomes more and more difficult to lure her from the reeds to nurse her child.

|Xe-dde-Yoe [10] was soothing the child. She waited; her elder sister’s husband went to hunt; and she took the child upon her back. She went to her elder sister; she walked, arriving at the reeds. She exclaimed: “O !Ko-g!nuing-tara! let the child suck.”

And her elder sister sprang out of the reeds; her elder sister, in this manner, came running; her elder sister caught hold of her, she turning (her body on one side) gave her elder sister the child. She said: “I am here” And her elder sister allowed the child to suck.

The younger sister, like Christ, risked her own life to safeguard new consciousness.

She said: “Thou must quickly bring the child (again), while I am still conscious; for, I feel as if my thinking-strings would fall down.” And her younger sister took the child upon her back, she returned home; while her elder sister went into the reeds.

The Lynx’s transformation reached its crisis.

And, near sunset, she went to her elder sister; while she felt that her elder sister was the one who had thus spoken to her about it; her elder sister said: “Thou must quickly bring the child, for, I feel as if I should forget you, while I feel that I do not know.”

And, her younger sister took the child near sunset, she went to her elder sister, she stood. She exclaimed: “O !Ko-g!nuing-tara! let the child suck.”

Her elder sister sprang out of the reeds; she ran up to her younger sister. And she caught hold of her younger sister. Her younger sister said: “I am here! I am here!” She allowed the child to suck.

She said: “Thou must quickly come (again); for, I feel as if I should forget you, (as if) I should not any longer think of you.” Her younger sister returned home, while she went into the reeds.

The more she was controlled by the unconscious, like a lioness, the more she was destructive. Dramatic tension rose as the mother struggled to feed her baby but was overcome by the unconscious.

Her younger sister, on the morrow, she went to her elder sister; she walked, coming, coming, coming, coming, she stood. And she exclaimed: “O !Ko-g!nuing-tara!” let the child suck.”

And her elder sister sprang out of the reeds, she ran up to her younger sister, she caught hold of her younger sister. Her younger sister, springing aside, gave her the child. Her younger sister said: “I am here!”

Therefore, she (the elder sister) spoke, she said to her younger sister: “Thou must not continue to come to me; for, I do not any longer feel that I know.” And her younger sister returned home.

Consciousness begins in the feminine

Here consciousness begins when women struggle with opposing desires. Women gathered !haken. It was the Lynx whose thinking strings were at risk. The lynx, her younger sister, the hyena, the lioness, all were female and their struggle revolved around breast feeding.

Since the enlightenment, western culture has tended to equate consciousness with intellect and to ascribe this to the masculine. Even Jung linked consciousness more to the masculine.

But a myth compensates one-sidedness. Here consciousness begins with feminine feeling and feminine action including, the hyena’s envy, breast feeding, the younger sister’s devotion to her elder sister and her sister’s baby and also the younger sister’s courage in facing the lioness.

As therapists we also compensate: we help a client to be conscious of feeling; a deep injury can only become conscious through empathy and nurture. Again, consciousness begins in the feminine.

Dawn’s Heart, the male, was mostly absent and mostly did not understand. We will see that, in the last section of the story, he is repeatedly mocked. Collective Bushman consciousness was patriarchal. Because women were oppressed they saw the limitations of collective consciousness and they mocked it.

The dance

And they went to make a !ku [11] there (at the house). They played. The men played with them, while the women were those who clapped their hands, while the men were those who nodded their heads, while the women were those who clapped their hands for them.


bushmen dance.jungian psychotherapy

Trance dances of the San people of Den/ui village

Then, the Dawn’s-Heart, nodding his head, went up to his younger sister-in-law, he laid his hand on his younger sister-in-law (on her shoulder). Then his younger sister-in-law swerved aside. She exclaimed: “Leave me alone! your wives, the old she-hyenas, [12] may clap their hands for you.”

Dawn’s-Heart was unconscious and lustful but the younger sister put him wise.

Dawn’s-Heart woke up

Then the Dawn’s-Heart ran to the hyena; he took aim (with his assegai), [13] he pierced the place [Lynx’s house] where the hyena had been sitting, [14] while the hyena sprang out, she trod, burning herself in the fire, while she sprang away; while the ornaments remained at the place where she had been sitting, and where she had been wearing them. She sprang away, while they remained.

And the Dawn’s-Heart scolded his younger sister-in-law, why was it that his younger sister-in-law had not quickly told him about it; she had concealed from him about the hyena; …

His dignity was injured, so he blamed the younger sister.

… as if this was not why he had seen that the woman had been sitting with her back towards him, she had not been sitting with her face towards him. She had been sitting with her back towards him; the (i.e. his) wife had been sitting with her face towards him. A different person, she must be the one who was here, she had sat with her back towards him. [15]

He salvaged his pride by claiming to have known it all along.

And he said that his younger sister-in-law should quickly explain to him about the place where the (his) wife seemed to be.

His younger sister-in-law said: “Thou shalt wait, that the place may become light [16]; for, thou dost seem to think that (thy) wife is still like that which she used to be …

He still did not get it.

… We will go to (thy) wife, when the sun has come out.”

Therefore, on the morrow, he said that his younger sister-in-law must quickly allow them to go.

He tried and failed again to assert authority. The younger sister knew what to do.

Younger sister directed everyone

Then his younger sister-in-law said: “We ought to drive, taking goats, that we may take goats to (thy) wife.” Therefore, they drove, taking goats. They drove along goats, drove along goats; they took the goats to the reeds. And they drove the goats to a stand. [17]

|Xe-dde-Yoe [18] directed her elder sister’s husband, she said that her elder sister’s husband should stand behind her back, …

The younger sister was in charge.

… the other people must stand behind her elder sister’s husband’s back, while she must be the one to stand beside the goats.

The elder sister’s husband and the other people of the collective were like sheep or goats; the younger sister was the individual, the leader.

Then she exclaimed: !Ko-g!nuing-tara! let the child suck.” Then her elder sister sprang out of the reeds; she, in this manner, she running came. She, when she had run to her younger sister, she perceived the goats, she turned aside to the goats. She caught hold of a goat.

lioness running.jungian analyst

Lioness hunting

Photo copyright: 2013-2014 jynto, deviantart.com

The Dawn’s-Heart caught hold of (his) wife, while the wife caught hold of the goat; while his younger sister-in-law, |Xe-dde-Yoe, also took hold of the wife. All the people altogether caught hold of her.

Other people were catching hold of the goats; they cut the goats open, they took out the contents of the stomach, they anointed !Ko-g!nuing-tara with the contents of the stomachs. They, taking hold, rubbed off the hair [19] (from her skin).

When the younger sister showed them what to do, they could act.

Therefore, when she sat down, she said: “Ye must, pulling, leave the hair on the tips of my ears; for, in that manner I shall come to hear; for, I do not feel as if I should hear.” [20]

Therefore, the man (her husband), pulling off, left the hair on the tips of her ears, that hair which is thus [21] on the tips of the ears, standing on the top of them.

The tips of her ears signify sensitive listening, hence consciousness.

Dawn’s-Heart scares the jackals

Now Dawn’s-Heart came home, arrow and spear ready to use in case the hyena tried again.

Therefore, the Dawn’s-Heart used, when he was returning home, [22] to put an arrow on the bow, he walked, sticking the end of his assegai into the ground, as he returning came.

His eyes were large, as he came walking along; they resembled fires. The people were afraid of him as he came, on account of his eyes; while they felt that his eyes resembled fires, as he came walking along. The jackals were afraid of him, as he returning came.

With big eyes and drawn bow, Dawn’s-Heart made a show of being alert, but it was the younger sister who had seen what was happening.


The last section of the tale is devoted to subtle but prolonged mockery of Dawn’s-Heart. We can be sure this is important.

Dawn’s-Heart now represents the male-dominated collective puffing itself up. The patriarch was alert, had weapons, and ruled. His wife’s younger sister had much lower status. But the younger sister was the true individual while Dawn’s-Heart was unconscious, deluded by self importance.

The same paradox exists in our own collective’s relationship with an artist. The collective simultaneously reveres, co-opts, and devalues Picasso’s art, for example, by turning it into investment property.

The collective is threatened and responds by seeking to possess the individual’s wisdom, by aping the individual’s hard-won consciousness. The tale compensates by mocking the puffed-up patriarch.


This myth arose in an ancient hunter-gatherer culture, but is sophisticated about how consciousness arises, and about the tension between consciousness and the collective. It is not a one-off: another quite different Bushman myth explores the same tension. There is internal evidence that this latter story is very old: many details of its content indicate that some version of it was the precursor of a myth from Ancient Egypt.

The myth of Dawn’s Heart is also sophisticated about the patriarchy and its tendency to take credit for consciousness which, according to this and other myths, begins with women.

Individuation is perhaps our highest cultural achievement and is not common in any collective, yet some early humans understood it. This is less surprising if we understand that, from the beginning, a new adaptation has depended upon individuation. Individuation gives perspective, allowing a person to see how culture can be transformed.


From Bleek and Lloyd.

1. !haken resembles “rice” (i.e. “Bushman rice”); its larvæ are like (those of) “Bushman rice”. !haken is a thing to eat; there is nothing as nice as it is, when it is fresh.

2. A female hyena.

3. The hyenas (it) was, with the jackals, the blue cranes (and) the black crows.

4. It was !Ko-g!nuing-tara’s child. The Dawn’s-Heart was the one who buried the child away from his wife, under the !huing (a plant with a handsome green top, and little bulbous roots at the end of fibres in the ground. The roots are eaten by the Bushmen raw, and also roasted and made into meal, which is said to be excellent, |hang#kass’o thinks that the flower is red; but has not seen the plant since he was a child).

5. Bracelet, anklet, leglet.

6. (They) came off, they sat down upon the ground.

7. She felt that she became a beast of prey.

8. Because she wanted to run to catch hold of her elder sister.

9. I think that he was with other people. I think that they seem to have been the jackals’ husbands, and the quaggas, and the wildebeests with the ostriches.

10. The name of the younger sister of !Ko-g!nuing-tara was |Xe-dde-Yoe. She was a (one of the early race).]

11. This is a dance or game of the Bushmen, which |hang#kass’o has not himself seen, but has heard of from Tuani-ang and #kammi, two of Tsatsi’s wives. They used to say that their fathers made a !ku (and) played. Their mothers were those who clapped their hands, clapped their hands for the men; the men nodded their heads.

12. She said !gwai |e-tara, a from anger; anger was that on account of which she said !gwai |e-tara.

13. (He) brought himself to a stand (in order to take aim).

14. She sat in the house, being afraid. Therefore, she took off the bracelets from her wrists, while she desired that she might sit quietly; while she felt that she left the things. She suspected that the people were making a !ku (on her account), therefore she did not go to the !ku, while she felt that she had been wearing !Ko-g!nuing-tara things.

15. Because he had married the hyena, because he thought that it was !Ko-g!nuing-tara.

16. Because it was night.

17. They left off (driving), in order that the goats might stand still.

18. |Xe is a young girl. What the whole of |Xe-dde-Yoe’s name means, the narrator does not know.

19. The hair, with which she had become a lynx.

20. She said that she should not hear, if all the hair were off her ears. Therefore, her husband should leave the other hair on her ears.

21. Holding up two fingers.

22. He always (henceforth) did thus, because the hyenas had made his heart angry, they had poisoned (his) wife.