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The Girl who Made Stars

In these uncertain times, when all seems dark, troubled and unstable, it perhaps best served to think of something broader, something bigger than ourselves, and consider instead the certainties of the universe: that the stars will shine and the earth will turn.

Below is the transcription of a legend translated from one of the Click dialects of the San People of the Kalahari. Theirs is a community as old as the first peoples of Africa, unchanged for over 100,000 years.

This story is as old as humanity; it is as old as time itself. This is the creation of the universe and the beginning of eternity.

“My mother was the one, who told me about the girl who made Stars out of wood ashes. This girl arose from where she was lying in her little hut. She put her hands into the wood ashes of the fire and threw them up into the sky. She said to the wood ashes: “These wood ashes which are here must become the Milky Way. They must lie white along the sky, so that the Stars may stand outside of the Milky Way– the Milky Way which used to be wood ashes. The wood ashes must fully become the Milky Way and go around the sky with the Stars, lying across the sky while the Stars sail along.”

And so it is this way. When the Milky Way stands low upon the earth, it turns across the front of the sky, waiting for the Stars to turn back. The Stars wait for the sun, until they feel that he has turned back; for he travels on his own path. Then the Stars also turn back and go to fetch the daybreak, so that they may sink nicely to their rest, while the Milky Way goes to rest with them.

The Stars sail along upon their footprints, which they follow across the sky. They know that they are the Stars which are meant to descend. The Milky Way continues to lie along the sky as it travels back to its place, to the place where the girl threw up the wood ashes. It went around the sky while lying along it, waiting for the Stars to turn around as they passed over the sky. The sky lies still. It is the Stars which move, sailing along, as they that feel they are meant to do. The Stars begin to set, following their footprints as they sail along. They become white when the Sun comes out. After the Sun sets, they stand all around in the sky and turning, follow the Sun. When the darkness comes out, the Stars wax red, whereas before they had been white. They stand brightly around, sailing along in the night. Then the people can walk by night, while the ground is made light, while the Stars shine a little.”

(Translated by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd. First published in Specimens of Bushman Folklore, 1911)

Be humble for you are made of dust, be noble for you are made of stars.