Laubscher, B J F - Outa Jantjes and the case of the phantom woman and child
Type of Spiritual Experience
The background to this experience is that a new servant had seen a ‘phantom’, which had severely frightened her – a woman and a child - who were running and then disappeared into the side of a hill.
We do not think the tobacco or wine helped him with the experiences - he just liked tobacco and wine!
A description of the experience
B J Laubscher – Where Mystery dwells
… we were making bricks for the new stable and dug a deep hole into the very hillside where the traditional phantoms of running woman and child always disappeared. Outa Jantjes was in charge of the brickmaking and the filling of the moulds with clay while I sat nearby listening to the stories. Because on such occasions when they were working in a group and close together the fountain of stories never ran dry, I had by this time accepted the world of ghosts as some sort of reality.
Sitting there and absorbed in their doings I suddenly heard a shout from the hole in the hillside. They had come upon something startling. I went forward and there we saw a collection of bones and two skulls deep down in an ant bear hole. This was about twelve feet from the surface and meant that the front part of the hole must have collapsed many years before.
Outa Jantjes would not let them touch the bones until the Seur had given instructions. My father was called. The examination showed a skeleton of a person of small stature and one other of a very small person undoubtedly a child. The bones were all disjointed but strangely some of the ribs were still in place whereas the skulls too were well preserved.
My father ordered Outa Jantjes to collect the bones in a bag and to make a box and bury the remains in the burial-place reserved for the coloured people. I assisted Outa Jantjes in the making of the box and we even attempted to make it look like a coffin. We placed some straw in the box and laid the bones neatly on the straw with the two skulls close together. That afternoon he dug the grave and we carried the box with its skeletons to the burial-ground………………..
…. as we walked home Outa Jantjes winked at me and patted the leather pouch which he wore on his belt. He swore me to secrecy and produced two little finger bones. He had kept thesebecause he wanted to find out who they belonged to and how they had got into an ant bear hole. He would tell me later how this information was to be obtained, …..
Then one Saturday afternoon Outa Jantjes quietly told me to bring the wine and tobacco to his house in the valley that evening when all had retired to bed. As my room opened onto the stoep I tiptoed out into the dark for Outa Jantjes' little mud house.
There was a most disquieting feeling in the air and I imagined myself as being accompanied by the spirits who owned the skeletons. Every bush portrayed a sinister figure, and then to crown it all the "news carrier" bird, which flies by night and wails a most forlorn cry, telling of someone about to die just then flew over-head. I felt that every omen was against me. I was deeply steeped in the second world of Outa Jantjes.
At last I reached his house and found a queer wizened-looking Bushman with a face wrapped in wrinkles which made his watery eyes mere slits, sitting on his haunches while before him were lying several small knuckle bones of animals. He was talking about the ailments of one of the women, and then he gave her some roots and herbs out of his leather bag to cook and drink.
I handed Outa Jantjes the wine and the tobacco. He first took a long swig at the bottle while the bone-thrower's eyes stared at him. Then the bone-thrower stretched out his hand and deftly dislodged with a sucking sound the bottle from Outa Jantjes' mouth. He put almost the whole neck of the bottle into his mouth and just allowed the wine to run down his gullet.
Then he filled his clay pipe with the tobacco which I had brought, and as he smoked the dense fumes of the tobacco were blown through his nostrils, reminding me of the picture of a dragon snorting fire, which I had seen on someone's dressing-gown. Outa Jantjes said that I must not be in a hurry because the Bushman could only think properly when his brain was full of smoke.
He sat and puffed for what seemed an age; then he held out his hand and Outa Jantjes placed the two little finger bones therein.
He never opened his eyes. In any case, one never knew when they were open for even when he was looking the lids were still lying almost on top of each other. He just sat blowing volumes of smoke out of his broad flat nostrils while occasionally without opening his mouth he spat through his front teeth a long stream of yellow-brown tobacco juice right into the fire about ten feet away.
It made a "shreet" sound and as the spittle reached the red coals it sizzled. I was quite fascinated by the accuracy of this man- spitting with apparently closed eyes without looking up straight into a small fire in the fireplace.
Then holding the little finger bones in his closed hand he began to talk in his quaint Afrikaans. The bones "told" him of something which had happened many many years ago-long long before the white man had come to that part of the country. The bones said there was a tribe of Hottentots living very comfortably near the Berg River mouth. Their captain was a clever man and he followed in his father's footsteps by remaining near the river and making that land with its great "vleis" their preserve.
They made their huts of laths cut from long green sticks, and then after bending them and tying their tops in the framework of a hut, they covered them with grass-woven mats. Their women were very good at weaving these mats.
They trained their cattle and tamed them so that they responded to the various whistling commands of the Hottentots.
The cattle participated in their warfare since the Hottentots always attacked from the protection of their charging cattle, and these were controlled and directed by the different whistled commands.
They took great pains to train the cattle and their oxen were almost pets since all their belongings-mats, clay pots and calabash utensils as well as the lath-like sticks for making the huts were packed on the backs of their oxen whenever they moved camp- for it was the custom not to remain in one place too long even if they moved only a short distance away.
There were always enemies and if they moved frequently they were alert and were not taken by surprise. These people only fought when their preserves were invaded. They put up certain signs for their boundaries-perhaps two branches tied together.
That was what he "saw" from the bones of the skeletons.
These Hottentots like the Bushmen also used long bows and arrows, and they also poisoned the tips just like the Bushmen. He saw a picture of some Bushmen finding an ox belonging to the Hottentots. They killed this ox and had a feast. The Hottentots went on the spoor and came upon the place where the ox had been eaten. They immediately prepared for war to exterminate the Bushmen who had invaded their preserves.
They found the Bushmen tribe who were fighting a rear-guard action in order to allow the women and children to escape into the kloofs of Koringberg. But the charging cattle of the Hottentots were close on their heels coming on in a half-moon with their long horns well down. The Hottentots were shooting showers of arrows over their heads at the retreating Bushmen who were not only more fleet of foot but far more dexterous with bow and arrow on the run than their pursuers.
At last as they gained the high ground where our farm now stood the Hottentots were upon them and several Bushmen were shot, wounded and trampled to death by the charging oxen A woman and her child lagged behind from exhaustion, and as the charging cattle came near they dived into an ant bear hole in the side of the hill but unfortunately for them they were seen. The Hottentots closed the mouth of the hole with stones and stamped on it for the earth to collapse and so the Bushman mother and child died of suffocation. The fear of that moment made them repeat the scene of their death for many many years.
All this was beyond my comprehension for how could a man obtain all that information by merely holding the finger bones in his hand? All that the bone-thrower would say was that the bones “told" him. But Outa Jantjes said it need not be bones it could be anything because the Bushman could feel what had happened to things and who were associated with the object.
………. Well years later I spoke to an archivist who told me that there were records that the Hottentots did do all these things as told to me by the bone thrower, a few hundred years later this Bushman spoke about knowledge which we did not then possess.