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Observations placeholder

Laubscher, B J F – The amazing powers of Soloman Daba, prophecy



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

B J Laubscher – Where Mystery dwells

Mr van der Merwe grew up among the Xhosa and spoke the language in all its shades of meaning.  Indeed their poetical thought stirred him with delight, ad their feelings about their customs and values resonated among his sympathies……

He would thus fill in the gaps in my comprehension as the chanting and clapping [in Xhosa ceremonies] were punctuated by some remark or expression of feelings. There was magic in that rhythmic stimulation of one's brain, and it slowly drew one's feelings closer and closer into a whirlpool of unwitting incantation. Every expression seemed meant to penetrate the veil between this world and that, and at the same time maintained a tempo of invocation casting a spell over thought and emotion.

The warm heavy atmosphere drove one from time to time to climb over seated bodies to fill the lungs with the cold air outside the hut.

The native people laughed and said that soon I would prefer to be cosy rather than breathe cold wind. The Bantu beer added its quota to my mental heaviness, and increased the drowsiness which the melodious chanting cadence pulsated through my being with the tom-tom metre of the cow-hide drum.

Near the door sat a number of women, and before them was a curled-up dried cow-hide skin in the shape of a roll of linoleum.

As they chanted, while others clapped hands, these women produced a rhythmic thud, thud, thud beat with short sticks on the cow-hide. For almost an hour-and-a-half this lulling rhythm of hypnotic potentialities went on and on preparing our moods and harmonising our thoughts into one eternal direction. The voices from time to time would rise vibrant and clear in their appeal in words-

“Come ancestors and make these things clear to our understanding."

This power of the pagan soul stood naked before me in its primeval religion with its mass consciousness to reach by means of feeling those who have gone before, and who knew today what unborn tomorrow would bring forth; for they did not move with the rising and the setting of the sun, their days and times were different, for to their eyes there were no nights or days, no barriers through which their minds could not penetrate. After a time one began to blend with this weird and fascinating spirit, while its alluring power seemed to resonate the rhythmic pulse of all of one's being.

At last Solomon and his stout wife appeared and as they entered they danced. … There appeared to be a need, some unfathomable relation between rhythm or vibration giving ease of self-expression, and this aspiration for a deeper self to come to the surface.

Somehow this rhythmic, melodious tempo, this unison of all feeling, and this singularity of thought's purpose, hearkened back to some archaic awakening, whence consciousness could rise unfettered by the trivialities of this world and its business of living.

When Solomon began to dance, every movement, every beat, and measure of handclap and chant formed one flowing stream of motion in which all took part as imagination conducted this orchestra of emotional intunement.

His powerful arms were covered with rows upon rows of brass bangles. From his neck over his chest hung several closely beaded necklaces, almost identical with the pattern which one has so often seen in pictures around the necks of ancient Egyptian rulers. I was amused to observe that he wore his famous kilt which reached just above his knees. This garment he always wore when he came to visit me in Queenstown. It was beautifully ornamented with brass and beadwork.

As he danced he swayed his hips which gave a swagger to the kilt. He was an impressive and powerful man and wore around his head a beaded head-band from which dangled short strings of beads giving a tasselled appearance. On his head he wore a cap or head-gear made of the soft furry skin of the monkey, the tail of which hung down the back of his neck. His wife was a very pleasant person and she too wore a monkey skin head-dress, while her skirt was richly adorned with intricate patterns of bead-work.

Her mediumistic powers were well-known and she acted as her husband's assistant.

I was impressed by a characteristic repetition of one particular movement or posture in his dance. Time and again his dance would stop and he would be poised in an attitude of supplication.

His hands, palms upwards and fingers cupped would be outstretched, as if asking for alms, as though receptivity was the soul of all his actions. Then again the movements of the muscles, their vibratory quivering would portray an ecstatic mood; as if he were aware of the proximity of exalted beings.

Nevertheless I could not help but believe that all his actions, the chanting, the beating of the cow-hide drum, the voices of appeal to the ancestral spirits-all symbolised an imploring attitude even the entreating gestures of the open palms, and extended hands were gestures which beseeched the izinyanya; all were embodied in the chorus which swelled into "Come ancestors and make these things clear to us."

How could one exclude a religious feeling from all this transcendant aspiration of primitive hearts? I asked myself whether the feeling of one's being had to reach a certain pitch for the field of force to become the expanded receiving consciousness of thoughts from beyond the grave?

There was a steady increase in the electrified atmosphere of mind for as the pulsations of song, chant and drum swelled louder and louder the call of the rhythmic soul became irresistible and others in ecstatic mood flung themselves into the dance in that small space around the glowing coals and roasting mealie cobs.

The mood of ecstasy was the dominant tone, and was symbolised and expressed by the extended arms in winged attitudes of flight, with bodies poised on the tip of the toes to represent the inarticulate patterns of soaring emotions and meanings. By means of the dance they were praying and in movement of ritualistic rhythm they were attempting to reach beyond themselves. Such is the primitive picture of man's soul in quest of higher expression.

The dance went on, the hours went by and the sun had set.

Time did not matter, and there was no hurry. We live now and tomorrow takes care of itself. One could not command. The spirits had their own way of answering a call. One could only appeal, supplicate and dance and be patient, for their time was their own.-As Solomon danced one could feel the vital fervour, the elated mood, and the power inherent in the traditional appeal of the dance. Even the thud, thud of the cow-hide drum in harmony with the beat of the chanting, and the punctuation of the clapping hands, all swept one's mind onwards dreaming with the passage of life, and the tempo of strange emotions.

My thoughts travelled to England. I saw my book being reviewed by Professor Seligman. I was going over to spend the Christmas in London. In my day-dream I met all my old friends, visited theatres and generally enjoyed a white Christmas in England. I had decided to take my manuscript over myself and to have a vacation and a sea voyage. My arrangements were already under way and so wrapped up mentally in this peculiar lullaby atmosphere and its influence my imagination roamed about London and Oxford.

Then I was brought back to earth by a nudge from Van der Merwe. The ancestral spirits were coming through and the first chorus of "Siyavuma" meaning "We agree" filled the hut. I listened and while Solomon talked, Van der Merwe helped my comprehension by a whispered translation from the Xosa into Afrikaans. Now would come revelation of the hidden things. All was silence. The dance had stopped and Solomon began the communications of the thoughts which he received from the izinyanya.

At the end of a certain number of ideas he would shout in a booming voice "Siyavuma" and all present would echo as one,  “.Siyavuma" and end the word with a simultaneous clap of all hands.

Solomon Daba turned to me and said ‘these thoughts have travelled through the skies of another world’, they concerned me.

He said that I was thinking of going over the huge ocean in a big ship to a land with many houses and much smoke, where the skies were dirty and the clouds not as white as ours and where the stars seemed to be without light. I was going there.

At least these were the thoughts that were hanging around my head. I was thinking of warm houses, warm fires, many friends and snow like the fleece of the lamb falling all over making all things dirty appear clean and white. I was thinking of going before Christmas so that I could talk to other men about my book, and things which I had seen and learned about the Amaxosa people.

But all these things which I have dreamed that day will not happen in that time nor in that manner.

Because he has received word from the izinyanya about the future. I would take ill, my throat would become very painful, and I would have to go to hospital where a doctor with dark-rimmed glasses would attend to me. Then after leaving the hospital I would be weak, and a friend who lived high up in a mountainous country with many fruit trees would invite me to recuperate on his farm.

He then went on to describe this friend as a man who used to sail the seas, and had two rows of brass buttons on his jacket. He was shortish and stout. I would stay up there among the high mountains and every day when the sun was near the middle of heaven my friend would open a bottle of bubbling wine and we would drink this to make me strong. Then after a while I would take another ship and sail over the seas to arrive in England the last day of March 1937.

At the end of the “Siyavuma" I said to Van der Merwe that I thought this time Solomon had drawn on his imagination. I paid little heed to his prediction and went on to complete my arrangements. I was determined to reach London just before Christmas.

Then when it came near the time for my departure I developed a sore throat, and within a few days had a double quinsy. I could hardly swallow and felt very ill. My colleague Dr. J. M. van Schalkwyk decided to remove me to the Frontier Hospital in Queenstown. He wore dark horn-rimmed glasses.

When I left the hospital I received a letter from my old friend Commander Thomas of Elgin in the Cape. They wanted me to recuperate on their lovely and famous apple farm, snuggled among the forests and gigantic mountains of the Western Cape.

Solomon Daba's description of Commander Thomas was almost photographic. There during those balmy days of the Elgin summer I soon began to regain my vigour of spirit and body. But every day about noon my friend would open a bottle of South African sparkling wine and among other things we drank Solomon Daba's health.

At last I obtained a berth and landed in England on the last day of March 1937.

The white Christmas had turned to fog and slush.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps