Chapter 4:  African Botanical Jewelry

The age-old belief that many things, from stones to trees, are thought to have control over natural phenomena is common among many native peoples of South Africa.  Rain, drought, health, fertility, good fortune and protection from evil, they believe, can be influenced by performing rituals and incantations or by carrying or wearing a particular object.  Plants and trees play an important part in this belief system.  Abundance of fruit, quick growth and luxuriant foliage are often the foundation of fertility beliefs and rites.  Trees valued for their fruit, timber or medicinal qualities are believed to have beneficent powers.  The prohibition and taboos against cutting them or against cutting them at certain times may be based on qualities they ascribe to the trees or beliefs that originated in the distant past but are no longer remembered.1


Erythrina lysistemon Hutch.  - Kafferboom - Fabaceae

In the eastern Transvaal a pregnant woman whose time is near is given an infusion of herbs to make the birth easier.  When preparing this tea a sliver of bark taken from each of four sides of the kafferboom tree, Erythrina lysistemon, is tied round the bundle of herbs before boiling.2