It’s been called the Mountain in the Sea, the Watcher of the South, Hu-gais (veiled in clouds): myths and legends linger around the Table Mountain chain like the mist that regularly swirls down its slopes. Not many people know it’s littered with sacred sites that the ancients used as a giant cosmic clock to track the changing seasons. By Marion Whitehead
Our Mountain of Mysteries: Table Mountain
In the still predawn light, the outline of the Hottentots Holland Mountains is faintly visible on the far horizon. False Bay stretches below us, an inky black mass, the wrinkle of waves visible only as they gently roll towards Muizenberg promenade’s orange lights. Hiking up the mountain by torchlight is not something you’d want to do very often, but today is special: it’s the winter solstice and we’re heading for our very own Stonehenge experience on the slopes of Table Mountain National Park.
A mystical stone dolmen, very much like those erected by the ancient Druids at Britain’s Stonehenge, juts out of a crag on the corner of the mountain above Muizenberg. Our guide, Dean Liprini of Soul Tours, says it’s been aligned to frame the sunrise on this particular day of the year, the time when the sun reaches its most northerly arc before heading back south again. We’re here to witness the moment the rays of the rising sun shine through the triangle formed by the massive rocks – a celestial reaffirmation of the marriage between Father Sun and Mother Earth.
When we reach the spot correctly aligned to witness this, Dean pushes some reeds aside to show us a curious rock. Its outline is similar to a human head, with a jutting nose and jaw a bit like Liewe Heksie of the children’s TV series. The rear of the skull is hollowed out in a small pool, brimming with water collected during the last week’s rains.
“When the sun shines through the dolmen, it will bathe the water in light and reflect off it if you stand over there,” indicates Dean before offering up a song and a prayer that encompass local and American Indian traditions.
“Who built it?” I voice the obvious question as we stand staring at the dolmen arch, waiting for the sun to lift through a cup-shaped notch in the distant Hottentots Holland Mountains. The challenging site high on the mountain would stump any modern, technologically enabled construction team, even using a helicopter.
Dean shrugs. “The ancients? No one really knows.” His mentor, elder sangoma Credo Mutwa, believes it was people he refers to simply as “The Shining Ones”. It really is a beautiful Mountain of Mysteries!
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