Faith of the sacred cow

Across Africa,from north south east and west the Cow, Bull was revered. In the Setswana-speaking(Bantu language) part of the African world, the bovine is referred to as “God with the wet nose”. It’s a crucial merging of the cow with notions of the divine. It underscores cattle as hallowed beasts of providence.

In Sepedi belief systems, according to Dr. Uhuru Phalafala, “the cow’s function is to connect, to bridge, to invoke. Cows exist in a space between the human and the divine, the physical and the spiritual, the alive and the ancestors, the worldly and the universal.’’ In beliefs that have survived but evolved through the ages, despite colonial interruption and erosion, cows are not classified as animals in many Southern African cultures. Beyond their significance as physical symbols of material wealth, cattle are the repository of memory and history. They are the principal offering in funerary rituals concerning ancestors. The ‘Faith of the Sacred Cow / Bull’ derives from the days of our hunter-gathering Ancestors who learned to herd animals and their eventual domestication of them. Goats, Lamb, and cows provided enough food to feed groups; with the advent of herding our Ancestors were able to ensure a ready and plentiful food supply. It is in this light that the spirit of the Sacred Cow / Bull came to be revered. In this faith status of, and within, the society was measured by the health and size of the herd. The ‘Faith of the Sacred Cow / Bull’ was diffused throughout the ancient world; its impact included a greater supply of food, sedentary, and semi-sedentary lifestyle, increased population growth, the beginning of stone building, and sedentary related crafts – like pottery making. During the Kemetic Era, the Faith of the Sacred Cow was continued in the celebration of Het-Heru and Ausar. As we left Africa those beliefs left with us.

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