The traditional Khoikhoi year began with the August rains. Their names for the major annual events corresponded roughly to Western months. The moon has major significance, and four of the "months" are named after the moon. Early European visitors to the area actually thought the Khoikhoi worshipped the moon. This was probably never the case, but the moon was important to them as a manifestation of a major deity, and rituals and dances usually accompanied the new moon and the full moon. The deity represented by the moon was most likely Tsui//goab, the Creator and controller of rains, thunder and lightning.

In light of these facts, it is possible that the calendar itself followed the cycles of the moon, but it seems more likely that the "months" had no set lengths at all, referring instead to loosely-defined times of year like "the hungry time" and "when the eland begin mating." If this was a lunar calendar, there must have been some adjustment method for keeping the months synchronised with the actual seasons. This method, if it existed, has been forgotten.

(Note that this is the Southern Hemisphere - July and August are the coldest months, January and February the hottest.)

  1. AUGUST - ≠ha!am ("broad green"). Rains mark the beginning of the year.
  2. SEPTEMBER - Xoub/gu//khab ("shit moon"). The Khoikhoi drank large quantities of milk during this period, making their feces noticeably different from other times of year.
  3. OCTOBER - hoo≠gais ("speckled ear"). The veldt would now begin to dry.
  4. NOVEMBER - !kani//khab ("eland’s moon"). This was the time the eland would begin to mate.
  5. DECEMBER - /ga!kani ("little eland").
  6. JANUARY - kei!kani ("great eland").
  7. FEBRUARY - ong//o-ha ("star death").
  8. MARCH - !hoa≠gais ("twisted ear"). Dassies give birth.
  9. APRIL - gama/ais ("crooked fire"). Time of hunger.
  10. MAY - ≠nu//khab ("black moon"). Grass begins to grow.
  11. JUNE - //hei//khab ("pale moon"). Grass is thick, flowers blossom.
  12. JULY - //gai/ab ("chewing wood"). Cold period begins.

Source: Boonzaier, Malherbe, Berens and Smith, The Cape Herders; Ohio University Press, 1996. Based mostly on Col. Robert Gordon's 1779 report on the Khokhoi.

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