A study of rituals performed at two sacred sites in the eastern Free State
Oral tradition and diverse literary sources in Sesotho indicate that African peoples have for centuries been performing rituals for different purposes at the sacred sites, such as caves within their communities as well as their families. Ritual performance has served the Basotho well as a means of celebrating their religious beliefs and communication with God through ancestors (Machobane and Manyeli, 2001: 4). This study, therefore, takes its cue from this common African ritual tradition and aims to examine different rituals performed at the two sacred sites in the Eastern Free State, namely, Badimong near Rosendal and Motouleng near Clarens. These two caves were selected because of their prominence within the Basotho cultural tradition and history. The study mainly highlights the classification of rituals and the use of local language as a mode of typification of different ritual performances. The Sesotho names given to rituals and their meaning have been communicated in Sesotho and in English. Variations in the structure of rituals have been examined and highlighted including how and where as well as when the given rituals are performed. The significance of each ritual performance is also dealt with in the study. Interpretation of the Sesotho language used in ritual performance is important as interviews were conducted in Sesotho and later translated into English while still serving the purpose of the survey in classifying the major kinds and Sesotho names given to ritual performances at the two sacred sites. In this way, the study retains its aim to categorize and classify types of rituals performed at the two sacred sites specified while examining the role of language in ritual performance together with the structure and significance of rituals. The major research questions were: What is the extent and nature of rituals performed at sacred sites in the Eastern Free State? How can the rituals at the sacred sites be classified so that the local user community’s conceptualization is fully acknowledged? The major research questions directly relate to a survey and clarification of rituals performed at the sacred sites mentioned. Notion was taken that the classification of rituals cannot be done without an exploration of the different rituals in terms of their space, time, actors, audience, structure and materials. All in all, the research design is basically an explorative survey of rituals performed at the two sacred sites mentioned in the Eastern Free State. This study, therefore, employed a qualitative-explorative approach. An increased popularity of the two caves also provided an ideal opportunity to explore a wide range of rituals within centralized geographical localities. The research findings indicates that ritual activities at the sacred sites need to be taken seriously due to their association with ancestral and religious Basotho beliefs which have been an integral and is still said to be an important part in the cultural, spiritual and religious beliefs of most local user communities of the sacred sites under study. The recommendations made are that more literary sources should be made available in which ritual activities at sacred sites are not merely elaborated upon as superstitious or traditional African dilemma but as healthy, informative, religious and valuable practice that should be acknowledged and contextualized with the respect that it deserves. It is also recommended that the two major sacred sites mentioned should be preserved and maintained as sources of African Traditional Indigenous Knowledge in the Eastern Free State.