Table Mountain, its Myths, Legends and Folklore
Since Table Mountain is such a prominent feature in the Cape Town land scape, it is not surprising that there are countless legends and myths which have been past down through the ages. Some are commonly known amongst the locals and others are not.
One of my favourite stories which I like to share with my guests as I guide them on or around the mountain on my tours is the tale of how Devil’s Peak may have derived its name. My version is as follows:
The Devil and Van Hunks.
One day many moons ago, a young pirate by the name of Van Hunks walked up to the top of Devil’s Peak where he lit his pipe. He was joined by a strange looking, cloaked gentleman who asked if he could share Van Hunk’s tobacco. After puffing away for a while, the gentleman challenged Van Hunks to a smoking dual which Van Hunks accepted happily. They puffed away for many hours until the gentleman started to cough and, the cloak fell from his head revealing his horns. In a flash of thunder and lightening the mysterious gentleman disappeared. To this day locals believe that when there is a lot of cloud on Devil’s Peak it is Van Hunk’s and the Devil smoking up a storm. (many believe however, that it is not tobacco that they are smoking!).
The Myth of Adamastor
The brave Portuguese sailors back in the fourteen hundreds believed that the earth was flat and they could fall off at any time. They also believed that there were sea monsters which could swallow them, ship and all. Inspired by a poem by Luise De Camoṍes, the sailors saw the mountain as a resentful, destructive giant named Adamastor. When he saw an approaching ship he would turn into this angry, vicious giant who would tower over the ship and create huge treacherous seas thereby denying sea farers safe passage around the Cape. When Vasco De Gama successfully rounded Cape Point on his way to India, the superstitious sailors believed that this angry Beast, Adamastor had been defeated and transformed into what we know today as Table Mountain.
Table Mountain, the “Watcher” of the South
This story is according to Xhosa Folklore and tells how Qamata, who was hailed as the god who created the world was in the process of doing just that when a sea dragon called Nkanyamba tried to halt the process. The Earth goddess who was Quamata’s mother intervened by creating four giants to protect the four corners of the world. When these four giants died, huge expanses of land were created and the four giants turned into stone guardians to watch over the four corners for ever. Umlindi Wemingizimu, or the watcher of the South was the strongest giant of the four and is today known as Table Mountain!
The Urban legend of Lions Head
A more current legend relating to Table Mountain is that of Lions Head as a predictor of rainy weather. The local population believe that, if there is cloud covering the head of the lion, then it will definitely rain in Cape Town within the next 12 hours or so. There may be no other clouds in the sky, but you can bet your bottom dollar, that if there is cloud covering the Lion’s Head, it will rain sometime soon.
If you come to Cape Town and choose me as your Tour Guide, I will regale you with these stories and others and point out phenomena like the amazing Table Cloth which pours over the mountain when the South Easter is blowing! Come and let me share the Splendours of The Cape with you!