Many people travel to the ancient sacred sites and mystical locations of the world to experience the almost magnetic pull that radiates around them. In Africa, there are few places that radiate as powerful a spiritual aura as the Tsodilo Hills, located in north-western Botswana. Roughly arranged in a straight line, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Tsodilo Hills consists of four hills, with the tallest reaching a height of 410m.
These mystical hills have been given human attributes by the San people that add to the ethereal aura around them. The tallest hill known as the ‘male hill’ and the next closest hill is known as the ‘female hill’. To the North-West lies the ‘child hill’, and thereafter can be found the fourth hill, which is known as the male’s ‘first wife’ according to local myths. Rising above the dry bush surroundings that typify the terrain of Botswana, the Tsodilo Hills offer the opportunity to discover a unique and largely unexplored mountainous range that is stepped in local legend, beauty and spiritual significance.
Standing as a record of human settlement over many millennia, the hills contain over 4 500 rock paintings in an area that spreads a little over 10km2. While the exact age of the paintings is not known, some are believed to date back in existence to more than 20 000 years, making it one of the most historically significant art sites to be found anywhere in the world.
The San people, who’re responsible for the majority of the rock paintings that can be found here, believe that the hills are a resting place for the spirits of their gods and their loved ones who’ve passed on. It is also believed that anyone who causes death or pain near the hills will bring misfortune and bad luck upon themselves.
In the ‘female hill’, various caves and caverns are renowned by the San people as the resting places of the various gods who rule the world. An old abandoned mine shaft that has filled with water, on the northwest part of the same hill, is considered to harbour holy water that confers the luck of the gods to any who wash their face with it.
The most sacred place in the Tsodilo Hills is the biggest rock which can be found at the top of the ‘male hill’. Here the San people believe you can still see the traces of a knee imprint where they believe that the first spirit knelt and prayed after creating the world.
When you embark upon a tour to the Tsodilo Hills, you will be aware of what you will find there. You’ will be able to learn about the many myths and legends that inform the very existence of the hills, and about their significance to the San people.
What you won’t be able to prepare for is the impact that the hills will have on you. With so rich and significant a tradition of spirituality, the very essence of the hills will vibrate through your being and instill in you the feeling that you have walked amongst the sacred resting places of the gods; you have traced the very footfalls of humanity, and witnessed the wonder of rock art that has out-lived its creators for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.