Sunday Stamps 076: The skies at night, folktales and the beginning of the cosmos

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The Botswana Post has a conservative policy when it comes of issuing stamps, with about four to five stamp releases every year. In 2009, the Sky at Night series came out depicting the lovely night skies of Botswana and celestial bodies and its corresponding folktales.

For thousands of years people have looked heaven-ward and questioned their place in the cosmos. The stars, the moon and sun, and the immense dome of the Kalahari were all celestial signs that united people with nature. It is not surprising that the Naro of D’kar call this greatest of nature’s phenomena, “Nqarri Kgei kwe”… the Face of God.

The starlore of Botswana includes stories about stars and constellations, planets, the sun and moon, as well as bodies with apparent motion such as meteors and comets. These accounts are typically expressive rather than physical in understanding, with most descriptions having a metaphorical or narrative idiom. Many have whimsical associations, some have deeper intrinsic meaning in explaining cosmological origins [emphasis mine] whilst others serve practical purposes such as markers for direction in space and time. – Botswana Post

Folk tales, folk lores and legends all over the world teach us many things for in them we learn a lot about our history, geography, astronomy, origins or beginnings of our world, our race. As I have noticed in most folk tales, etc., we discover how we humans (struggle) try to find our place in the universe and to make sense of the world we live in.As you might have known by now, folk tales around the world fascinate me so much so it is not a surprise that this stamp automatically falls under my favourites list. There are actually four in the series but I only have one that you see below:

Botswana's Sky at Night: The Moon and the women of Setsana.
Botswana’s Sky at Night: The Moon and the women of Setsana.

I found this here explaining the story behind the stamp:

References to the moon are ubiquitous in local cultures. This stamp depicts a Setswana group of women who, it is said, bring a gentle light to the home, unlike the oppressive heat of the sun. The lunar waxing and waning also coincides with monthly fortunes, the waxing moon being U-shaped, carries problems and diseases, whereas the waning moon spills theses misfortunes on the people. Here the moon is accompanied by the recent concatenation with Jupiter and Venus. “Maphatlalatsane”, the brightest celestial object after the sun and moon.

Here is the complete set in the 2009 Sky at Night series that I took from the Botswana Post website:

From left to right: The Southern Cross and four giraffes; the meteorite and shamans shooting arrows; the solar eclipse and the magical lions; and lastly, the moon with a group of Setsana women.
From left to right: The Southern Cross and four giraffes; the meteorite and shamans shooting arrows; the solar eclipse and the magical lions; and lastly, the moon with a group of Setsana women.

8 thoughts on “Sunday Stamps 076: The skies at night, folktales and the beginning of the cosmos

  1. A recent TV programme on Africa featured the Kalahari. I studied astronomy as a subsidiary subject at university so am always interested in stamps like these – a fine set, indded.

  2. I've always been fascinated with the stories different cultures have about the night sky. They show how interdependent they were with the moon and stars. Now, I barely know the moon's phases unless I look up.

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