December: Eland Moon

The eland is possibly South Africa’s most magnificent antelope and is the largest antelope in Africa. It is the second largest antelope in the world after the moose (Alces alces).

The eland was of special importance to the San-people, being created by /Kaggen, the Mantis. For the San generally, but for the /Xam in particular, the eland was uniquely significant. In their tradition all other animals were servants to the eland. When he created the eland, Mantis fed the eland brood combs, the structure of cells in a bee hive where the queen bee lays eggs. They say, “that is why he is dark, because he remembers that he has eaten the dark brood combs.”

In creating the eland, the Mantis was creating not just his favourite animal, but also the foundation for San contact with the supernatural, and for the San as a distinct people: not just their shaman, all of them were “of the Eland”.

The Eland (Taurotragus oryx) was previously much more widely distributed in South Africa. Due to human development and over-utilization it is under considerable pressure. As far back as 1806 the early traveller, John Barrow, remarked that “… the farmers had almost destroyed the eland by their inconsiderate hunts”. An early Western missionary quite correctly commented that the eland surpassed all other antelope in beauty and moved among them like a king.

Place names associated with the eland:

Elands Bay is a fishing village in the Cederberg Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province at the mouth of the Verlorevlei ‘Lost marsh/wetlandʼ. The name is taken from the bay to the west and refers to the antelope Taurotragus oryx.

Elandsberg (Eland’s mountain) is a mountain in the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality of the Eastern Cape Province about 10 km north-east of Cradock. It was named by the pioneer explorer Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon and the name refers to the antelope Taurotragus oryx.

Elandsberge (Eland’s mountains) is an eastward extension of the Baviaanskloof mountains in the Eastern Cape Province.

Elandsbosrivier (Eland’s bush river) rises in the Tsitsikamma Mountains and flows into the sea near Plettenberg Bay in the Bitou Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province. The name is said to refer to the ‘elandsbossieʼ, Elephantorrhiza elephantina.

Elandskloofberge (Eland’s ravine mountains) border on the Groenland Mountains ‘green land mountainsʼ which lie between the Hottentots Holland mountains in the west and the Houwhoek mountains in the south-east. The name is believed to be a translation of a Khoikhoi name.

Elandslaagte (Eland’s hollow/flat) is a farming and coal-mining centre in the Alfred Duma Local Municipality of the KwaZulu-Natal Province. This was also the scene of one of the first battles of the Anglo-Boer War on 21 October 1899. The name reflects the presence of the eland here in earlier times.

Elandspad (Eland’s road) is the former name of Sir Lowry’s Pass and was named after the eland which followed this path to cross the Hottentots Holland Mountains. The name is believed to be a translation of the border on the Groenland Mountains ‘green land mountainsʼ which lie between the Hottentots Holland mountains in the west and the Houwhoek mountains in the south-east. The name is probably a translation of the Khoikhoi name ‘Gantouwʼ.

Elandsrivier (Eland’s river) rises at Mont-aux-Sources and is a tributary of the Wilge River ‘Willow Riverʼ which it joins near Warden in the Phumelela Local Municipality of the Free State Province. It is named after the eland which was once abundant here. The river was formerly known as the Donkin River after Sir Rufane Donkin acting Governor of the Cape in 1820.

The Eland Moon in December occurs only once during the period 2020–2050.

The first Full Moon in December is the Springbok Moon.

Date of Eland Moon (2020–2050)

2028 Dec 31, 18:48

Further reading

  • Bank, A. (2006) Bushmen in a Victorian world. The remarkable story of the Bleek-Lloyd Collection of Bushman Folklore. Double Storey Books.
  • Lewis-Williams, J.D. (2015) Myth and Meaning: San-Bushman Folklore in a Global Context. UCT Press / Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd.
  • Skotnes, P. (2007) Claim To The Country. The Archive of Lucy Lloyd and Wilhelm Bleek. Jacana Media.

Heritage Full Moons in South Africa

MonthFirst Full MoonSecond Full Moon
JanuaryMantis MoonLeopard Moon
FebruaryDassie Moon——
MarchHarvest MoonOchre Moon
AprilDiamond MoonGold Moon
MayFrost MoonFire Moon
JuneSisters MoonHoney Moon
JulyMeerkat MoonProtea Moon
AugustPeace MoonDusty Moon
SeptemberSpring MoonBlue Crane Moon
OctoberWhale MoonElephant Moon
NovemberMilk MoonWool Moon
DecemberSpringbok MoonEland Moon

Protecting South Africa’s astronomical heritage

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