CapeTownMagazine.com

Table Mountain Myths and Legends

Unwrapping Cape Town with you.
Also engage with our other channels
to find something you don't want to miss.
 
www.capetownmagazine.com/subscribe
CapeTownMag
CapeTownMagazine.com
capetownmag

Table Mountain Myths and Legends

We explore the fables and folktales that surround the Mother City’s flat-topped landmark 

Last Updated: 14 February 2017

Table Mountain, gracious and majestic in all its rocky splendour, has a lot going for it. The landform receives approximately 800,000 visitors by cable car each year, was named one of the world’s New7Wonders of Nature in 2012 and is featured in more travel selfies than you could count.

So it comes as no surprise that throughout history, locals and visitors to the Cape have come up with a few interesting stories that seek to explain the mountain’s towering presence.

We took it upon ourselves to uncover some of these tales, and this is what we found:

TABLE MOUNTAIN MYTHS AND LEGENDS

Stories from the Sea

There are many Table Mountain legends that those traversing the Atlantic Ocean in the past brought along with them. The quest for the establishment of trade routes and for world domination that started in the 1400s resulted in an increase in sea travel and activity around the rocky headland that we have come to know as the Cape of Good Hope. Unfortunately, the promontory and the wild waters that surround it did not seem to favour these plans (in fact, this route became known as the most dangerous sea crossing in the world), and so much turmoil and many shipwrecks ensued, which then led to the following legends about the mountain that overlooks the southern part of the seas.

cape of god hope

Table Mountain is an Angry Giant Greek God Called Adamastor
This idea, of course, made perfect sense to Portuguese sailors who were trying their best to find their way to India and had to face the tempestuous waters and storms of the Cape. The notion was inspired by a poem by Luís de Camões in which the mountain was likened to an angry, hostile and vindictive giant who suffered from some kind of inner turmoil and who wouldn’t allow anyone to pass through the rough seas of the area. The belief is that after years of trouble the great beast was finally defeated and the evidence of this is in the successful rounding of the tip of Africa by the great explorer Bartomeu Dias and later by Vasco da Gama, who was the first to make it all the way to India. Today, all that’s left of this mad giant is a motionless mountain.

adamastor greek god table mountain

Table Mountain is the Double-Headed Roman God Janus
It was once believed that Table Mountain was the physical manifestation of the Roman god Janus. This mythological being was considered to be a gatekeeper who facilitated new beginnings and transitions and who was able to look into the past and the future at the same time. So in the form of this god, Table Mountain was thought to safeguard the African tip and control who passed from west to east and who transitioned from the old world to the new world.

Stories from South African Soil

Table Mountain as the Watcher of the South
Perhaps one of the most well-known legends with origins on African soil is the Xhosa folktale that recounts the story of Qamata, a prominent god who is believed to have been responsible for creating the world. The story goes that when this powerful god was in the process of creating dry land, a sea dragon named Nkanyamba interfered and tried to stop him. What followed was an intense battle, during which Qamata’s mother (the Earth Goddess) helped her son by creating four giants to protect the four corners of the world. Once enough land was formed and the giants died, they were turned into stone so as to watch over the cardinal points of the earth forever. The southernmost giant, who also happened to be the biggest and strongest, was given the name Umlindi Wemingizimu (Watcher of the South) and is what we know as Table Mountain today.

A Smoking Contest with the Devil is Responsible for the ‘Tablecloth’ on Table Mountain
While the origins of this story are not known, it is widely accepted that the Cape Malays were involved in the creation of the tale. The legend involves a retired Dutch pirate named Van Hunks, who had a great love for pipe smoking. One day, this very same pirate was smoking at his favourite spot (on the slopes of what we now know as Devil’s Peak) when a stranger approached and challenged him to a smoking duel. After a long day of huffing and puffing (some actually say that the contest went on for days on end), a large cloud of smoke had enveloped them and Table Mountain. Just as Van Hunks won the competition, he realised that the stranger was actually the devil. The devil was not impressed about being beaten by a man, and so suddenly the two men vanished in a bright flash of lightning, leaving behind only their huge cloud of smoke. Legend has it that this mass of smog became the ‘tablecloth’ of Table Mountain (the wisps of cloud that often cover its top).

table cloth table mountain in cape town

The Many Stories Today

Fast forward to the present day and there are still many tales surrounding Table Mountain, including stories about ghosts and everything in between. Some people have claimed that the mountain is made up of crystals that are responsible for the calm, laidback nature of the city, while others are sure that the top of the landmark was once plagued with goats (they apparently threatened the fynbos so had to be removed). Inhabitants of the Mother City have even gone so far as to say that the mountain is a sacred place where God’s angels walk from time to time, making it a site of great serenity.

table mountain cable car in cape town

At the end of the day, whether you choose to believe the more mystical, giant- and devil-filled stories or whether you’re more inclined to view our famous peak as simply a striking geographical phenomenon, one thing is certain: Table Mountain is a peak of epic proportions.

---

Think you’re now clued up on what’s what with this natural wonder? Here’s a round-up of 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Table Mountain.

---

Check out our events section for an up-to-date overview of happenings in Cape Town. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and if you have a smartphone, add m.capetownmagazine.com to your home screen for quick access on the go!

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle, connect with us on LinkedIn, check out our photos on Instagram and follow our Pinterest boards for updates on what’s happening in and around the Mother City.

Cape Town Events Calendar
December 2018
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31

Benguela_Lakeside3Slow Sunday Lunch on the Banks of the ...

A relaxed four-course meal, live music and dancing under the umbrellas in Sedgefield

Comedyclub_new12Half-Price Sunday Special at Cape Town ...

Experience Cape Town’s funniest comedians (for less on Sundays) at the Waterfront’s ...

ReconciliationDay2018_SGTpepper1Go Long This Reconciliation Day Weekend

Recognise the past, celebrate the future and make the most of the long Day of ...

GoldFish_Shimmy2018_2GoldFish Live: Full Summer Concert ...

Plus: WATCH 4 videos to get you in the mood for Goldfish’s Submerged Summer residency ...

LaParada22End The Weekend Right: Sunday Funday ...

Round off the weekend by dancing the day away at La Parada Constantia Nek’s Sunday ...

Santa's Village V&A WaterfrontV&A Waterfront Opens Santa’s Village ...

Flying in from the North Pole, Santa will be in Cape Town to see if kids have been ...

tigger_too_sunset_cruiseNEW: Weekly Sunday Sunset Cruises from ...

Live DJ, sundowner cocktails, dinner on this luxury sunset cruise from the V&A Waterfront ...

Cape Town Natural Hair Fest 2Love Your Natural Locks At The 3rd ...

Shop your favourite hair, beauty, fashion brands and more

Om Revolution vinyasa poseHave an Outdoor Yoga Experience with ...

Embrace your inner yogi outdoors

Botane Skin Actives New Images 2Get 20% Off BOTANē Skin Actives ...

Simplified skin health for less in store this holiday season

Gipsy Kings at Grand Africa Cafe & Beach 2Dinner With The Gipsy Kings At Grand ...

The iconic flamenco band hits Cape Town shores for one hell of a show

pinelands_marketGet Festive At Pinelands Craft & Gift ...

Free entry to this market brimming with delicious food and good quality, well-priced ...

mcqpIt’s MCQP Party Time Cape Town… Is ...

Hunky mechanics, sassy drag queens, muscle cars, sexy pit stop girls and lots of burning ...

surfarosaSunday Braai And Show At Surfarosa

Bring and braai and watch hardcore bands for free on Sunday (Monday is a public holiday)

Summer Glice Rink Mini Neon Pop-up Summer Ice Skating ...

You read that right, kids can go ice skating in summer

my_gourmet_marketHalaal Heaven At My Gourmet Market

With food varying from sweet to savoury, gluten-free to vegan, and traditional to modern, ...

Old Mac Daddy Spitbraai SundaySomething for the Weekend: Family ...

A scenic road trip with spitbraai and loads of fun family activities at Old Mac Daddy

we_house_sundays_rhebokskloofWe House Sundays at Rhebokskloof Wine ...

A one-day outdoor electronic music festival experience

Galilieo_RupertSaturday Nights at The Galileo Open Air ...

Kick back, sip wine and relax with a country movie screening experience

Galileo_family1Summer Holiday Movie Fun For The Kids

ET, Arthur Christmas and Hop are all part of the line-up!

legends_live_in_concertCelebrate The Music Legends All On One ...

A talented 10-piece cast impersonates music legends to perfection

kiff kombi craft beer Craft Beer Safari with Kiff Kombi Tours

Here’s how to experience the best in Cape Town’s craft beer scene and get 15% off ...

Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts 2018Line-Up Kirstenbosch Summer Concert ...

Just confirmed: DJ Bonobo. Plus: From Boney M to Mafikizolo – from Fokof to Goldfish ...

thali thaliThe Famous Sunday Lunch Buffet at Thali ...

Cap off the weekend with a hearty, affordable spread at this family-friendly West Coast ...

KewpieAn Inspiring Message of Diversity and ...

The vibrant diversity of District Six comes alive with an exhibition about a famously ...

Bugz Playpark in Cape TownMake Sunday Funday For The Whole Family ...

End the weekend on a high note with fun rides, educational play and something for ...

Cape Culinary Tours Valentine's Day InclusionTake a Bite into History with Cape Town ...

Learn about Cape Town’s past while savouring local cuisine with these informative ...

V&A Food Market 3Free Live Music and Affordable ...

With 42 artisanal street food vendors and retail products and free live music every ...

Le Bonheur 12Get a 20% Discount on Accommodation at ...

Le Bonheur Reptiles and Adventures offers patrons a 20% discount when they stay at this ...

Ubuntu Climbs 365 3How Many Hikes Up Table Mountain Does ...

A hike a day gets the funds raised. This guy is hiking Table Mountain every single day of ...

Shimmy Beach ClubFamily Fun at Shimmy Beach Club Cape ...

Infinity pools, jacuzzis, a man-made beach and a kid’s corner, all in one location

Kirstenbosch Christmas CarolsSing Along At Cape Town’s Historic ...

Tis the season for carols...

Cherry Picking Ceres Klondyke Farm 3Cherry On Top: Klondyke Kicks Off ...

Pick your cherries and eat them too at this family-friendly cherry farm in Ceres

Canal Walk Ice Slide World 6Cool For The Summer At Canal Walk’s ...

A world of frozen fun this festive season

Vergenoegd_duckrun1Cheer On The Ducks At Vergenoegd Löw

Bring the kids along to experience the Duck Parade

A Touch Of Madness Burgers and Beers 4Enjoy a Burger and Beer Combo On Sunday ...

This iconic Observatory restaurant offers a special Sunday burger deal that comes with a ...

WeatherGiveawaysTravel Tips

Curious to make exciting discoveries in Cape Town every day? "LIKE" us for a daily hidden gem.