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The Bushpeople of southern Africa believe that Gauna is the leader of the spirits of the dead. He is the enemy of Cagn, the god who created the world. Though not as powerful as Cagn, Gauna is strong enough to cause trouble for people and animals.

Gauna lives in the underworld, where he rules the tormented ghosts of the dead. At his command, these spirits haunt family members who are still living. Gauna regularly visits the earth to seize people and imprison them in the underworld. He hates the world created by Cagn and tries to interfere with the affairs of the living.

To avoid being troubled by Gauna, the Bushpeople practice various rituals and taboos that they learned from Cagn. For example, they stay away from graves for fear that the dead people buried inside will reach out and pull them down into the underworld.

See also African Mythology; Cagn; Underworld.

underworld land of the dead

ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern

taboo prohibition against doing something that is believed to cause harm