God of the Week: Gao Na

08/29/2011: Gao Na

Gao Na is the sky god of the !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert.

Gao Na has human form and gives both good and bad to humans, via the dead ancestors and other intermediary spirits. He was known for having human emotions—including “passion, stupidity, and frustration”—and enjoyed food and sex. He was not a moral paragon but performed immoral acts like incest and cannibalism, and the people did not defer to him in awe and reverence. Their “prayers” typically took a somewhat accusatory tone, implying the god’s injustice in doing bad things to those who do not deserve it.

-Introducing Anthropology of Religion by Jack David Eller

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