DR IAN PLAYER (18 December 2012)
Clarissa Hughes has written a beautiful little book and she is to be congratulated for the warmth and the passion of her writing. The depth of her own spiritual enlightenment permeates the book making it very interesting and inspiring. In the world of conservation science has long been able to have its say, but there has been a lack of the authentic indigenous voices. Those of us who have had the good fortune while out in the bush, or in the deserts of the Kgalagadi in Namibia, have gazed with wonder at the blaze of southern stars. It is no wonder that indigenous cultures who have been staring into the heavens at night have created wonderful stories of the doings of the stars. Clarissa Hughes has travelled far and wide and gathered many of these entrancing stories; her book adds a completely new dimension to star gazing. I was delighted to see mention of so many old friends in the book. Credo Mutwa in his very poetic way describes the living animals of the plains as being reflections of their heavenly cousins and how the herds of eternity are in the stars. Laurens van der Post who had his childhood experience of a Bushman nurse and then in adulthood went on to film and meet with the Bushmen of the Kgalagadi. In his books, Heart of the Hunter, Lost World of the Kalahari and others, he writes about their stories. Laurens stories are about the soul of the Bushmen. Clarissa Hughes writes how she had followed her own intuitive self on the odyssey of Bushman spirituality. I love the story of the Bushman mother holding up a child to the stars so that they may hear the sound tsa and become a great hunter. Tsa is the word that is used to set dogs on foes. I agree wholeheartedly with Clarissa Hughes where she says, ‘In the West’s pursuit of the rational and the scientific, we have forgotten what we once knew – that all knowledge is interconnected,’ and how in Southern African star tales religion is told in relation to nature. She quotes too one of the greatest of all doctors of the soul, Professor Carl Jung and his emphasis on the importance of dreams and listening to what they have to say. I have personally followed his advice and now have 64 manuscript books full of my own dreams and what a revelation many have turned out to be. Jung would have heartily approved of Clarissa Hughes statement, ‘that we cannot survive alone. Reconnecting with our natural selves requires a spiritual development never before demanded of our species.’ She continues to say that humanity ‘is on the brink of the greatest transformation encountered in our history’ and that we see this in the spiritual pain in the world around us. Her book has many splendid photographs and some line drawings and the one of the mantis is by far the best that I have ever seen. This is a book not to be missed for those of us who seek deeper meaning in the stories of the indigenous culture.
DR IAN MCCALLUM (17 November 2012)
This is a gem of a book. It is historically significant in that it reminds us that one of the great psychological tasks we face as human beings is that of our search for meaning, continuity and a sense of belonging in our world. We must never forget the continuity that exists between the ‘just so’ stories of the human narrative and the ‘so it is’ discoveries of modern science. Born from the same creative crucible of the human imagination, modern astronomy now confirms what human intuition has somehow always suspected – that the fiery lives of stars have something to do with us. Indeed, without them, the trace elements that ultimately define biological life would not exist. Yes, we are connected, not only to the stars but to the lives of all living things. Imbued with fun, mischief and wisdom, it is what the traditional stories compiled by Clarissa Hughes conveys. As an environmentalist with a special interest in the lessons we learn about ourselves from the wild, this book will be a red-blooded companion to the teaching of the basic yet awesome principles of astronomy.
Louise Oberholzer – (6 October 2016)
This is an eye opening book. It provides confirmation for the growing realisation that indigenous lore and belief was based on an understanding of the natural world that surpasses our present understanding. It provides a shift in perspective that is unsettling and illuminating. Hopefully Clarissa Hughes will be encouraged to share more insights that lie in the legends of Africa. The legends and fairy stories of Europe have been studied in depth and give deep insights into human nature. But no continent provides the world with such a vast array of wild animal nature and here is where we have to stand still and listen so that we can understand the relationship between man and animal to the degree that we will be able to continue existence together.
Lesley Thompson – Meander Chronicle (25 November 2012)
Every now and then a really lovely book comes along that is quite different. FLOWERS IN THE SKY by Clarissa Hughes is one such book. Describing the stars as ‘ flowers’ we felt illustrated the loveliness of this enchanting book. As we are aware, southern Africa with its clear skies offers some of the best stargazing in the world. Combine this with tales and legends of southern Africa’s indigenous people, and one discovers a whole new understanding and appreciation of our awesome cosmic world. Working in tourism and having lived in Botswana and Zambia for many years, Clarissa met many people from different tribes on a daily basis. With her passion for African culture and her understanding that this is intimately connected to the natural environment and survival of many people, Clarissa has put together a beautiful book that justly deserves a place on everyone’s book shelf. Using illustrations, truly superb photography, poetry, and quotes from others, Clarissa includes tales from the Bushmen, Sotho, Zulu, Shona, Xhosa, Venda, Batswana, Tsonga, and Karanga, using their chosen names and different interpretations of the stars. One does not need knowledge of astronomy to enjoy and appreciate this book, though being well researched it would also appeal to the more well-informed astronomer. Clarissa also raises some interesting questions as how ancient legends and 21st-century beliefs and challenges can be so similar.