Johanna Owies

Johanna Owies was born on Noordhoek farm and was 80 years old at the time of the interview. She says that she is a friend Jantjie’s ram.

Johanna Owies speaks about Jantjie’s Ram in great detail – how he is passed on to the next generation and protects those who inherited him against paljas (magic). She also speaks about the ways of the waterbaas and waternooientjie (water beings).

Johanna Owies was born in Noordhoek and worked on Swartvlei, where she met her husband. They have been married for 26 years and have ten children, one of whom passed away. She is 79 and will turn 80 on 15 October. She she was told as a child to be careful of the waterbaas (water boss) – a white man with short hair and the lower body of a fish. He will take you underwater to live with him. If a waterbaas asks you what you eat and you answer “fish”, he will kill you. Johanna says that Jantjie’s Ram is a friend of hers, and her father had the ram originally. Once when she was a child she was walking with her mother, and as they reached the little gate at their destination a pitch-black dog fell from the blue gum tree. It tried to stop them from walking further, but Johanna told it to leave because she could protect herself. She knew the ram was sent to protect her.

Johanna is unsure of how it worked in earlier times, but says that her father’s mother originally had the ram. The way the ram works is that it is sent by a parent to check on their child if they are far from home, and it returns to report whether the child is safe and healthy. Johanna and her family moved from Swartvlei to Porterville, where her children knew none of the other children in the area. One evening someone picked a fight with her son. Johanna’s mother had Jantjie’s Ram in the form of a jackal and sent it to protect her grandson. The people got such a fright from this wild animal sitting at their doors that they never bothered Johanna’s son again. The people of Porterville did not know that her family were the type of people to have Jantjie’s Ram. Johanna says she has left home for a long time and always returned safely, because she had been protected. You can also send your magic spells, or paljas, with Jantjie’s Ram to another person.

There was a white goat, as white as a cloud, under the tree outside Johanna’s house one day. Her second eldest son called her to show her, but she told him to leave it alone. It had been sent to check that they were safe and healthy. She says the ram does not come around anymore as it died with the older generations.


My name is Johanna Magdalena Owies. I was born on Noordhoek. Worked on Swartvlei, I met my husband there. We took each other there, then we married and there we lived, 26 years, and all my children were born there. I’m a mother of ten children. One has passed away and nine are alive. And… I grew up on this farm where I’m living. It’s my birthplace, Noordhoek. Noordhoek is my birthplace. My ma and my pa lived here. And… when I was big I went to school and then I left school, then I started working. Then I went to work on Swartvlei and there we met each other.

I’m 79 now. On the 15th October, I’ll be 80.

You often swam in the river, didn’t you?

Yes, yes.

Are there maybe stories that the old people told about the river?

Uh. That time when I was growing up, the old people just threw us in. They never looked after us and held onto us. We swam in the river and when we got back, we were not allowed to go sit with them, where they were sitting, the adults. We had to go play in the bushes, because we were not allowed to listen to their conversation. They would say, “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to that uncle, or I’m speaking to that child.” That’s how it was. That’s how we grew up. We didn’t grow up like the children of today who’re allowed to listen to their parents’ conversation.

Did they perhaps speak of people living in the river?

No, no, nothing. They only told us about the… the… let’s say, the water boss. The water boss. We had to be careful, that thing, when we saw him, we had to remember, it was the water boss.

Did they say what he looked like?

They told us he looked like a male person. He had a tail but he also had long hair, or short hair, a man with short hair. But they told us it was a white man. We had to remember, it was a white man.

Did they say what he did?

Yes, they said, he takes you and then he goes into the river with you. He lives under the water and you have to go live with him under the water. He asks you what you eat. So you say what you eat. Then he asks whether you eat fish. And if you say you don’t eat fish, then he kills you. Then he pushes you out.

Do you maybe know some ghost stories that they told you?

No, no. Because in those days, you know, in those days we… our grown-ups didn’t actually talk to us much, told us things, because we had to go work … for the nôi* and the baas*.

(inaudible 3:57) just pick up the kids ??

Have you ever heard of Jantjie’s Ram?


Can you tell us what it is?

I’m, I’m a… I’m a friend of Jantjie’s Ram. My pa had a Jantjie’s Ram.

Tell us about it.

Me and my… me and my ma were walking one night. Now, below… below Swartvlei were bushes, we were walking from Upper Swartvlei and we had to walk through the row of bluegums. We were going down, down to them. And when we got there, there was a gate and when we got to the gate… there were these big bluegum trees. Then a thing fell out of the tree. Splosh, there on the ground. And when I looked, I saw it was a pitch-black dog. And the dog chose me straight off, and when the dog chose me, I chose my friend, then I grabbed my friend and we just stood there. And it ran past us, and we walked. Now, as we were walking, it was trying to stop us. It didn’t want us to walk, it stayed in front of us, blocking the way. Later I spoke to it, said to it, “You don’t have anything to do with me. You must go, and tell the people up there at the house you’ll look after me. And I’ll look after myself.”

So you’re saying your father had a Jantjie’s Ram?

Yes. Yes.

How does it work?

I don’t know how they worked with him in earlier times, but my late uhh, late grandma, my pa’s ma had the Ram. Now, this Ram’s work was, when the child was gone, was somewhere else, then this Ram was sent, he had to go see what the child was doing there, or what was happening to the child. So then the Ram went, he looked, then he would look after the child there and come back, then he would say, he had found the child there and there, the child was healthy, the child was working, or the child was just there. No, he’s a man, you could trust him. We moved from here, from Swartvlei we moved to Porterville, and my children didn’t know those children, my children only knew the children of Swartvlei. One night my children were taking a walk, there among the people, then the people fought with them. With my one son. And my late ma had a jackal.

What is this jackal?

Also a Ram.

Also like the Ram?

He also works like the Ram. And then my ma sent that jackal to save that child’s life there. Because she knew they were fighting with him. Then they, those people were so scared they didn’t want to come near my son. Of the jackal, jackal, he* was scared of the jackal. Because they had never experienced it that a jackal would come to your front door to fight. After all, it’s a wild creature, it doesn’t come close to people. But they never knew that we were that kind of people, my parents were that kind of people. So we, I went, I went and came back, and he was my protection.

Jantjie’s Ram?

Jantjie’s Ram.

Why do they call him Jantjie’s Ram?

Because that is his name. Yes, Jantjie.


Yes, Jantjie.

Third person: Tell him it was a safe thing, paljas*…


What is paljas?

He had to paljas, he was that kind of Ram. He could, if I wanted to do something to you, then I could give it to him. Then I could tell him, “Jantjie, go, you know that man, go to that man, go give that stuff to that man.”

Now, he gives it to you so that you don’t see it. He comes, and when he puts the stuff down there where you’re lying, a drink or so, because it is added to wine, or so. Now, when you wake up, there is the wine, I take it, I drink it.

Now, that was how he gave paljas to people. He came, we were already living here, then he came one evening, he was standing under the tree, he was snow-white, like a cloud, and my second oldest boy, he was coming back from his friends and he came and called me, “Ma, a snow-white cloud is standing under the tree.” Then I said, “No, let him be, let him be, don’t disturb him, he’s coming to look after us, he’s coming to see whether we are safe, healthy, and whether we have food.”

Do you still see him?

No, no, he doesn’t come any more. Since the old people passed away.

How does it work, if one dies, then he…?

Because then he is also dead. He also dies. Then he also dies.

Johanna Owies is op die plaas Noordhoek gebore en was 80 jaar oud ten tyde van die onderhoud. Sy sê Jantjie se ram is haar goedgesind.

Johanna vertel in detail van Jantjie se ram – hoe hy van een geslag na die volgende aangegee word en dié wat hom erf teen paljas beskerm. Sy vertel ook wat die waterbaas en waternooientjie doen.

Johanna Owies is op Noordhoek gebore en het op Swartvlei gewerk, waar sy haar man ontmoet het. Hulle was 26 jaar lank getroud en het tien kinders gehad, waarvan een oorlede is. Sy is 79 en word op 15 Oktober 2018 80. As kind is daar vir haar gesê om versigtig te wees vir die waterbaas – ’n wit man met kort hare en die onderlyf van ’n vis. Hy sal jou vang en onder die water intrek om by hom te gaan bly. As ’n waterbaas jou vra wat jy eet en jy antwoord “vis”, sal hy jou doodmaak. Johanna sê sy is ’n vriend van Jantjie se ram, en haar pa het oorspronklik die ram gehad. Eenkeer toe sy nog ’n kind was het sy saam met haar ma gestap. Toe hulle by die hek van hulle bestemming aankom, val daar ’n pikswart hond uit die bloekomboom uit. Die hond het hulle probeer keer om verder te loop, maar Johanna het vir hom gesê hy moet hulle uitlos, want sy kon haarself beskerm. Sy het geweet die ram is gestuur om haar te beskerm.

Johanna is nie seker hoe dit vroeër jare gewerk het nie, maar sy sê haar pa se ma het die ram oorspronklik gehad. Die ram werk so: ’n ouer stuur hom om te gaan kyk of alles wel is met sy of haar kind as die kind ver van die huis af is. Die ram kom dan terug en sê vir die ouer of die kind veilig en gesond is. Johanna en haar familie het van Swartvlei na Porterville verhuis, waar haar kinders nie die kinders van daardie omgewing geken het nie. Een aand wou iemand met haar seun baklei. Johanna se ma het Jantjie se ram in die vorm van ’n jakkals gehad, en dié gestuur om haar kleinseun te beskerm. Die mense het so groot geskrik toe hulle hierdie wilde dier by hulle deure sien sit dat hulle nooit weer met Johanna se seun moeilikheid gesoek het nie. Die mense van Porterville het nie geweet dat haar familie die soort mense was wat Jantjie se ram het nie. Johanna sê sy was al vir lang tye van die huis af weg, maar het altyd veilig teruggekeer omdat sy beskerm was. Jy kan ook jou “towery” (paljas) teen ’n ander persoon saam met Jantjie se ram stuur.

Eendag was daar ’n wit bok, so wit soos ’n wolk, onder die boom buite Johanna se huis. Haar tweede oudste seun het haar geroep om te kom kyk, maar sy het vir hom gesê om die bok uit te los. Die bok is gestuur om te kom kyk of hulle veilig en gesond was. Sy sê die ram verskyn nie meer nie omdat hy saam met die ouer geslag uitgesterf het.


My naam is Johanna Magdalena Owies. Ek is gebore op Noordhoek, gewerk op Swartvlei. Daar het ek my eggenoot ontmoet. Daar het ons mekaar gevat, toe’t ons gaan trou en daar het ons gebly, ses-en-twintig jaar, en al die kinders is daar gebore. Ek is ’n moeder van tien kinders. Een is oorlede en nege lewe. En … ek het grootgeword op hierdie plaas wat ek bly. Is my geboorteplaas, dié Noordhoek. Noordhoek is my geboorteplaas. My ma en pa het hier gebly. En … toe ek nou groot is, het ek skool toe gegaan en uit die skool uit, toe’t ek nou mos loop werk. Toe gaan werk ek op Swartvlei en daar het ons mekaar ge-ontmoet.

Ek is nou nege-en- … nege-en-sewentig. Ek word op die vyftiende Oktober, dan raak ek tagtig.

Antie-hulle het mos altyd baie gaan swem … in die rivier…

Ja, ja.

Is daar miskien stories wat die oumense vertel het van die rivier?

Nee, daai tyd toe ek opgegroot het, het die oumense mos nou ingegooi. Hulle het nooit vir ons opgelet nie, en vasgehou nie. Ons het geswem in die rivier, en as ons terugkom, dan mag ons nie by hulle kom sit nie, waar hulle sit nie, hulle grootmense nie. Dan moet ons in die bosse loop speel, want ons mag nie hulle se gesels luister nie. Word gesê, ek gesels nie met jou nie, ek gesels met daai oom, of ek gesels met daai kindjie. So gaan dit. So het ons grootgeword. Ons het nie grootgeword soos nou se kinders saam met die ma en pa se gesels nie.

Het hulle miskien vertel daar’s mense wat daar in die rivier bly, of …?

Nee, nee, niks nie. Hulle’t net vir ons vertel van die … uh … die … sou maar sê, die waterbaas. Die waterbaas, ons moet versigtig wees, so ’n ding, as ons hom kry, moet ons onthou, dis die waterbaas.

Hoe’t hulle gesê, hoe lyk hy?

Hulle’t vir ons gesê hy lyk soos ’n mansmens. Hy’t ’n stert aan, visstert, maar hy het lang hare ook, of kort hare, ’n mansmens met die hare gesny. Maar hulle het vir ons gesê dis ’n wit man. Ons moet onthou, dis ’n wit man.

Het hulle gesê wat maak hy?

Ja, hulle het gesê hy vat jou en dan gaan hy met jou in die rivier in. Hy bly onder die water en daar moet jy dan gaan bly by hom onder die water. Nou vra hy vir jou wat jy eet. Nou sê jy wat jy eet. Dan vra hy vir jou of jy vis eet. En as jy nou sê jy eet vis, dan maak hy jou dood. Dan stoot hy jou uit.

Ken Antie miskien spookstories wat hulle vir Antie vertel het?

Nee, nee. Want daai tyd, jy weet, daai tyd het ons mos … ons grootmense het nie eintlik baie met ons gesels nie, vir ons vertel nie, want ons moet gaan werk … vir die nôi en die baas.

(onhoorbaar 3:57) maar kleinknapies optel ??

Het Antie al gehoor van Jantjie se Ram?


Kan Antie vir ons vertel wat is dit?

Ek is, ek is ’n pers- … men- … ek is ’n vriend van Jantjie se Ram. My pa het ’n Jantjie se Ram gehad.

Nou vertel vir ons.

Ek en my … ek en my ma het loop, een aand loop ons. Nou, daar onder, daar onder Swartvlei is bosse, ons loop nou van bo Swartvlei af, moet ons nou deur die bloekomstraat loop. Gaan ons nou af, na hulle toe. En toe ons nou daar kom, daar is ’n hek en toe ons nou by dié hek kom, daar staan groot bloekombome. Toe val daar ’n ding uit die boom uit. Kaplaks, hier op die grond. En toe ek nou so kyk, toe sien ek dis ’n pikswart hond. En die hond kies my sommer, en toe die hond vir my kies, toe kies ek my maat, toe gryp ek my maat en ons staan sommer. En hy hardloop by ons verby, en ons loop. Nou, soos ons nou loop, so keer hy ons. Hy wil nie hê ons moet loop nie, hy bly hier voor, keer ons weer terug. Ek het later met hom gepraat, vir hom gesê: “Jy’t niks met my te doen nie. Jy moet gaan, en loop sê daar bo by die huis, vir die mense, jy kan my oppas. En ek sal my oppas.”

So Antie sê, Antie se pa het ’n Jantjie se Ram gehad?

Ja. Ja.

Nou, hoe werk dit nou met …?

Ek weet nie hoelat hulle voortyd met hom gewerk het nie, maar my oorlê, uhh, oorlê ouma, my pa se ma, het die Ram gehad. Nou, dié Ram se werk was, as die kind weg is, by die ander wyke is, dan word dié Ram gestuur, hy moet gaan kyk waar die kind daar maak, of wat die kind daar oorkom. Nou, dan gaan die Ram, dan gaan kyk hy, dan pas hy die kind daar op en kom terug, dan sê hy daar en daar het hy die kind gekry, die kind is gesond, die kind werk, of die kind is maar daar. Nee, hy is nou ’n man, jy kan gevertrou het op hom. Ons het hiervan af getrek, uit Swartvlei het ons getrek Porterville toe, en my kinders ken nie daai kinders nie, my kinders ken mos net Swartvlei se kinders. Toe’t my kinders nog die aand geloop, daar tussen die mense in, toe baklei die mense met hulle. Met die een seun van my. En toe het my oorlê ma het ’n jakkals gehad.

Wat is die jakkals?

Ook ’n Ram.

Ook soos die Ram?

Hy werk ook soos die Ram. En toe stuur my ma daai jakkals, om daai kind se lewe te loop red daar. Want sy weet hoe het hulle baklei met hom daar. Toe’t hulle, daai mense is so bang gewees lat hulle nie wil na aan my seun kom nie. Met die jakkals. Jakkals, is hy bang vir die jakkals. Want hulle het nog nooit gebeleef lat ’n jakkals kom tot voor jou deur en kom sit baklei daar nie. Hy’s mos ’n wilde gedierte, hy kom mos nie so na aan mense nie. Maar hulle het nooit geweet dat ons daai klas mens, my ouers is daai klas mense. So, ons, ek het gegaan, gegaan en teruggekom, maar hy was my beskerming.

Jantjie se Ram?

Jantjie se Ram.

Hoekom sê hulle vir hom Jantjie se Ram?

Omdat sy naam so is. Ja, Jantjie.


Ja, Jantjie.

Derde persoon: Sê vir hom hy was ’n veilige ding, paljas, hoe sê …


Nou vertel vir ons, wat is paljas?

Hy moet paljas, was so ’n Ram, hy kan vir jou, as ek nou wil iets aan jou doen, dan kan ek dit vir hom gee. Dan kan ek vir hom sê: “Jantjie, gaan, jy ken daai man, gaan na daai man toe, gaan gee daai goed daar vir daai man.” Nou, hy gee dit nie dat jy dit sien nie. Hy kom, en as hy nou die goed, daar waar jy lê, neersit, drinkgoed, of so, want dit word mos in die wyn gegooi, of so. Nou, as jy nou wakker skrik, daar staan mos nou wyn, ek vat hom, ek drink hom mos. Nou, so het hy die mense paljas ingegee. Nee, hy’t gekom, ons het al hier gebly, toe kom hy die aand, toe staan hy hier onder die boom, toe’s hy sp-i-e-rwit, soos ’n wolk, en my tweede oudste seuntjie, hy kom hier van sy maters af, en hy kom, en hy roep my: “Ma, hier staan ’n spierwit wolk onder die boom.” Toe sê: “Nee, los hom, los hom, moenie hom hinder nie, hy kom kyk na ons, hy kom kyk, hy’s ons veilig is, gesond is, en of ons kos het.”

Sien Antie hom nou nog?

Nee, nee, nou kom hy nie meer nie. Van die oumense nou oorlede is.

Hoe werk dit, as mens dood is, dan gaan …?

Want dan gaan hy mos ook dood. Dan gaan hy ook dood. Dan gaan hy ook dood.