My tribe is known as the Wai’a’atika. During my spirit walk to meet my totem as a young warrior brave, the Great Bear came to me. He told me he would walk the warrior path with me, teaching me his ways. The Great Bear wisdom is the way of courage and peace. Size and strength matter but it is only the foolish who let brash fierceness lead the way. The Bear warrior’s heart tempers the way balancing harmony and respect for all living things. For truly the Great Bear is a lover of peace and tranquility.
It is now my duty and honour to teach the ways of the warrior to my son. This is my story.
Nanunja spoke softly to his son, guiding him deep into the forest. The child was young. Nanja the Son of Nanunja knew the importance of this first trip having listened closely to tales told in the darkness of night around the campfires. He was here to learn. Reverence for all of life, the forest and its rhythms was integral to the ways of their tribe. Teaching young ones the ways of the Wai’a’atika was a time honoured tradition handed down father to son as far back as the first tribal memories and beyond. Nanunja felt honoured and humbled to be entrusted with such a sacred and important task. He wanted to do the best he could. Carefully he thought back to the time when he also, as the first born son, was taken into the forest by his father. It was his turn to be the teacher now. Taking a deep breath he called on the Spirits in the Sky to guide and help him.
This first lesson was crucial. It laid the foundation for all the others to follow. There were to be many over the growing years of the child. The last would be the initiation ceremony marking Nanja’s transition into manhood . Nanunja squatted on the ground next to his son, motioning him to do the same. Neither spoke. Tuning his heart to the rhythms of the forest, Nanunja turned and smiled at the little one. This lesson would be conducted in silence. All he was to learn today would be taught to him by his father’s hands, eyes, face and body. Nanja had learnt to understand this language before he could make sounds or crawl. It was familiar and comforting in these strange surroundings. Never before had he travelled so far into the forest.
Looking intently at his father, Nanja searched for instruction about what was expected of him. Nanunja placed his forefinger across his lips. He was to be silent. To make no noise. Then Nanunja cupped his hand to his ear, indicating that Nanja was to listen. He did so intently, intuitively slowing his breathing down at the same time. It was easier to listen with his eyes closed. After a while, he heard a quiet rustling sound very close by. Carefully he opened his eyes. Slowly he turned his gaze to look in the direction the sound was coming from. Not more than an arm’s length from him stood a squirrel, bushy tailed and alert. Sensing no danger, it continued scrabbling in the undergrowth for food. Nanja smiled as he looked at his father. Silence amplified the sounds that surrounded you, his father instructed him with his sign language. Enthusiastically Nanja nodded his head. The sudden movement scared the squirrel which scurried away into the forest. Nanjunja smiled, shook his head and wagged his finger. Sudden movements, he said, scared the quarry. A hunter must learn to be patient, still and quiet.
Very slowly and carefully Nanunja stood up. There was not a sound. Nanja followed his example. The boy was only young and would soon get restless. It was time to change the lesson to a more active one to keep his interest and attention. Lifting one foot off the ground, Nanjunja slowly and carefully took a step forward. In slow motion, making sure he did not disturb the ground, he placed his foot down toes first, letting it touch the ground lightly and carefully all the way to the heel. Nanja followed his example. One careful step at a time they walked the forest floor till the boy grew tired and consequently a little careless. Tenderly Nanunja lifted him to his shoulders and continued the shadow walk of the warrior and hunter all the way home while the boy slept.
The boy had learnt well. He was to practice the silent ways of the warrior every day under the watchful eye of his father. When Nanunja deemed his son ready, the next lesson would begin.
To be continued on Wednesdays … welcome to following Nanunja, Warrior of the Wai’a’atika Tribe, as he instructs and intiates his son into the ways of the tribe.
© Raili Tanska