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.
Nanja practised and practiced the hunter’s skills his father had taught him in the forest. Being patient, still and quiet was hard for the little one. He wanted to run around and play with his friends. Doing nothing, as he thought of it, was boring. Not fun at all. Being so young he did not understand just how much time and effort was needed to learn this lesson. As the years went by and he got older, Nanja would begin to understand just how important and wise the lesson was. But for now, small moments of stillness were enough. They were the stepping stones to becoming a good and clever hunter. Patiently his father reminded him to practice, practice and practice more. Morning and afternoon every day he had to stop whatever he was doing to practice. In truth it was only for a few minutes but to Nanja it felt as long as it took for the sun to cross the sky. He knew better than to protest or refuse. Disobedience was not tolerated. He knew from past experience there would be consequences. Ones he preferred to avoid. His father loved him but disobedience made him angry.
Practice got a little tedious for the strong willed Nanja. He did not like having to stop the interesting things he was doing. It was always more fun than being still and quiet. He could not understand why one day of practice was not enough. Clearly his father did not agree. So he did as he was told. When he was still and quiet for long enough he was given a special treat. A small pebble sized hard round ball of sweetness that slowly melted in his mouth making it sing. It always left him wanting more. Never was it to be eaten at any other time. The sweets were kept in a special box kept hidden by his father. The box was tenderly rubbed with beeswax every passing of the moon to keep it in strong and good condition.
Little did he know that all fathers with sons painstakingly collected pollen and nectar for many months and seasons to make sure there was enough for the training. It was taken to the village Shaman who added special herbs, ground nuts and seeds and other secret ingredients. Each blend was different providing the best nutrition to support the learning needs of the individual child. As the child aged, the blend would change too. As well as this, the Shaman would chant, dance and use his magic rattles and feathers to make the blend stronger. It would then be left in a covered clay pot for a full moon cycle to cure. This preparation is what made the sweets so special and left the children wanting more. When the blends were ready, the fathers would take them home and roll the soft dough into pebble sized balls. They were left to harden in the sun. When ready the sweets were stored in the special box that had been handed down from father to son as far back as the tribe could remember. Made of sandalwood and intricately carved it was a real work of art. The scent and flavour of sandalwood also infused into the sweets whilst they lay in storage, adding its own layer of medicine – grounding, calming and helping with concentration.
The other skill Nanja was to practice was the shadow walking of a warrior and hunter. That was so much more fun. It was turned into a game by the children. Playing hide and seek was taken to a whole new level as they got better at it. Sneaking up on the ones hiding without their knowing became a prized skill. Competition to become known as the best shadow walker was tough. It was a prize everyone coveted. A great deal of time and energy went into perfecting it. Nanja was hard to beat so good had he become. The fathers watched in delight, remembering their own childhood games. Not much had changed.
Nanja lay on his sleeping mat tired and teary after a particularly long and hard day. It seemed to him that nothing he did had been good enough for his father. Nanunja came and lay down next to him, taking him into his arms, resting Nanja’s head on his shoulder. “You have learnt well, my son,” he said. “Today was hard for you. It was a test. You did very well. I am proud of you. Next time the moon is round and proud in the sky we will go back to the forest. It is time for your next lesson. Sleep well, my son.” Nanja fell into a deep, contented sleep.
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