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.
SIGNS in the Forest
Last night the moon had been full and round in the sky. Nanja woke early with a sense of anticipation. Today, he was to go into the forest with his father for the next lesson.
He wondered what it would be. It had taken twelve cycles of the moon before his father had decided he was ready for the next step. Nanja could not remember a time when he had not been practising how to become patient, silent and quiet enough to move on to the next lesson.
Nanja got up quietly so he would not wake the rest of his family. His father, mother and three younger siblings were still fast asleep in the cave which was their home. The tribe lived in the mountains, each family in their own cave. It protected them from the heat when the sun was strong in the sky. And kept them warm when nature was sleeping and the ground was deeply covered with snow and the cold winds blew. The in-between times were Nanja’s favourite. Nature was in just such a time now, slowing down and getting ready to go into a deep sleep. The leaves on the trees were painted in brilliant colours of red, yellow, orange, brown. It was a feast for the eyes.
Nanja walked down to the mountain stream to wash and relieve himself. He picked the last of the berries from the bushes and shrubs along the sloping path. They were full and ripe. As he bit into them the refreshing juices burst into his mouth and trickled down his throat washing away the taste of sleep. Splashes of soft pinks and mauves coloured the morning sky as the sun peeked above the horizon. Having finished his morning routine, he made his way back to the tribe’s campsite. Others were now beginning to stir. Someone had freshened the campfire in readiness for boiling water and making the flat cakes that were a traditional communal breakfast. Early risers attended to these tasks without needing to be asked. Such was the time honoured way of the Wai’a’atika.
Soon the whole tribe was up and squatting around the campfire eating and planning the days’ events. It turned out that Nanja was not the only child going into the forest today with his father. Six of them, all the same age and at the same level of training, would go as a group with their fathers. They were called together. Today’s lessons would be the start of learning to read the signs of nature. There were many lessons to this part of the training. It would span three such trips, today being the first. Excited, the group left as soon as breakfast was over. Cleaning up after breakfast, normally a task for this group of boys, would be taken over today by the older boys.
There was so much to see and learn. Earlier in the week the fathers had gone into the forest to prepare for today. Their lesson was to walk the Trail of the Warrior searching for signs that had been left for them to find. All the fathers accompanied them giving the boys hints and clues along the way of what to look for. They were expected to use the skills already learnt as they walked the trail. There were as many different signs as there were fingers on the hands and more. As soon as one of the boys found a sign the group were called together. Each sign had a purpose and was repeated in many places testing the boys’ observation skills. Searching the forest floor was different to looking in the bushes and shrubs. Or up into the face of Father Sky. Tree trunks led the eyes to the very top where the arms of the trees stretched high to the sky above. Spoors and droppings of familiar animals, bent twigs and branches, scuff marks, scratches and evidence of feeding were some of the signs the young warriors in training found. Tired and happy after a full day of learning the group returned home content. It had been a fun day with lots of laughter and excitement.
After the sun had crossed the sky as many times as there were fingers on one hand the group would return for the next lesson on the signs of nature.
© Raili Tanska
Images – Pixabay