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.
The Shaman stooped to pick up the bundle of ceremonial robes. Beckoning Nanunja to him, he draped one over the young warrior’s shoulders, the other one over his own. Exquisitely crafted, the trim of the full length cloak and hood was adorned with brilliantly coloured bird feathers. Made of the softest purest white chamoise, the robe hung in delicate folds that seemed to shimmer in the sunlight. The hood, large enough to be a cloak itself, hung halfway down the back. White on the inside, it was made of the same material as the robe. Designed as a head covering, when worn in this fashion, it became a hauntingly beautiful display of intricately woven signs, symbols and totems of the Wai’a’atika tribe.
Both men donned their hoods. In doing so, Nanunja felt he had suddenly stepped into a whole different world. One that was surreal, other worldly. It was reminiscent of his earlier experience in the Shaman’s hut. He felt as tall and straight as the cypress trees surrounding the enclosure. Roots that reached deep down to the very core of Mother Earth provided a strong, solid grounding. Branches, finger-like, stretched to the limitless heights of Father Sky soaking in the nurturing light. Time stood still, became meaningless, in this space. Once again every sense was heightened.
The Shaman handed Nanunja a chalice containing a golden liquid. Made of pure gold, the outside of the chalice was adorned in deep relief with the same intricate symbols as the ceremonial robe. Nanuja had never seen it before. Reserved for the most sacred of ceremonies, it had been passed down the line of the Wai’a’tika tribe’s Shamans since the dawn of time. When not in use it was carefully wrapped in white chamois and stored in a camphorwood chest. It too was adorned with the same symbols and kept in the Shaman’s abode.
Holding the chalice in both hands, Nanunja raised it to his lips and drank deeply. The sweet, thick liquid, prepared to a secret formula known only to the Shaman, coated the inside of his mouth like honey. Slowly it trickled down his throat. As his mouth fluids rinsed the remnants clinging to his tongue and palate, he could feel the beginnings of a change taking over his being. His body felt like it had expanded beyond its physical boundaries to become a part of all that surrounded him. He was Nanunja, and yet, he was so much more. It was as if he were the sky overlooking the earth below. And yet he was the earth looking up at the sky above. At the same time he was the grass beneath his feet drawing nurture from the richness of the soil. It too was a part of him. The Greatness of The All that surrounded him as he stood in the sacred enclosure was a part of him as much as he too was a part of it. There was a comforting familiarity to this feeling – he recognised it as similar to those he had experienced during his intiation into manhood many years ago. And in the Shaman’s hut. Was that just the other day? The difference now was that the experience was so much more intense. As if the others had been mere preludes leading to this.
All his senses were vibrantly alive. The air he breathed into his lungs tasted sweet and fresh. The soft breeze on his skin enveloped him in an invisible caress that tickled softly. The sounds he heard with his ears were almost palpable, resonating like the vibrations from many drums, some a thumping deepness to his very bones, others a soft and gentle touch that plucked at the nerves within his body. His eyes saw with a brightness and vividness that brought shimmering colours to him such as he had never seen before.
Nanunja felt a wave of inner peace and knowingness wash over him, saturating his being. It seemed he was present in this moment as two beings. His physical body and Another. The Other was on the outside observing himself, curious and interested to see what would happen next. He noticed that the Shaman too had partaken of a drink. Somewhere on the periphery of his thoughts he fleetingly wondered if it were the same as his. Just as quickly the thought disappeared. It did not seem important. As if moving in slow motion he saw the Shaman walk towards him. His mouth was moving yet Nanunja heard no sounds. This was curious, he thought. But that too did not seem important. Somewhere in the distance he thought he heard the beginnings of a chanting. That must be it, he thought unable to follow that thread any further before he drifted into a state where he no longer was aware of the world or himself.
The Other Self floated in and out of the ritual that was playing out inside the sacred enclosure. Nanunja’s body willingly and without question followed the directions and instructions given by the Shaman. He saw himself seated crosslegged by the brightly burning fire. Wisps of smoke tendrils weaved their way up to the stars scenting the air with aromatic woods and herbs. Dreamlike images of figures coming and going found their way into his consciousness. His totem animal, the Great Bear, was there too, as were all the others depicted on the various ceremonial tools.
At some stage during the dawning hours Nanunja fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
To be continued on Wednesdays … welcome to following Nanunja, Warrior of the Wai’a’atika Tribe. The tale is now nearing the time when we will be leaving Nanunja to continue his Shamanic journey without us. As is only right.
© Raili Tanska
Images – Pixabay