The blessing bowl and the fear XLI

Door San Daniel gepubliceerd in Verhalen en Poëzie


The sky grew overcast and darkened. "How is it that man isn't cold," I said, pointing my head at the guest drummer. "He won't ever be cold," said Barry's, 'his upper body, has been smeared with grease, which protects against the cold and closes the pores. " "Right," I replied, amazed at everything my neighbor knew about the Cree and their traditions. The sun reappeared for a moment, and a benevolent warmth flooded the crowd.

A single drum beat rang out and a dead silence ensued. A group of old men slowly walked forward toward the circles. They looked grim, the heaviness of the moment radiated from them. In the center of them was a curiously dressed figure, with bison horns and a feather collar. They stopped at the first circle. A few drums were now stirred and they moved to the second circle. The drums no longer held back but became rhythmically hypnotic in nature.

A hard blow cut right through the drumming. "That was the guest drum," my neighbor whispered, "and the man in the middle is Little Bighorn." After the beat that still thundered over the field and then ebbed away over the field, the men moved to the third circle, which was smaller in nature. "The Eagle staff," said Barry only, "doing the grand entry." The guest drum started to produce a regular thump and the man who struck it looked intensely concentrated. His eyes were closed, but his face twitched by every beat.



The Eagle staff now reached the totem pole and they sat down with their backs to it facing the crowd. The drumming of the group that had touched the lighter drums stopped, and the guest drum was now the only one to blast out loudly over the heads of those present. The strokes followed each other more and more quickly until it seemed like a continuous sound that swelled and ebbed away. I understood what Barry had meant by explaining that a drum had a soul that could be raised.

Little Bighorn got up from the Totem pole and pointed to the sun, screaming with outstretched hand something I didn't understand. The guest drum was now beaten like crazy and the lighter drums were gently touched. Little Bighorn had become the mediator, he looked up wildly and took a few steps forward.

I watched him enchanted. He looked down at the floor and bent down and in one swift movement he took a handful of sand and threw it up. The drums were silent now. The mediator spread his arms upwards and let out a screeching scream at the cloudy sky, stamping on the ground. The guest drum gave a blow. Little Bighorn lifted his left foot and touched the earth with his right hand and screamed and I knew it were not words but a primal sound that came from his heart and invoked a multitude of powers. He was becoming one with his environment.

He bellowed out his lungs and the guest drum was beaten like crazy and slowly the medicine man rose and started leaping about. The warrior who mistreated the drum looked like if he was in a trance, the sweat was running down his face over his shoulders, his arms and glistening on his chest. The circles swayed to the beat and it was a revelation to me how synchronized it went, were Barry and I really the only ones who didn't feel the beat?



The Shaman's eyes were turned upward, and as he moved past us in an intricate dance. I  only saw the whites of his eyes, he was turned inwardly and was fulfilling the role of mediator between the tribe and the Great Spirit. The Eagle staff started to make a sound between the drumbeats that sounded like oem oem oem and With every 'Oem' the rhythm became wilder and the magician flew almost past the circle of faces that looked up at him in ecstasy.

Then it happened. A thunderclap in clear sky. The air was about to be torn apart, and the smell of Ozone dominated the scene. The shaman froze in his movements and the guest drum fell silent. "The Great Spirit is among us," whispered my neighbor, "do you feel the presence?"

Slowly the Shaman came back to life, holding his hands in front of him as if he were carrying something invisible and round in front of him, then bringing his hands to his heart. His hands went where his heart would have been and he slowly brought them forward again and then he raised his hands over his head. He had offered his heart to those present. The gesture was unmistakable. He uttered a few plaintiff cries that were intensely sad, then pointed to the warrior at the guest drum who gave it a huge blow.

 He beckoned an old Eagle staff warrior standing next to him at the totem pole. Little Bighorn strode to the tent with stiff steps worthy and dignified and turned away the front flap. He walked in wailing and a huge feeling of uneasiness crept over me. It took a long time  filled with spine-chilling screams and then there was a pleading murmur and then he emerged behind the tent and I understood that there was also a back flap, he had been wailing incantations at Old Rock.




The guest drum gave a blow and everyone bounced up. The Shaman was back. I then saw what he was holding in his hands, it was undeniably the blessing bowl. He held it over his head and circled the circle whimpering in a way that made my blood freeze. He stopped facing the guest drum, which was now beating madly, and reached into the bowl and threw a handful of ashes in every direction of the wind and wept. Tears streamed down his cheeks and I watched the raven sitting on the totem pole float down and sit at his feet.

Little Bighorn nodded to the old Eaglestaff warrior, who took the bowl from him and walked around the circle, scattering ashes here and there, then approaching his chief again. The rest was in a trance and outside of the drum beats came the addictive oem oem oem incantation.

I was watching with wide-open eyes. I weighed my chances if I would jump forward and snatch the bowl then I wouldn't get out of here alive, the desecration would be total. I decided to wait for a better opportunity. The EagleStaf warrior held out the bowl and Little Bighorn took a hunting knife from his pouch and cut his left arm. The blood was collected in the bowl. He held up his arm and let out wailing cries, like you would expect from an animal in pain. It had been a deep cut, and blood was now dripping on to his feather collar.



He nodded at the warrior who turned away with the bowl and headed back toward the tent and disappeared through the front flap. Mesmerized, I watched Little Bighorn smear the blood of his left arm, over his face with his right hand and cry and wail as the drum drove people mad. Suddenly he called out something and the tribesmen rose to their feet and made careful dance steps with the totem pole in the middle. Barry also got up and joined me and I saw my chance when I saw the old warrior coming from behind the tent. I left everyone behind, and carefully exited the circle towards the tent and once I got there I danced towards the back. The guest drum was now deafening and my heart was pounding but I knew what to do.

San Daniel 2020


read part 42

24/03/2020 18:39

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