Lopo

Lopo was old. He felt his years. They were beyond count. His village had little use for an amount that large: They simply called it “many”. He had lived for many years, and he knew it. He squatted before his fire pit, stirring the thin soup he had made with the squirrel Hana had brought him. Poor enough gift it was! He was hungry, and this squirrel was small. Still, it was something. And she was so grateful when he gave her son back to her, fully healed.

He was a Shaman. It had not always been so. Before, he had been one of the Young Men, hunting and chasing girls. That was how he met Lelu, his Other, curse her! She had become his Other, and born him six sons and four daughters. But when the village chose him as the Shaman, she became angry, and she left. She thought the village had little need of two shamans. And so she took her brood, and moved up the hill. She hated him now, may the Goddess curse her!

When he became an older man, but younger than he was now, Lelu and he had been happy together. He had been one of the Elders, and he sat in the Place of Meeting each night. When they could find the Sacred Herb, they burned the flowers and inhaled the smoke. Otherwise, they drank the Water of Life until they became stupid. Sometimes they would laugh so hard! The Water of Life was strong medicine! But not as strong as Sacred Herb. The smoke of the Sacred Herb burned, but it awakened the True Self, and touched the Real World.

And that was how it happened. He was at the tent of meeting, and Ralo had told them that the Water of Life that he was fermenting was ruined. Some monkeys had gotten into it, and broken the skin. Now it would be many days before they could drink the Water of Life again. Lopo had thought hard upon this. He asked this question: “Shouldn’t we then seek the Sacred Herb? Since the Water of Life is denied us, why not inhale the smoke of the Sacred Herb?”

After a shocked silence, the Elders had begun debating this question: Could they actually use the Sacred Herb without the Water of Life? They did not remember any time in the past when they had had one without the other. The Water of Life was such a daily part of their lives, that it was many days since anyone could remember being without it.

In the end, they decided to search for the Sacred Herb. Lopo was proud: His question had led the Elders to a new Path! This was the first time that he could remember them taking anything he had said seriously.

He knew where there was a patch of Sacred Herb, but it was beyond their range, and into the area that was used by their rival village: The Punta. For many days, the People and the Punta had lived in peace, but occasionally Lopo would venture onto the lands blessed by the Spirits of the Puntas and take Sacred Herb, possom, squirrels or some other food. He knew this was wrong, but since no one else knew about what he was doing, he did not care.

He found the patch. The Sacred Herb was there! It was flowering! He began to pick the flowers and stuff them into his loincloth.

He felt the spear hit his head behind his right ear. He did not know it then, but it pierced the hard part of his head, and his True Self began to leak out onto the ground. The Punta hunter who had attacked him ran away. He knew that the Punta would be very afraid of a blood feud if Lopo died. When the People found him, he was senseless and raving.

For weeks he hovered between the Shadow World and the Real World. He wandered on many strange paths and saw many visions. The People were afraid of his strange and delerious cries. After a while, he got better, although his eyes did not work anymore. Instead of seeing the things in the Shadow World, he simply saw a grey mist, and occasionally he had more visions.

Ultimately, the village Elders met and decided that there was nothing to be done except to make him a shaman. He was useless for anything else now. So they threw him out and made him live in the cave in the hillside overlooking their spring campsite. And then they began to bring him patients who they expected him to heal.

At first, he was completely useless: How ashamed he had been when he had failed to heal Shiro! The poor child simply had a case of pox. He knew how to heal that now, but at the time he had been completely stupid. Shiro’s mother Lina had come to him after Shiro died and had thrown dung at him. How his face had burned! She had walked up to him in tears and had struck him across the face. He stood and wept with her, feeling her loss, and knowing that he was the cause of it. He was ashamed.

It took a long time, but finally they had brought more patients, and he had improved. Now he was as good a shaman as Lelu, and maybe better. But Lelu still hated him for taking her place, and he doubted she would ever forgive him.

For now, life was good and the forest gave everything he needed. His People gave him their respect. He knew that he had a place with them, even if he was forever an outcast.

More later.

Ti

Ti walked silently through the forest. The Great Light shown his face upon the forest floor, dappling Ti’s surroundings with brilliant light. Everywhere Ti looked, he saw the Spirits of the Real World. He knew the world he touched, hunted and moved in was merely a Shadow World. The Spirit World, that was the Reality. He greeted the Great Rock Spirit as he moved past the diving cliff. He looked down upon the River Spirit, which was one of his best friends: River provided him and his village with the blessings of fish and water. He knew that his village would be hurting right now without the gifts of the River Spirit. The Winter Spirit was upon the Shadow World, and food was scarce. Although it was eternal spring in the Real World, the evil Winter Spirit came and waged war against the forest. Only the Spring Spirit could defeat Winter. He longed for Spring to come again and bring life back to the Shadow World.

He thought about Chana, and his love for her. He wanted her again, although he knew that The Gift was still inside her. He hoped that she would conceive this time. Although only 13 summers had touched her dark skin, he knew that she would bear him many sons. Since the day that he had first touched her, his love for her had grown. It was a powerful thing: This love. It touched him deeply, and he knew that it was a gift of The Goddess.

His entire life was flooded and pregnant with spiritual power: Everything he touched, saw, smelled, tasted and heard spoke to him of one absolute reality. He was as sure of this as anything else in his life. He knew that the Real World was a more powerful reality than the Shadow World. He knew that his True Self lived within the Real World, and that he could feel the presence of his True Self, even if he could not always see him. He could sometimes actually speak to his True Self when he went on his vision quests.

His Spirit Guide could help him to contact his True Self. His Spirit Guide was a wolf named Allepo. Sometimes when he drank the juice that Lopo provided him, he would enter into Allepo, and for a time he could run and hunt with the wolf’s swift, fleet legs. How good it felt to run with the Air Spirit through the forest! Lopo was old and bleary with his eyes dark from the years. Yet he was a powerful shaman, and his potions were strong. Ti knew that Lopo was crazy: Who wouldn’t be? After all, Lopo was always dwelling with the Real World. As his eyes dimmed to this World of Shadow, the Real World became stronger to him. Now he was always talking and muttering to the spirits. He could be frightening! Yet Ti longed to run again as the wolf.

As Ti approached the village he heard the sounds of laughter. His entire life was bound up in this village: He had never seen another person other than those who dwelt in the village. Everyone he knew, everyone he had ever known, was a member of his own family. He did not think of himself as One. No. Rather, he thought of himself as The Village. It was the gift from The Goddess to his family.

His friend and brother Rox approached him, and told him excitedly: “You need to come now. We are going on a hunt!”

More later.