When it was time, I bound my left wrist with a red ribbon, tied with three knots: one for myself, one for my Uncle of the Forest, and one for the Great Spirit, who bound us together in our dance.
Then I made my prayers to the seven directions. In turn, the Spirits of the seven directions bestowed upon me special gifts to assist me in the hunt.
In the East, Gold Eagle gave me his eyes that I might see as he did.
In the South, Grandfather Coyote blew upon me the smoke from his sacred pipe, that my human form might be obscured from the eyes of the one I sought.
In the West, Mother Bear covered me with the mantle of a she-bear, that Short Tail would perceive me as such when emerging from His den.
Crooked Bear, Chief and Grandfather of the North greeted me with the name “She Bear Comes Dancing,” and presented me with the sacred bullroarer so that upon hearing this, my Great Uncle of the Forest would believe a sow in heat had entered His territory. “You must strike Him through the heart,” he said, “or else He will kill you.”
Mother Earth blessed me with the ability to walk upon her skin leaving nothing behind but the footprints of a bear.
Father Sky commanded that I hold aloft the Gray Birch spear I’d fashioned for this journey. Below the blade was tied a red ribbon, signifying the blood of the Shaggy One, the First Shaman, in which it would soon be bathed. At Father Sky’s command, the lightning leapt from the thunder clouds above us, striking the spear and flowing through my body. “Your spear will strike like lightning,” the Ancient One said.
Finally, entering the Place Within, I was granted the stillness of an animal. I was told that upon meeting me, Grandfather would sense only quiet, and know that I was not a man.
I thanked the Spirits for their gifts, and the Great Spirit for His guidance, and turning westward, started on my way.
I was met in a place of darkness and fog by my Spirit Brothers, Wolf and Porcupine. Porcupine sat warming himself by the fire. “I’ll protect you from here,” he said rubbing his hands together; “you must go there alone.” With that he turned and faced the fire again.
“Are you ready, child?” asked Brother Wolf.
“I am,” I replied, my voice a low, feminine growl; my breath a deep, heavy gust blowing through my long and pointed snout.
I followed Wolf through a blanket of fog and emerged behind a large Oak tree. There, just ahead of me was a small barrow covered with branches and stones, the entrance way facing to my left.
“I will leave you here,” said Brother Wolf, his words barely penetrating the sound of the sacred bullroarer, which almost seemed to be spinning by itself.
“Wake up, Ancient One,” I shouted. The words growled from my open maw and pierced the wall of trees behind the den.
Almost immediately He sprang from the opening and charged me with His arms above His head, towering over the more than man-sized bulk of my own body by at least a good six feet. His mouth was cavernous and lined with angry teeth, dripping saliva. His eyes were glowing slits, and silver lined the graying black of the fur around is His face.
I felt myself hesitate for only a moment. And then the spear leapt from my hand, burying itself in the massive black chest…
In a moment of silence it was over.
Among the trees the faces of Spirits appeared: Ancestors, Teachers, and Animal Spirits with whom I am acquainted. Each watched in silence as I knelt beside the fallen giant and offered a prayer of thanks.
I noticed my hands had now become human again. The she-bear guise had melted away, revealing the man beneath. With reverence I drew my knife and pierced my Uncle’s abdomen. I drew the knife slowly up to His neck. I wiped the blade and returned the knife to its sheath. I reached inside the still warm body and removed the entrails, placing them upon a mound of earth in the center of the clearing.
From the cavernous opening of the body before me a voice beckoned me to crawl inside and lie down. As I did, the fur closed around me and I tumbled.
I came to sitting by a campfire. A silvery black pelt was draped across my shoulders.
“What must I do to honor you, Grandfather?” I asked, feeling a presence behind me.
“You must give yourself to me completely, that your people might live,” He said.
“I do,” I answered in a voice that was mine again.
“Then it is done. You must now consume my heart, taking one bite for each of the seven directions who honored you with their gifts.”
With this, I stood upon a plateau, the heart of the Fallen One warm and heavy in my hands. I did as the Ancient One asked me; taking one bite in each direction until finally I came to the Place of the Silence Within.
“Here you must not eat any of my heart,” Short Tail said. “Instead you must offer a piece to the Earth. The place within must always be kept empty, that power might be received.”
I did as He instructed, and held the last portion in my left hand.
“Now you must place the final portion against your own heart that the two might beat as one.”
I removed the bones holding my skin together and reached inside my chest, pressing the flesh of Grandfather’s heart against my own. As the two merged together, an ancient power surged through my body, and a deep massive roar sprang from my throat.
As the echo died, I found myself in the clearing.
“Remove my head,” the Old One said, “and place it upon the spear amongst the entrails.”
A large blade appeared in my hands, and the massive head came cleanly away with a quick, downward stroke. I set the butt end of the spear into the earth and placed the head upon the point, setting wildflowers in the eyes and ropes of turquoise around the spear, just below the jaw.
“Remove my skin and wear it,” the Fallen One commanded.
I did so, and turned to face the spear. Atop the shaft was Grandfather’s skull, bleached clean as if by years of sun. On the ground before the spear lay the skin of His head. “Put it on,” he commanded.
As I pulled my Uncle’s face over my own, a thunderous voice echoed in my ears – my own voice permeated with ancient, ancestral power.
“Now we are blood of blood. Now we are skin of skin. Now we are bone of bone.”
I left that place and returned the gifts to the Spirits of the seven directions. The Spirit of the Within Place bid me keep the stillness, and it flowed outward from me, dancing through the whole of creation.
I committed the form of the spear, now an empty thing, to a fire I’d prepared for just this purpose. As the flames consumed it, I told my story to the Spirits of the Fire, Smoke and Wind, that they might reach the Great Spirit’s ear and touch His heart that my people might live.
I pray those words might echo throughout the Universe, that they might resonate forever amongst the Heavens and the Stars, and return to bless us all. . .