Alex the Enchantress
“Should you ask me, whence these stories? Whence the legends and traditions,With the odours of the forest, with the dew and damp of meadows, with the curling smoke of wigwams.”
“Ye who love a nation’s legends, Love the ballads of a people, that, like voices from afar off, Waving like a hand that beckons, Call to us to pause and listen.”
(From ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
“I look out and I see a land, Young and lovely, hard and strong. For fifty thousand years We’ve danced her praises Prayed our thanks and we’ve just begun”
(From ‘Soldier Blue’ – Buffy Sainte-Marie)
Smoke drifted silently in the warm night breeze that lazily stirred the starry sky arching in a giant celestial dome above the wigwam whilst, inside, seated around the hearth, the old women were gathered together awaiting the birth of a new child into the tribe. Pails of water heated by hot stones, clumps of fresh green moss and a newly woven blanket in the wicker basket crib all ready at hand. Kai (Willow Tree), the mother-to-be, damp with sweat in the oppressive heated air, lay listlessly on a bed of fresh fern fronds spread out over the heavy buffalo-hide blanket. An owl hooted noisily nearby and a wolf yapped in the distance.
The braves waited patiently outside seated around their communal camp fire, in good spirits as they passed the pipe around, telling tales of their prowess in battles fought and won. Each tale growing taller and louder than the last. Wide eyed children restless and excited, peeked out from under the flaps of their teepees, giggling at the old familiar stories.
Their leader, Shilah (Red Thunder), a greatly respected warrior chieftain, leader of their tribe, was also an important chief who led other tribes; yet he was, by age-old established tribal tradition for all the men, forced to live away from his wife during the final days of her confinement; he sat together with his men cross-legged around the fire, their faces aglow from the flickering flames. The omens were good: It was the night of a huge and brightly shining Super Moon which grew larger as it rose high above the camp, shooting stars flashed their ways across the sky. Auspiciously good omens promising a night of great change and renewal, by morning he would be holding his first-born. Would it be a boy or a girl? Who could tell? Only the Great Spirit knew what was already written in the Book of Life, closely guarding his secret plans for the child.
Under a line of silver birch trees at the edge of the village encampment, Red Thunder’s line of ponies whinnied around the nervously twitching Palomino mare about to deliver her first foal.
At last the first cry of freedom was heard from the new born. It was a girl. One of the old women carried the baby out of the wigwam and Red Thunder held out his arms to cradle his first child, his daughter, he checked her arms and kicking legs, counted her fingers and toes, all perfect, before turning to his men and holding her up high for them all to see. The glowing moon beamed down its’ white light on their upturned faces; a shooting star flashed by directly overhead, reflected in the infant’s wide blue eyes and illuminating her fair skin which was far fairer than many in the tribe.
Under the drooping branches of the trees, at precisely the same time, the Palomino mare moaned and heaved one more time and a fine long-legged Bay colt was born.
Drums began to beat out a heady pulsing rhythm, vibrating the night air, rising and falling in tune with the pounding heartbeats. Everyone was laughing, singing, whooping and dancing around the main camp fire; casting their giant shadows which, in their turn, danced like ghostly spectres on the walls of the wigwams standing around the fire. Bullfrogs croaked loudly in the creek while coal black crows cawed and kerwarked in the corn; crickets chirruped in chorus. Fireflies flashed brightly in the scrub beyond the glow of the blazing campfire. In the darkest places beyond the shadows from the flickering firelight, the spirits of the Old Ones, the Departed, swayed and swirled soundlessly, celebrating in the misty gloom that separated them from the land of the living. A special time on a special night. A time of magic. Party time.
Red Thunder carried his daughter into their wigwam and hugged both the baby and his wife as they lay together in each other’s arms, giving silent thanks to the Great Spirit that all was well. It had been a good night.
In the morning the village awoke late. Bleary eyed revellers made their ways to the teepee of Red Thunder and Willow Tree bringing with them gifts for the papoose: A small bow and a decorated buckskin quiver of twelve arrows with slim ash shafts and flights of light grey goose feathers, moccasins of the finest softest deerskin; a corded horsehair bracelet and an amulet necklace of leather thong with an exquisitely carved horse pendant. One brought a fine copper comb and a small silver mirror, and another presented her with a dress of the palest tan buckskin trimmed with a pattern of tiny blue beads to match the colour of her bright blue eyes. A golden braided headband came next to compliment and tame her wildly flowing, stunningly luxuriant, long flaming ginger hair. Willow Tree’s own gift for her daughter was a dream catcher. Special gifts for the very special girl.
Willow Tree graciously accepted the gifts for her baby daughter, carefully noting who had brought which. Many of the presents would be packed safely away until the child was ready to use or wear them. Red Thunder’s nativity gift for his daughter was Zac, the new-born foal of his much prized Palomino mare, and so named because they both arrived at exactly the same time.
The two new-borns; the girl and the foal, would grow together, each learning from and supporting the other as is the way of their world. Everyone asked the same question: “What will you call her?”. It was a happy day.
Usually, by tradition, it was right to take time before deciding upon a name. Time to consider so many things; simultaneous events, special animals, natural signs, and, of course, the child’s own developing characteristics. But Red Thunder and his wife soon saw that their daughter was special, quite awesome in fact, so they formally named her Alsoomse (which means ‘Independent’) Miakoda (Power of the Moon) in their tribal language and quickly gave her the nickname by which she would henceforth be known to everyone – Alex.
The Bay Horse tribe, like most native tribes are semi-nomadic people, moving as with rhythm of the Earth, sometimes with the seasons, to take full advantage of Nature’s bounty at times of plenty. They were hunters and farmers; they grew corn and other crops.
It was a time when the land was free, the frontier still existed, open wild and free before the invaders arrived. They were settled beside a creek of pure clear water by a bend in the great river which flowed onward to the shining sea. Plains and prairie lands, wide open spaces, the horizon endless. Where you can see forever. In your dreams you would call this home.
Though the future was impossible to predict, the future was already written, as predictable as the Autumnal gales on the wild Fylde coast of Wyre.
Red Thunder proudly carried Alex around the village and its’ surrounding area, pointing out key features along the way. He also showed the baby Alex the quiet safe places of solitude and contentment and contemplation, the hills and the plains, the forests, the valley, creek and river. He showed her the place where the mountain lioness raised her cubs each year and the high rocky outcrop which held the eagle’s nest. Early morning mists hung low above the riverbank, refreshingly cooling the air before the heat of the day built up steadily, in pace with the rising of the sun.
Naturally respected as the chief’s wife, Willow Tree was also highly revered as both the tribe’s Wise Woman and their Medicine Woman skilled in the ways of nature’s healing and restorative powers. She carried Alex around with her as she collected the herbs, plants, berries and roots that she needed to prepare her potions and ointments. All the time talking to Alex, explaining where to find them, which seasons they would grow and most importantly of all, how they were to be prepared and used. Willow Tree taught Alex quietly and Alex learned quickly, soaking up knowledge just as mosses take up water.
By the time Alex could walk she was ready to play with the other children of the tribe: amongst the girls – Huyana (Rain Falling), Soyala (Time of Winter), Genesee (Beautiful Valley) and Sihu (Little Flower) and there were also two boys, Zaltac (High Mountain) and Rotag (Fire). All the games were fun but all the time each game was a part of the learning the ways of the tribe and of life itself. They played in the village and in the forest, and worked well together; and as they grew together they also supported each other as their talents and skills blossomed and individual personalities developed.
Taught well by Red Thunder and Willow Tree; at the age of 10 years Alex already knew every inch of their land; the names and habits of all the animals, fish, trees and plants through the turning of the seasons. She respected the land and the waters. She loved life.
Alex was a fast learner and an eager student. Always highly competitive, especially so as the chief’s daughter she had to prove herself more capable, more adept. Athletic, she learned to swim in the river and lakes, to fish the waters, to sail, to shoot, to run, ride, and hunt deer in the forest. And to win, to be the best at everything. She blossomed and grew. By the age of 15 she could outshoot, out hunt and outride the braves five years older than herself. A success in whatever she chose to do Alex was loved and respected by the tribe. A consummate charmer, at one with the animals of the land, the birds of the sky and the fish of the waters. In harmony with the world around her.
From time to time Alex would return to the quiet places that her father had shown her over the years, and she grew to know and be accepted by the mountain lioness, while the white eagle would stand beside her unchallenging and unflinching. The braves carved images of both the mountain lioness and the eagle onto the village totem pole as defining symbols of Alex, their acknowledged and respected princess. A wild child, a child of the universe. With her ever-present dream catcher she was able to hold on to the good things in life while bad thoughts and feelings were filtered out through the holes.
In common with many girls in their late teens she was tempted by the lights of the big city where, with her fair skin and long flowing locks of gorgeous flaming ginger hair she could wander at will. For a time she journeyed to the big city and began to study their ways. Extremely attractive, Alex was like honey to the bees, a flame to the moths; and soon she was surrounded by strange men from other tribes from distant lands with strange customs of their own.
Following the training she had learned from her mother, Willow Tree, Alex sought to further expand her knowledge in the field of medicine gained from Willow Trees’ teachings through childhood and began to learn the skills of nursing and supporting patients.
That was then, but this is now, and, aged 21, the lure of the village was as strong in her heart as the life-blood pounding through her veins. So, drawn by an invisible magical magnet of thread Alex returned to the village and was warmly, fondly, greeted back into the bosom of the Bay Horse tribe.
Alex, the awesome charmer, the ultimate enchantress, is back – to cast her spell and bedazzle us all.
© Russ Morton: 4th Sept 2014.