During the hours Yuta spent chanting, Deramo studied the pages of his book. Sometimes, he wearied before he recited his own evening prayers. He was more accustomed now, to listening to Yuta chant the evening song. He hummed softly to the tune but knew he did not have the correct status to recite the words. But he needed to know. What were the meanings of these words?
They had traveled along the Great Lakes for two moons when they arrived at a tiny cave opening. After a short ritual, Yuta slowly crawled into the cave which yawned open into a giant underground walkway. “ Come. These are pictures and designs from Ancestors of the People. They mixed colors of earth and berries to call upon Manitou.”
Using torches Yuta had prepared in advance, they walked into the darkness. Yuta kept his voice very low since every sound echoed for several heartbeats here. “Manitou.” Yuta repeated “The Great Spirit of all the Peoples who have ever been. Long ago, the People hunted the mammoth and mastodon. It was very dangerous, but the reward was great. Here, along this wall, the actual bones and tusks are inside the rocks. Shaman come to listen to Manitou speak.”
Deramo felt weak and disoriented. The ancient hunting pictures were clear. A very uncomfortable sense of time stretched before him. He reached to feel the massive bones, larger than those of mythical dragons. Yuta’s hand signal stopped him. “Only Shaman may hear the foot prints in the walls. I brought you here to show you that even the mammoth was killed by overhunting.”
Deramo was shocked, how was this possible? The bones were surrounded by rock but still clearly visible, these creatures were the size of the ship in which he had traveled. He could see the drawings, dozens of men and women throwing spears into the beasts until there were no more.
In the center of the cave, a huge stone spiral with hundreds of etchings rested. Yuta explained, “Spirits move around the circle. Within my heart, the hearts of my sons and my Ancestors is power from mammoth and lynx. We are all a part of those who were here before and those yet to be born.” Deramo’s head reeled with the concept, why did the People see time as a circle?
Deramo sketched onto his bark folio by dimming light, but worried that the stories were becoming too fanciful. If he ever arrived back in his home, people would say the long days and nights at sea had taken his mind. He needed tangible evidence, more than just pressed leaves and flowers.
As they finished the tour of the Bone Wall, Yuta sang chants with fluttering eyelids in the tone that indicated he was speaking with spirits. He repeated until Deramo followed along. The words came easier when the context was as sharp as a crystal stalactite along with ancient etchings of vibrant warriors.
Yuta could always sense the worry and reasoning of his student. He showed Deramo thick sheets of black rock, stacked neatly atop each other. He glanced sideways with a rare smile at Deramo as if he was about to tell a funny story. “We have books like yours here, too.” He swelled his chest with pride. He slid two pieces of black slate apart, and there, preserved between the slabs, sea shells and fishes imprinted in the rock. After many prayers and requests to Manitou, Yuta allowed Deramo to keep a small portion for his birch book. Deramo spent hours gazing at the dozens of spiral shells in rock, running his fingers along the surface. He found himself calling upon the Spirit of the Stones to help him understand the meaning of this sea life embedded for centuries in mineral.
It had been an arduous day of hiking over wet, rough ground. Deramo felt cross and deeply weary. His feet were still developing callouses and he had injured his knee as he tumbled from a crag in the rocks. He was overwhelmed by the diverse knowledge of the Peoples and the vastness of the Land. They knew the movement of the stars, exactly when Fall Equinox would arrive. They spoke a dozen or more languages, raised wild deer, adopted orphans, wove cloth, grew corn, beans and squash on a single mound, built every imaginable shelter from sacred kivas to bark houses.
As they sought shelter from a cold rain in a small dry cave with grey walls. The Bone Wall continued to trouble Deramo at a profound level. Before Yuta began the evening chant, Deramo pleaded, “Wise Father, what mean words of long night chant?”
Yuta laughed his slow rolling rumble. How he forgot at times that he was working with one of lesser experiences. He drew pictures on the dirt floor.
“All of the children of the Nations learn the names of their families from the time of their birth. We honor all Grandfathers from the stone circle when first they came to the Earth.” He gestured over the skies and recited Passages of Eras as best he could translate concepts from the Azteca Stone Circle. For once, Deramo immediately understood, Yuta was reciting the names of his forefathers and their titles. “How many you Grandfathers live this Land?”
As he held up his thumb, Yuta began with his father’s name and title. With a second finger, then third, Yuta launched his long evening song, arms raised to the sky in the cramped cave, eyes lowered with submission. Deramo counted. He placed his fingers in the reddish mud and put them upon the wall each time Yuta indicated an Ancestral name. The song continued until the moon moved through the clouds and the owls hooted.
Deramo scarcely slept. His entire being whirled with insight and acceptance. These were a Spirit fearing, profoundly religious, passionately intelligent, ancient Peoples. Perhaps, he thought sacrilegiously, far more than those of his own continent during the bitterly fought Crusades. As the dawn reached the cave, he stared at his own set of red handprints, each signifying ten grandfathers of Yuta’s tribe. Deramo could not count much higher, but Yuta made it clear using more hand prints and mud, he knew many, many more of his grandfathers’ names. The walls were covered.
Deramo felt a sickening thud to his chest and prayed to God for forgiveness of his arrogance and that of his fellow-mankind. Yuta could recite the names of one hundred of his grandfathers as well as their titles, status and connection within the Alliances. The mathematics eluded Deramo but he used sticks, sketches in the sand, and pictures to help him. He looked up at Yuta in amazement. Yuta and all his Tribes could recite their lineage equal to the time of the Romans.
He was growing tired, but Yuta’s body swelled with pride. He saw the comprehension in his newest child. He had delivered a full grown Silver Hair infused with the complex and intricate natures of The People, their Belief systems, their ancestries, their numbers, and the delicate balance of the Earth upon the Turtles.
“Deramo, I wish to adopt you as a son of Algonkin People,” Yuta announced. Deramo was pleased as he deeply wanted to stay with Yuta and his family. He had no further interest in oceans, ships, royal courts, or idiotic gossip.
“My Teacher, I would feel great honor in accepting. I would live my life in the Way of your People for all my days.”
“Exactly.” Yuta thought. He began to build a sweat lodge of bark and mud near the lake edge. They worked together while practicing the initiation songs.
Great Spirit, Great Wisdom
We call upon you to bring
This One from your soil
Into your Being
See this one as your own
We offer our plea in humility.
The two fasted for a day, singing all the chants necessary. The swaying rhythm was hypnotic and Deramo saw himself at the Wall of Bones touching the massive spiked tusks. He felt no pain as Yuta used a small stone awl to etch a spiral shell into Deramo’s shoulder. He filled the carving with a mix of henna and marigold, for coloring and disinfectant. Deramo had expected far worse.
As they turned back to the east, Yuta spoke softly, he seemed tired or sad. “Deramo, I will help you return to your own people across the sea so that you can tell them of the Nations here. Tell them of our Ways and that the White Face is not welcome here. If they come here, the Water Ghosts will destroy their ships.”
“Father, no. No. I cannot leave my new home. How I make long journey alone without provisions? How I possibly make new tall ship and sail unaided?” He could not comprehend life without his Teacher, his Father, his spirit. He worried that his log book was insufficient to explain the details and structure of this vast and varied people. How could he describe that the Center Land must be kept unspoiled from Europeans or else all people on all the Lands could die from misuse?
Yuta was uncharacteristically distant as they strode rapidly along the water’s edge. He had gathered hemlock into a tightly sealed bag for fermentation. He hummed a chant in preparation for his final day with Deramo. He could not return to his people. He had broken every law of his trade and of the Nations; he might carry Sickness. His sons were well versed in the mission. Already, they may have lowered the sails of a Ship into the dark ocean. He did not have a purpose for living.