SHADRICK: When the Moon Shadows Land – Part I

By Guest Blogger – Melody Pettus

Stories of the Ancestors

[Guest Blogger, Melody Pettus, shares a story about her 2nd great grandfather. This is part one of two parts. Photo selections by Don Taylor.]

Gathering around the fire
Photo © by Eva Blue via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

We open the wine of our lives – sometimes we sip, sometimes we drink deeply…we laugh…we reflect…sometimes we cry. In the most basic way, we’ve returned to our tribal origins: gathering around the fire, sharing food, recounting the legends of our “tribe”. So it has been since the beginning of our species. So it will continue long after we return to dust. Here now is the story of our Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s Father and his journey from Home and back again….

Wheel turns ago – when spaces were broad and never ending and the world swam and ran and flew with animals and birds and fish in flashing rainbow patterns and in such abundance that no one ever felt hunger of the body or of the heart a boy was born during the early days of the Cold Time of the year.

The Moon Elder’s face should have been bright and round – smiling and blessing the young Mother as she struggled and breathed through the timeless and honored act of bringing new life into the Tribe. However – on this night – as the moon rose – a great star beast began to feed on her brilliance. Her face grew smaller and smaller with each passing hour. As the child made his noisy way into the world – the moon’s face was completely gone with only a glittering necklace like the ice frosting the tree limbs showing where her face should have been.

Lunar Eclipse
Photo by Tom Ruen [Public domain]
The boy’s Father – in keeping with the Tribe’s traditions – knew that every birth changed the world and so it was fitting that the first event witnessed at such an auspicious occasion be what the child would carry as a name cloak – marking and sharing the change that was shaped at their arrival. The Moon’s veiled face became his marker and the name “Moon-Shadows-Land” was gifted to him by his parents. This later became a more familiar and shorter “Dark Shade” among the Family and the close community.

“Dark Shade” knew he was born with the moon’s light inside him and he knew no fear of the night or of any dark places within the earth. He was the one who always volunteered to do any tasks needing to happen at night or to explore the many dark caves that the Tribe came across in their travels. His eyes glimmered like tiny pools of star mirrors and he was found to be sure footed in even the most light starved places.

He learned the rhythms of living in balance with his Tribe and the land they traveled and lived on. He respected the cycles, took only what was needed and strove to return back as much as he used to show honor for all. The Tribe traveled with the seasons – never staying in one place any longer than was needed to support their kindred and livestock. If the Land began to look as if it needed a rest – they willingly and reverently moved on.

The community was one large Family – peace at the Hearth and camaraderie among all of its members was as important as the Balance and Honor given to the body of the Mother that fed and sustained them cycle after cycle. This belief was the core of their being and was held in the highest esteem and rigorously kept by everyone from the smallest toddler to the most venerable elder.

As Dark Shade grew, he knew deep contentment and a sense of Being and Connectedness that was his Heart Compass. As he began to feel his body stretch and fill out and the branches of trees seemed to shift lower and lower in his field of vision – his Heart Compass started to feel something new. The Land spoke to him of a different Pattern beginning to form. The leaves in the trees whispered as a Wind with new and odd smells danced through them.

Dark Shade listened with great interest. He loved his life, his home and his sense of Being but he was curious about the new stirrings in his World. The Tribe began to find tall hedges with steely thorns and thick wooden arms forcing them to abandon the natural directions that Sky and Land had always directed them in. They felt their world beginning to push together and their movements became less and less far reaching. The Elders were called together to try to bring meaning to this. Twigs and Bones were tossed and studied, stars were watched and their journey’s marked, fires burned continuously as sweating Seer’s squatted in the shimmering heat and sang the songs the coals sputtered and hissed at them.

“Discovery of the Mississippi” by William Henry Powell
[Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Strangers began to be seen…first at a great distance at the tree lines – but then as time passed they came closer and closer. They were wrapped in clothing that seemed far too binding and heavy for the Family. Their skin looked as though Father Sun had not touched it and the Family wondered if these new people came from the Dark Mouths of the caves they sometimes came across in their travels.

Their voices were harsh and each group found that using their hands and drawing pictures was the main way to share understanding with each other. They brought unusual items and the two groups began Guest-Gifting between themselves for items each were interested in. The Strangers wanted meat and weapons and the beautiful purple and blue dyes that the Family made from certain land snails they gathered from the Land. The Family was captivated by the utensils, metal tools and amazingly cloud soft cloth the Strangers brought.

The Guest –Gifting continued for quite some time and new groups of Strangers came and went bringing more exotic and interesting items. Dark Shade’s curiosity grew with each visit and he made an effort to always be present and to listen with careful ears to all that was said. One of his Birth Gifts had been the ability to untangle the sounds of others – man, animal, fish or bird. He listened – he mimicked – he practiced their movements and facial expressions and mannerisms. Eventually – he untangled their words and began to speak to them more directly in their own tongue. He slapped parts of his body and asked what they were, he made gestures with objects and had them guess what he was doing so he could capture their sentences and ways.

As Dark Shade became more fluid and easy with the Stranger-Speak, his curiosity grew stronger. He asked if he could travel with the Strangers when they next returned to their Hearth Home. There was discussion among the Strangers and a young man with flame red colored hair offered to be his companion. Flame-Head was called “Bart” in the Stranger-Speak and he and Dark Shade made plans for his departure when they next came for trade.

Dark Shade went to his Family – who had never known someone to leave the community before and tried to explain his wishes to them. They were saddened by his pull to leave them but the Elder’s said that his journey had been foretold and the Tribe could learn much from what he would return with. The Family wisdom was whispered and sung and danced to him. He was marked with feather stroke and Dwaleberry smoke – “Shift with the wind, shape like water in a cup as you live and learn in this new place but keep your Heart Compass on Family. Keep your home warm and welcoming and you will always know a true Family home.”

With song and scent and memory Dark Shade traveled with the Strangers for many moon cycles. He draped himself in their clothing – learning to move in the binding wraps and patterns they wore. He put shoes on his feet when he was with others but took them off at every opportunity to touch the Mother’s Body with his bare feet. He found the Stranger’s homes cramped and foul smelling and would usually find a way to slip outside and sleep next to the fragrant roots of a nearby Tree. He kept chanting to himself “I shift like Wind, I shape like Water” to keep the confusion and loneliness pushed back. He had to find his Pattern here or he knew he would lose the Moon Elder’s Light inside that had sustained him since his birth….

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