Moving ever further South, the glacial demons pushed the First People of the Land before them. Tearing and gnawing their way across the land at a millennial pace, they drained the oceans to fee their insatiable thirst.
Turning water to ice, and ice to plow shears, they reshaped the land; inch by inch, year by year until all of the old hunting grounds were destroyed. New lands rose from the receding the seas, towers of ice casting their shadowy mass on the bones of a once great people.
Their children survived the ravages of time as the Great Spirit of the land took pity on them. Pushing back the ice, he led them to the Great Susequehanna River, near a bay call “Chespiooc”; meaning Great Shellfish Bay. The First People of the land once again were home.
October 12, 1492 . . . . . . . . . .The Landing of Columbus on San Salvador
In a land called San Salvador, Columbus for the first time meets the brother of the Great Susequehanna People.
Quote from the Christopher Columbus Ships Log
“one of the natives, having never see a weapon
forged from Iron, took a Spanish sword by the
blade and was annoyed by the blood streaming from
Columbus continues to describe their fine faces,
handsome bodies, good stature, lack of pouch
and quick intelligence.
“They ought be good servants and of good skill”
He added, and kidnapped six, whom he promptly
shackled to his deck.
October 12, 1492 . . . . . . . . . .The Great Spirit Sends a vision
In a village called Ajacan, located on the York River, seven miles Northwest of what is today called Chesapeake Bay; Running Bear awakens with a cry of terror, as his vision follows him into the night.
A nightmare of violence, pestilence and genocide ran through the young warriors eyes. He shudders at the many images of men with hairy faces, greed in their eyes, jumping and leaping across great bellowing clouds that pushed their ships across the water toward his home.
The strength of his vision imprinted the fear of what was to befall his people in the years to come. Once again the First People of the land would be driven from their homes. If the vision were true, his people would not long survive without the Great Spirit’s help. He only hoped and prayed that those brothers he had seen in his vision would survive the shackles that even at that moment were destroying what had once been.
May 1555 (Spring)
The man was sweating in the hot noonday sun, his skin glowing with the light reddish color of his ancestors. With his long raven colored hair tied loosely at the nap of his neck, he had about him an aura of infinite patience and wisdom.
The focus of the man’s concentration was a small fire in the bowl of a large tree, now turned on its side. Standing just over six feet tall, with the lithe body of a runner, the man wore a simple breechcloth made from the pelts of several small squirrels and rabbits. The heads and tails dangling and swaying to the man’s movement, even as their sightless eyes whispered their death song to this great hunter.
Pausing for several seconds to allow the fire to do its work, he wiped the sweat off his brow with the back of his hand while withdrawing the still burning limb from within the blackened and smoking hollow of the log. Leaning forward with the smoking limb still in his hands, he pushed the now glowing mass of coals further along the inside edge of the partially hollowed out canoe.
Satisfied, he took a step back and reached to the pile of sand at his feet. Frowning with irritation as he realized that it was almost gone, he turned toward the well worn trail behind him even as he heard the noisy and stumbling steps approaching from the sandy beach below. Smiling now as he watched the young boy approach, he quietly waited.
Five seasons old, his son was slowly trudging towards him. His head bent down, perspiration dripping of his forehead. The heavy mugginess of the air on the rise as the heat of the sun forced its way through the leaves of the surrounding Birch trees.
Struggling with a heavy basket of sand, sometimes pulling it along the ground, at other times picking it up for short distances, he worked his way towards his father, and unceremoniously dumped it at his feet.
Rubbing his sons head, and squeezing his shoulder in affection, he waved him back for another load. With a painfully innocent smile, a look of childlike exasperation and an all too obvious need to please, the boy turned quickly, the now empty basket dangling by his right leg as he walked back to the beach from whence he came.
Standing for a moment, watching his son recede into the forest, the man sighed with the realization of the many hardships this innocent boy; his son, would have to face in the coming years. It was a hard life even at the best of times, but satisfying in its own way. He prayed to the Great One that the prophecies told of his son would not come true.
Sighing in anger at himself for wasting the day away, his heart aching with the painful pleasure only a parent can feel, the man resumed burning and chipping with his stone axe into the heart of the great white pine, while periodically using the sand at his feet and a fist size piece of Granite to smooth out the interior.
Working urgently to wash his worries away with the sweat of his brow; this hunter, now turned fisherman with the coming of Spring paused abruptly in surprise as a shadow fell across the canoe.
“Husband, do you thirst?” A voice said. As he turned at the interruption, his wife lifted a gourd full of water towards his face. She tipped the gourd into his parted lips, his hands overlapping hers. Their love and not a little lust sparkled in their eyes, and through the touch of their hands and in the liquid movements of her body.
He felt the needs of his body rise even as he satisfied his thirst. She overwhelmed his senses at times with an almost manic need to drink from her lips all that she was and all that she would ever be. He was mesmerized by her beauty, the girlish smile that was always there for him, it made his heart ache with a need that drove him to protect her at any cost.
He continued to stare as he always did at his wife, the quiet strength that she gave him, the happiness that she shared with him saved him from his darker side at times. The side that made him the great warrior he was and the protector of his family and that of his people.
His wife, like the other women of the village, wore her long straight black hair to her shoulders in the traditional manner. Most of the women in his village were more handsome then pretty, when he thought of such things.
She was the exception to most of his people, both in manners and in her quiet strength. Light reddish skin, almost pink, with eyes almond shaped in appearance and a mouth that always showed the humor in her soul. She had about her, a childlike innocence that could melt of the hardest of hearts; even his.
Having drunk his fill, he set aside the gourd he had taken from her and pulled her close. “Yes Motoax , I thirst for many things. Water, food, and . . . “ he paused with a smile on his lips, as he caressed her face with his hands and slowly moved them to her shoulders. His young wife’s eyes sparkled as his meaning was ever so clear. As she moved against him, he could feel her rabbit skin apron shift and move against his stomach; making him long for the day to end, so they could be alone in each other’s arms.
The boy stopped at the edge of the forest with his next load of sand, not wanting to intrude into this private moment between his parents. As he watched, it made him smile with pride at the obvious love they had for each other.
Curiously of late, he had noticed many things about his parents that in the past, he had never notice or thought about before. ‘Why did they act so different when they were along?’ ‘Why was his mother always painting her face with Scarlet Berry Juice and Bloodroot ?’ Worst of all; why was his father always insisting that they bathe every evening?
Turning slightly to sit on a nearby log and ponder these questions, he tripped on the basket of sand at his feet and fell into several low lying bushes. Grumbling and slapping at the leaves, vines and insects sticking to his body. He slowly picked himself up while brushing the dirt and dust from his chest, arms and the loincloth that wrapped it’s way around his tiny waist.
His parents turned in the direction of the noise. Seeing him, they watched with their usual mixture of concern and amusement. Smiling regretfully at her husband for the untimely interruption in their love life, Motoax moved quickly to her son to assure herself that all was well.
Finding him safe and unhurt, she took his hand as they walked back to the still burning log where her husband waited with equal parts frustration and fatherly concern. Ignoring her husband’s frustration with half a smile, Motoax continued as if nothing had been happening. “Husband, how long before the canoe is ready?”
Wabokieshieck , her husband and Weremancer for the village, looked back at his wife with equal mixtures of confusion, exasperation and affection all fighting for dominance, as his emotions played across his face. After a moment with resigned humor, he found his voice and smiled crookedly. “It should be finished tomorrow, that is if the weather holds.”
Smiling still, he turned back to the work at hand, realizing as all men through history have recognized; that when the children enter the picture, any passion to be had with the one you love, is over for the moment.
Motoax smiled at her husband’s back, the frustration seen plainly on his face as he had turned his back to her. She reached up and touched his shoulder and for a moment he resisted her in his way; but finally he paused and looked at her. Their eyes met for a moment, the love obvious even in their mutual frustration. Her husband shook his head, smiled, kissed her fingers and resumed working.
A rueful smile on her face at the anticipated night to come, she shook her head in resignation and giving her son a final pat on the head, picked up the now empty water gourd and headed back to her own work with the other women of the village.
Her home, like many villages in the surrounding area, consisted of a series of bread-loaf shaped buildings created by implanting a double row of saplings in the ground and bending the tops into an arched roof that continued to grow larger as the trees grew over several seasons.
The sides were covered with woven mats of reeds and bark that could be rolled up or removed in warmer weather. The roof consisted of marsh grass and bark thatched together with a smoke hole in the center.
As Motoax walked towards her home, she smiled as she realized how lucky she was. They had a strong young son, she was the favorite wife of the village Weromancer and she had the love of them both. Glancing back, Motoax could see her husband giving instructions to their son. She assumed it dealt with the canoe they were building; but with those two, you could never tell.
With a last sigh and a rush of desire in her loins, she turned; ducked her head down and walked through the large hole in the side of her home. The reed wall having been removed earlier to help circulate the fresh Spring air more freely.
Walking to the back was where her tools were kept, she inhaled deeply of the fresh air that was mixing with the heady odors of spices, dried fruit, fish and the hundreds of other assorted smells reminiscent of a hard Winter, now over.
Reaching the back wall, Motoax picked up the Corn Scraper and headed back they way she had come. The village had used the stored Cornmeal from last year’s harvest and they were now into the reserves of dried whole Corn still on the cob. The women and some of the young children would have to scrape off and grind the desiccated kernels of corn from which their cornmeal was made.
The Corn Scraper was just what it sounded like. A simple tool, but effectively useful when she was scraping hard dry kernels of Corn still on the cob throughout a long hot day. It consisted of a wooden shaft about one foot in length, sharpened at one end and flat at the other. It was then shoved through the two ends of a leather strap, which provided a convenient and easy grip for the task at hand.
Strolling from her home and heading to the longhouse at the center of the village; Corn Scraper in hand, Motoax saw the other woman already gathered and hard at work. Last Fall’s harvest had been plentiful and with the other women and surprisingly even a few of the young, men, she had scraped, pounded and carried bag after bag of cornmeal and beans into every conceivable storage place they could find.
The left over cobs of corn were packed into large woven grass baskets and hollow logs cut into sections. Woven grass and bark masts were then banked around the sides, with the tops of the containers covered with three or four feet of dry sand. This had kept it fresh and dry with the obvious advantage of keeping it away from foraging animals during the cold Winter nights. Thanks to the Creator they had weathered it without loss of life and for the most part, plenty to eat.
Today they were preparing the last of the stored whole corn that had been put away for emergencies. Winter had been mild and with the surplus food, tonight they would celebrate the coming of the Spring with fresh venison, beans and corncakes. Plenty would be left over for dessert popcorn with a hot breakfast of Hominy.
As the Wereomancer’s first wife, she had the responsibility of being her husband’s eyes and ears in all things; especially in the vital area of food preparation and distribution. The matter of equally sharing and accounting for food supplies, helped prevent hunger among her people. As with all peoples in all times, full bellies helped keep harmony the norm and not the exception. Even now, with food so plentiful, it was best to plan for the unseen.
Sitting down and nodding to the other women in the circle, Motoax picked up a large wooden bowl from the stock in front of her. Her Corn Scraper took on a life of its own as the dry kernels of Corn dropped into the bowl between her legs.
It was unusually warm and humid for such an early Spring day. The treetops swayed slowly from a slight breeze that did not quite reach the women. Beads of sweat dripped down their tired faces. The sounds of their work, music that mesmerized their souls and opened their hearts to the Creator’s world. Each woman to her own thoughts; each to her own pace, for many, this would be the only quiet moment in a very long day, of a lifetime of long days.
Motoax watched the others as her thoughts turned outward to who were these women that surrounded her. The younger ones, like her, used the Corn Scraper for their work. It was light and easy to use; the others, usually the older women, used the Shelling Mortar. A cumbersome, ‘and Motoax thought, more difficult way to rip the corn from the gritty cobs.’
Since coming here to be with her new husband, she had continued to be an outsider to her husband’s people, that she now called her own. Even the younger women were slow to learn from her. Truly, that was the difference between her and her new family. Most of their lives had been spent reaping and clawing an existence out of the land around them. Even when faced with an easier path, they would still choose the more difficult path out of habit, instead of thought. Her Iroquois brother and sisters were thinkers and doers; but she loved her husband and looked forward to the challenge ahead, even if it had not been one she had expected.
A scraping noise to her left brought her senses back to the here and now. Looking to her left, two of the others were using the grinding stones. Kernels of Corn were placed in lye to soften the shells, dried in the sun and then placed between the stones, then ground into the meal that was the staple of themselves and the other tribes in the surrounding areas.
Glancing across the large open area under the trees, she could see her husband and son continuing to talk and work on the canoe. She could see that they were totally absorbed but her thoughts became lost as she heard a grunt and phlegm being spat her way.
Turning her attention back to the group with her usual smile, she glanced briefly at the old crone to her right and adjacent within the circle of women that surrounded her. Taking the not so subtle hint to continue working she returned back to her work. After a few moments she again glanced up to see if the old women was still watching her.
Although she was married to the village Weromancer, and by this association she was given the authority to oversee the other women in their duties, her youth relegated her to a continual verbal battle with some of the older women. That her people and her ways were of another tribe only increased the complications and backbiting she had to deal with.
Continuing to work, she thought of the village she now called her home and how different to her own it was. Her new home consisted of forty-one families living and working together through the village.
The men; along with the older boys worked to repair the damage to their homes, canoes and surrounding trails that the long Winter had brought to them. This included preparing the fields for Spring planning, repairs to their weapons and tools, along with dozens of other tasks that were a part of the coming of Spring.
No less important, the women and children prepared and stored the food the men caught. They needed and made cloths, prepared seeds for the seasonal planting and generally defined the over-all rhythm of daily village life. With planting season just days away, idle chatter and day-dreaming would not be tolerated; least of all from the Wearomancer’s First wife.
Caught watching and day-dreaming about her husband again, Motoax listened to the other women giggle, but they turned quickly back to their work when the old crones glance happened to flash their way.
Blushing, Motoax pretended not to hear the laughter and although the younger women were not without understanding, the older women understood all too well. In their aging years, they felt the need to set an example of how the younger women should conduct themselves.
You could tell though; as she looked around, that there were at least one or two, whose eyes still sparkled from the half remembered memories of a pounding heart, weakening knees and lustful thoughts. The old crone was just jealous of her life and the Chief’s attention as well as his ear.
These past few years had been wonderful, but married life and kids had its ups and downs. There was an attraction to the simpler things she had always taken for granted in her youth, that she only appreciated now.
Her life here for the most part provided that which we all crave. That sense of belonging and a continuity beyond oneself. For one so young, Motoax held the spiritual wisdom required of a Wereomancer’s wife even though she still had some thoughts better suited for a child. She felt the bonds all around her, the awakening of life and the renewal that the Creator brought each Spring.
The village itself was as much a part of that renewal as the individuals who dwelt there. Like a living thing, the village wove its way through the forest. A living breathing presence that merged with the nature of life around it.
Each home was planned and placed to make use of the larger trees as windbreaks from the cold Winter winds and snow, but provided efficient shading from the hot muggy months of Summer.
Space between each home was maximized for room, but positioned as a part of a large circle, whose center contained a large open area with a communal longhouse in its center. The central longhouse was a building not unlike the family dwellings; but larger, large enough to allow the entire village to meet and enjoy social gatherings in comfort.
In front where the women sat, there was a large stone fire pit where meat, fish and fowl were smoked and cured. Over the pit lay a fire bar, wooden fire drills used to assist in the making of the fire, assorted cooking utensils, posts and other cooking paraphernalia now set out for the upcoming Thunder Dance.
The Thunder Dance welcomed back the Thunderers who moved throughout stormy skies during Spring rains. They brought water to the fields, controlling the winds and restrained wild animals. The Spring Thunder Dance said farewell to the Gods of Winter, while welcoming the Gods of spring.
Beyond the fire pit lay a large sand covered area that had the shape of a circle. Spaced at approximately forty-five degrees around the circle; tall wooden posts, carved with hauntingly shrouded spiritual faces that stood guarding all that they surveyed.
At its center stood another post, taller than the others, carved faces looking out of the circle. Its position and height showed dominance and expected fealty from those looking in behind the other lesser Gods. The Creator stood above all others and his place of worship expressed his power.
The circle of power celebrated the Green Corn festival in the Fall; but in general it gave thanks on all occasions to the Gods and other spirits for safe journeys, successful hunts, a good harvest and one more year of life
Dancing with rattles made from gourds and seeds, the villagers would sometimes dance, sing, drink and gorge themselves throughout the night and even into the next day.
Motoax sighed as she continued to scrape Corn from the sandy cobs that lay all around them, remembering that it was at such a celebration, that her son Little Squirrel was conceived amid the noise and beauty of her new people, the memories all the more poignant for her thoughts and dreams.
Looking through the trees, she could see Little Squirrel and his father still talking. To the left, her home sat atop a wide rocky tree covered ridge. Facing outward at the top of the cliff, you could see what would become known as the York River. She could see it flowing into the Chesapeake Bay and on days like today, you could see far into the distance beyond the islands, the great ocean.
The surrounding land was a mix of rolling hills, meadows, wetlands and salt marshes. To the Northwest it sloped down to the river’s edge. To the Northeast sandy beaches that were good for clamming, fishing and for their children, a wonderful place to explore and play.
The Chesapeake Bay, or as she thought of it, the Great River, gave them the sustenance needed to keep the Creators chosen ones, “The First People” healthy and well fed. It had provided for her as a child with her own people and now provided for her own family.
Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted again as she heard her name being called again. She hid her thoughts as she looked up at the interruption.
‘The old crone again’, she thought to herself.
‘The old crone was going to badger her to death!’
Although not her grandmother, the baine of her existence was the oldest women in the village and as such, was accorded the respect her age and assumed wisdom required.
“Motoax, it’s good that you work so diligently, but your thoughts continue to wonder. So let them wonder to our benefit. Tell us a story to while away the long day.”
Since coming to the village of her husband six seasons ago, her reputation for teaching the wisdom of her people; the Iroquois, through the use of stories had continually brought her in confrontation with many of the older women.
Although the surrounding villages around the Great River and beyond were the Creator’s “First People”, they each had developed the wisdom of their fathers and gave of this knowledge through the stories told from one generation to the next. That was at least what she had always believed before joining her husband’s people. The village she now lived within was no different; but many of her teachings conflicted with many of the accepted ideas of her adoptive family.
They conflicted most especially with anything coming from her mouth, to that of Grandmother’s ears. Motoax did not deny the wisdom of those older than her; but they would not, or could not accept that youth was not necessarily a barrier to that same wisdom.
This difference brought with it a sense of continually being tested, teased and of course the expected backbiting that seem to be the nature of the women and all too many of the men here. Truth be told though; even at its worst, the women, young and old alike, did seem to enjoy her stories as much as anyone.
Looking around the circle, she recognized the avid anticipation and curiosity barely restrained, as the others waited for her answer. Taking a moment to think, she looked again into Grandmother’s eyes and answered.
“Yes Grandmother, there is no more captive audience than those of us who tire and wish for distraction. I have just the tale for you on such a day as this.”
“I tell of the time of Ga-Do-Wass, and Dja-Swen-Do, the Great Sky Road that holds all the stars. Ga-Do-Wass dwells in the Top sky and with his four eyes watching every corner of the Earth. At one time Ga-Do-Wass was an Earth dweller and a Hunter, but because he presumed to Celestial power and destroyed all of the game, he was transferred to the heavens and watches the gate through which each soul passes on into immortality.”
Motoax looked around and noticed that even though everyone continued to work, they were all enraptured with her tale. She looked at Grandmother, whose only response was a flip of her hand to continue.
“When Ga-Do-Wass assumed his duty as Soul Watcher, he removed his hunting belt, which possessed the charm of enticing game. He decorated it with stars and cast it into space, where it spans the entire heavens and illuminates each path to which he guides each soul.”
“So luminous is this path that it’s blended light reaches down to the Earth and divides its rays, stationing one at each lodge where a human is dying, so that the departing soul may not lose its way as it leaves its Earthly vessel.”
“No human vessel has seen these rays without the brush of death nearby, or one who see’s beyond life. They are visible only to the soul in need. The South wind accompanies the soul until it reaches the gate where Ga-Do-Wass waits and watches. As the soul passes the portal of its journey place, Ga-Do-Wass grasps a star which he fastens in the gelt of the new spirit, thereby guiding the soul on its journey.”
“When the soul has crossed the entire heavens, Ga-doWass removes the star from the belt of the new spirit and returns it to its appointed place in the sky.”
“The Great Sky Road, is a procession of stars, each guiding a soul to its fated end. If there is confusion in this procession, it is because some soul is disturbed and off its path, but the star which never loses its way, will search for the wondering soul and return it to its proper course.”
Motoax looked at her audience and saw few enlightened eyes. Most were blank with confusion; many more than she had expected to see. Motoax looked at Grandmother and saw the glint in her eyes; the expression she saw their challenging her to glean knowledge out of what was obviously a useless children’s story, at least one without any real meaning Grandmother’s way of thinking.
Motoax sighed with the renewed patience she had acquired since coming to this village; at least in her mind, of backward children. Unlike the village of her birth where tales were meant to teach; here, tales were for the most part entertainment of great hunting stories told by hunters who had more thought than deed.
Her new family enjoyed the tales, but they were unaccustomed to seeking wisdom from the nuances of a story. To her the stories were the carriers of the life experience of her ancestors and the hope they had for the survival of the “First People”. Taking a breath to focus her thoughts, Motoax continued.
“The tale of Ga-Do-Wass was, and is a story for young children to help them understand the differences in each of us, to worship those differences as a path to self knowledge. Being old, does not guarantee a wise and patient soul, any more than being young guarantees a witless and ignorant soul.”
“Each soul is on a personal quest of discovery, which will find its home in the hands of the Creator. To abuse, make fun of or otherwise degrade anyone because of their differences, is to show a soul at birth’s beginning. No matter the age of the body.”
Motoax glanced and Grandmother. “To put it another way,” glancing at Grandmother with a piercing eye, “Old age is not a requirement for wisdom, anymore than youth is a requirement for ignorance!”
Her husband would of course hear of her insult to Grandmother, even if it was not intended that way. Motoax smiled her innocence at Grandmother as if to say, let me learn from you as you will learn from me.
With an anger drawn from some level of self-discovery, Grandmother’s tight lips and flinty stare ended the story, as well as any discussion that might have arisen. Motoax looked on with a forgiving smile and disappointment in her eyes, as the silence of the other women grew quiet in this ongoing battle of wills between her and Grandmother. The other women were habitually slow in stepping to either side of any discussion or argument, which is what it usually turned into. As the silence of the other women continued and the two women stared at each other, Grandmother looked down finally in capitulation, but just as quickly gave the others a scathing look and ran her eyes around the circle.
“Well, why are you not working?”
The younger woman and older alike quickly returned to their work, but not before both Grandmother and Motoax saw the renewed respect before their eyes turned away to the task at hand. It was a continual battle of wits to keep the women from splintering and sowing discord with the men of the men of village. Motoax knew it was as much her duty as her husband’s to ferret out and quickly solve potential problems, nor create more, as she seemed to do whenever Grandmother was part of the discussion.
Smiling to herself anyway, Motoax enjoyed the satisfaction of yet another hard won battle of wits between her ideas and that of Grandmother and her followers. With each battle won, the other women’s respect continues to grow. As she went back to her own work she noticed the hidden smiles and realized she was slowly gaining greater influence in the ways and manners of these sometimes strange people, who continued to slowly adopt her into their family.