Red Bird and Sky Woman, Part Four
A Second Journey Back Through Time
The next time I journeyed for Red Bird, I was dressed in ceremonial regalia, wearing a medicine pouch containing the sacred herbs he had told me were necessary for the healing—the sweet fern, balsam, and cedar I had gathered and dried earlier. Moon Dancer and I began drumming and singing.
Gradually I entered the deep shamanic trance state required for this level of healing work. I stopped drumming as awareness of my physical surroundings faded, and began moving into the time/space continuum of the surrounding forest’s energy field. Once I found the right level within its flows, I entered it, and made my way to the burial mounds, the sound of Moon Dancer’s continuing drumming the thread I would follow back into my own time and place.
Red Bird was there waiting for me as before, but this time he was not transparent. He had assumed a symbolic archetypal form that often appears in my paintings. That form was entirely red, limned with shimmering golden light, with only his facial features apparent, as though his human form were buried somewhere within the archetypal form. We stood before the mounds, I in my regalia, he in his archetypal form. Together we sang his grieving song over each of them.
Hi nah yah hi yah nah ha
As we sang, I sprinkled handfuls of the sacreds atop each burial mound, inviting the spirit within to awake and join us. One by one, the spirits of Red Bird’s family emerged from the earth, transparent and frightened . . . his pregnant wife, her elderly parents, and his wife’s sister. At first they were disoriented. They appeared startled, frightened, but when they saw Red Bird, they gathered around him, clinging to him. I asked him and his family to follow me. At first the others were hesitant, but at Red Bird’s urging, they followed our lead, holding on to parts of his costume, and we set off towards the southwest, floating through layers of time. When I sensed that we had arrived at the right level of reality, we stood as still as stones while the forest of my own time slowly materialized around us.
I led Red Bird and the others toward the place where my forest medicine wheel awaited us. One would never know it was there, if one did not know it was there. It stood in a natural clearing, a large sea-turtle-shaped stone at its center. The stones marking the cardinal directions were very small in comparison to the center stone, but obvious if one knew what one was looking at. I had placed everything needed for the ceremony there prior to undertaking the journey.
Once the Red Birds were all assembled at the entrance to the medicine wheel, I announced our presence and intent, striking two palm sized stones together as I spoke. I pointed out the Turtle Stone to them, explaining that they needed to climb up onto it. Red Bird assisted the others, who still appeared to be somewhat dazed, although much less transparent than when their spirits had awakened, and soon they had all climbed up onto the stone. I asked them to remain seated there, then began the ceremony.
I lit a fresh sage wand made from white sage I had grown myself, placed it in a shell, and thoroughly smoked the entire medicine wheel, myself, and the Red Birds. I offered the sacred herb mixture to the directions, and to the Sea Turtle stone at the center, singing the chant that announced my impending arrival in shamanic reality. Then I climbed up onto the stone with the Red Birds. I seated myself in front Red Bird’s family, positioning Red Bird behind them.
Once we were all settled, I explained to them that the Stone upon which we were seated would slowly become a great, living Sea Turtle that would carry us all over two great seas and into the shamanic west, where their spirits would at last be able to peacefully move towards new life. Then I sang to Sea Turtle, asking her to awake and carry us safely to our destination. The Red Birds began singing with me. In response to our song, the great stone gradually transformed itself into a very large, very alive Sea Turtle, while the surrounding forest faded from view, to be replaced by a vast, dimly lit sea, the Green Sea of the shamanic center, the place of no time and no space, from which Sea Turtle holds the entirely of shamanic reality in perfect balance.
The gentle waves of the Green Sea lapping at the edges of her shell, Sea Turtle began to move. She slowly swam west, carrying me and the entire Red Bird family on her broad and generous back, while we continued to sing:
Way hah ahway hah ahway hah ahway hah
Eventually we arrived at the current separating the Green Sea of the shamanic center from the Black Sea of the shamanic west. Sea Turtle swam over it without incident, and we moved through a very different atmosphere toward a distant landscape beyond which the sun was setting in a glorious display of deep, rich color. That color washed over the entire Black Sea, illuminating its iridescence, lending an aura of mystery to our journey. On and on Sea Turtle swam, until the coast of the shamanic west appeared on the horizon.
When we arrived at the beach of volcanic sand typical of that coastline, I climbed down from Sea Turtle’s back, asking the Red Birds to do the same. I knew that Red Bird would know where to go from here.
I watched as the little family climbed down off Sea Turtle’s back, then followed at a distance as they walked away into the twilight desert landscape. Suddenly a great flock of cardinals flew toward them from the south, toward the entrance to the shamanic Death Passage, which they would need to enter to continue their journey. In their beaks they carried fronds and branches of leaves turning yellow as they do in the autumn, the time of the West. Red Bird understood this sign and guided his family to follow the flock. Some distance before the Death Passage entrance, the birds stopped flying and settled into pinon tress, cacti, and desert brush near the entrance to a cave in the obsidian cliffs that arose from the desert floor, but the branches of yellow leaves continued to follow the Red Birds as they entered the cave, floating in the air above them.
It was a teaching cave, I knew, having seen such caves before. The Red Birds would remain there for a period of time, to recover from their long ordeal, and to receive the teachings they would have been given had their lives not been cut short by their violent deaths. When they were fully prepared to continue their journey, Red Bird would send a signal to me in my time, and I would return to witness their death dances, if there were to be any, as they made their way into the Death Passage and began their long journey towards rebirth.
There was nothing more for me to do at that time. The ceremony was complete. I listened for the sound of Moon Dancer’s drum, and finally finding it, followed it back into the room from which I had begun the journey.
To read the final installment of their story, check in next Saturday!