It was a beautiful warm morning in June. The birds were singing and I had been on summer vacation for half a week. I liked summer because I could train all the time if I wanted to. Meechgalanne and I were setting up fish traps in a sacred way. The water was so clear and brisk. The sun rays were coming through the tree tops and warming up the ground which released such wonderful smells that later would hang thick in the humid air. I loved those mornings.
Meechgalanne was fairly quiet all day. My training was geared toward listening and observing most of the day. I was getting really good at listening from doing it so much. I practiced this type of awareness training all the time because it was so important for every other aspect of my warrior skills. I enjoyed training on my own or one on one because I had no one to argue with and no one to prove myself to. I hated school for those reasons. I was always the outcast, not only because I had different views but because I was originally from New Jersey and, to most everyone in my school community that was unacceptable. I always felt alone and betrayed in school. This always made learning very difficult. When I was out in the woods I felt happy, accepted and alive. I felt like I belonged and I did belong like every creature upon the Earthmother. I could not get enough of the wild.
That night Meechgalanne and I had fish stew for supper. I was taught how to use the entire fish. It was against the way of life to kill something and not use it, or not use it completely. It was disrespectful toward the spirit of the life’s body you were given to help you survive. We boned the fish and put the meat in the pot. We took the head and placed it in the pot also. Meechgalanne took out the eyes and gave them to me to eat. He knew I loved the taste of them and so he would make it a point to give them to me. The skin, tail and fins were put in another pot to make broth. The entrails were stored to use later as bait for scavengers and small carnivores. We added wild onions, plantain leaves and dandelion flowers, leaves and stems to the broth. After it was done cooking, we had fish, soup and acorn-corn bread for supper.
After we cleaned up it was time to sit around the campfire and listen to the sounds of approaching night. It was also a time for me to contemplate and ask questions about anything. I looked up toward Meechgalanne and asked how or when I would begin learning about the deeper side of myself and all life.
He said, “I’m glad you asked that, Wapsu Wiechcheu. You shall go on a vision quest. It is perfect timing because the longest day of the cycle is soon here.”
I asked him what a vision quest was. Meechgalanne told me the vision quest is the most important spiritual practice. It is one of the most necessary practices in my entire warrior training. The quest is the highest practice of respect and self sacrifice. It is used to find the answers to the deepest spiritual, physical and mental questions in life. It is an extremely important guide through the earthwalk. You deny and shelter yourself from all comforts, necessities and material things in life to suffer a small death to prove your worth to the spirit realm in hopes of finding answers and guidance through all life.
The vision quest is only done with the highest respect to life and the sacred ways. There is no short cut or ways around this part of the warrior training. There are also specific ways to approach a quest to show sincerity and the highest regard. He also said I must give prayer at dawn for six days before the quest. Then I must go to my place of seclusion in the wild with only a hide for extreme temperature drops. Otherwise, I was to be naked. I was to spend four days and four nights within a circle of about ten feet across with no food or water. It is here through prayer, meditation, suffering, loneliness and humility I would hope to find answers or a life vision.
I asked him how I would recognize a vision.
Meechgalanne said, “A vision may come to each person in a unique and personal way that will be geared to each individual by the spirits. A vision comes when the communication between your spirit and the Manito is pure. This is only achieved through the quest when the self that you were taught to be is forgotten and the false self falls asleep which will reveal the true self. This is the self that has no limitations or prejudice. It is the pure essence of the human spirit. Only when the false self sleeps and the true self emerges without hindrance will the connection be pure and communication with the spirit world be complete. This is called a vision.”
Meechgalanne’s words were soft and seemed to come from the smoke that rose upward through the surrounding trees. The stars were so bright and went off into the vast world of the universe forever. A star shot across the sky and disappeared. I was so excited to go on my quest but I was also terrified. This was to be the most meaningful part of my training so far and the unknown and mysticism of the whole thing frightened me as I sat in silence by our campfire. Even though Meechgalanne was there I felt alone in the night.
He spoke again after a long period of silence. I looked up and into his eyes which glowed with the flames of the fire. He said, “You will go and find your place to quest in. Find it with your heart and remember its meaning. At sunrise you will begin your prayer offering and at dawn on the seventh day you will begin your quest.”
That was all he said that night. I got up and went off in the night to find my place. I already knew where it was. It was a special place that had called out to me about a year before. It was within the heart of the wildlife management area we were training in. I walked about half an hour before I came upon this place. Old cedar trees stood towering over the clean, needle covered ground. There were no views, only the thick forest that surrounded the small grove could be seen. This place sat in a small hole and was isolated. You could not hear any foreign sounds from society. I never found human tracks anywhere near this place. Not even the breeze blew down in this hole. I laid out some limestone rocks in a ten-foot circle and stayed there the rest of the night. The next morning I returned to Meechgalanne and began my prayer offerings.
to be continued…
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