Posts Tagged ‘Bagpipes’
Posted on: May 18th, 2012 by John Woodward | 3 Comments
We’re plugging away on RAVEN, and we’re up to Chapter 10 as of today. Every few chapters, the story flashes back to the year that the Western Faerie Circle was founded. Today, we present a 1901 interlude that explains why the Western Faeries are so different from the Georgia Circle members. (You will recall that the Western Circle members left Georgia so the families with Faerie, Part-Faerie and human members could continue to live together.)
Before we begin, I would like to say that while I work this afternoon, I’m playing music from Ian’s Playlist, a selection of bagpipe music on YouTube that Ian put together for us. Take a few moments to visit the page and hear some of Ian’s favorites.
The Ventana Wilderness
Ezekiel and Jeremiah Murphy sat in a circle with eleven other men and five women. There were six Esselen Indians, three men and three women. They spoke a mix of Spanish, English and their native Hokan language. One of them, a man named Poncio, spoke a bit more English than the others, and translated for them.
The elected Faerie leader was Scoithín. Like the other Faeries, he had his wings out for the occasion. It was important that the Indians understand they were not dealing with human beings. Three thousand years ago the Faeries in Ireland had been worshipped by the few humans who lived there. The Murphy brothers did not want to inspire the same exact response — they were good Catholics, after all — but they needed the Indians to share the same awe that simple humans felt for the Winged People. They could talk all day about the beliefs that Faeries shared with the Esselens: respect for all creatures, love of Earth, the spirit world and so on. But talk was just talk, and the Indians had heard a century and half of the White Man talking. In that time, the Esselen lost their land, their way of life and their traditions, while the White Man never stopped talking. The Fairies must show the Indians they could be trusted. The Murphys therefore encouraged the Faeries to take every chance to fly and use their Powers around their new friends. If the Faeries were not human, then they surely were not White Men, either.
Poncio held up an eagle feather to begin the discussion.
“We are not sitting right,” he said in his heavily accented English. “Valdez is head man. He sits here. We have no warrior. Juan is oldest. He sit here,” he indicated the left side of Valdez, “and Anna our eldest woman sit next. Domingo leads our ceremonies. But among you, who is head man? He must be across from Valdez, with warrior, eldest man, eldest woman and the man greatest in spirit. Other men sit on right, the women are on left.”
Ezekiel translated this message into Faerie Gaelic. “This is the way his people traditionally make a council,” he added. “I suggest we try to accommodate them. I can explain that we do not make war, so we don’t have a warrior. But it would be best if Olcán sat next to you, Scoithín. He is our youngest member of the Elders, and his name means ‘wolf’. Then I guess Rúadhán and Líadan should be together, followed by whoever we call our spiritual leader. Who would that be?”
Scoithín was tall for a Faerie, with wheat-colored hair and a small, neat beard. He was missing the last two fingers of his left hand, which he absent-mindedly used to stroke his chin while he thought about it.
“Dermot, you sing very strongly in the Circle,” he said finally. “Take the seat next to Líadan. Ezekiel, am I to understand that only the one holding the eagle feather may speak, and nobody can interrupted him?”
“That is their custom.”
“Then how will we understand one another? Explain to them that I can manage only a little English, not enough to converse. Poncio must repeat what they say to you, and you must repeat it to me. Otherwise, we cannot make our agreements.”
“They understand that already. Who ever holds the feather will pause now and then for us to translate. The problem is that the feather must go around the circle to everyone. We won’t go back-and-forth like humans negotiating a deal. We’ll have to go around and around, probably for hours. Each time you get the feather, repeat what we’re offering and say what you want.”
“How will we know when we get to an agreement?”
“First, you’ll notice that all the Esselen are saying the same thing, and have been for an hour. Then Valdez will suggest we all get up and stain our hands with berry juice. After that, we’ll all make handprints on that rock over there,” Ezekiel said, pointing to a boulder that stuck out of the hillside. “That’s like signing a contract. The spirit of the boulder will watch over us all, to make us keep our pledges.”
“The spirit of the boulder?” Scoithín was skeptical.
“I told you before, the Esselen believe that everything has a spirit. Their very name means ‘rock.’ “
“This could go on for hours.”
“Then we’d best begin.”
“Very well. Who goes first.”
“As the guests, we do, which means you get the feather.”
Jeremiah Murphy’s luggage held paperwork giving the Murphy brothers title to over 8,000 acres of wooded Ventana mountain land, purchased directly from the Federal Government and the State of California. The ground where the Faeries and Indians sat together was deep inside the new Monterey Faerie Circle Lands. Nonetheless, Scoithín and the other Faeries understood why the Esselen referred to them as “guests.” Poncio handed the eagle feather to the Faerie Leader, who stood and began his speech.
The Faeries, like the Indians, had lost their Lands several times over and sought a refuge from violence and persecution. They had secured land from the humans where they could live undisturbed, even by the human laws. They were few and needed help. In return for it, they offered the Esselen a place to build a village where they could live according to their own customs and traditions. There would be no forced conversion to any religion. The Esselen could worship in the Catholic Church where they had been baptized, or celebrate their own rituals and dances. The Faeries would also use their Powers to help the Esselen establish their community, especially Healing and the ability to find such useful things as water. They would work side-by-side to plant farms and manage herds. The Esselen were free to hunt, but must do so only on the clearly-defined Western edge of the Lands. The animals that befriended the Faeries and sought refuge with them must be left strictly alone. Disputes would be settled by councils such as this one.
The Esselen members of the council replied with polite skepticism. If the Faeries were strong in medicine, why was their history so tragic, and why did they need help? Taking their cue from Scoithín, the Faeries repeated over and over: we live among trees and animals, preferably on mountains. The air is our home as much as the land. We can give trust when it is deserved, because our Powers include Discernment. We hold our Powers as a covenant with God; so long as we worship Him in the ways He has decreed for us, our Powers keep us safe. Nonetheless, we are few and must rely on Concealment, to protect us from the humans, who are fallen through their error in the Garden of Eden.
That last bit was the sticking point.
Anna, the eldest female, held the eagle feather. As all the Esselen had been asking for over an hour, she wanted to know, Are the Faeries Christians? Are they like the Catholics of Spain, who destroyed the Esselen culture for their God?
“But we have said over and over that we are not Christian,” Scoithín protested. “Why do they keep asking us that? Is it because you and Jeremiah wear the crucifix? Did you explain that the Part-Faeries follow human ways of worship — most of them? Tell them what your Church did to the Part-Faeries and others in Ireland who followed the old ways,” he ordered. “Make them see that we are different!”
Ezekiel sighed. “We already said all that. Be patient. We will need to say it a few dozen times more, and maybe they will believe us. As for the crucifixes my brother and I wear, if we had known what trouble they’d be, we’d have left them behind tonight.”
“You lived with these people for six months, brother,” said Jeremiah. “Is there any way to break the logjam?”
“Nothing that occurs to me.”
“Then I have a suggestion. “ Jeremiah addressed Scoithín directly. “Say that some of the Faeries will adopt their faith. That’s not blasphemy according to the Faeries, is it? You can learn the Esselen dances and prayers and rituals, and make hand-marks as they do. You’ll give thanks to the animals and plants, and rocks, too if that’s important. In your Circle, you sing of your love for the Earth and your gratitude for the companionship of animals. Couldn’t you just add a bit to your songs? Or would the other Faeries refuse?”
“My mother was a Cherokee,” Olcán said. “I do the Cherokee dances and prayers already. I will become an Esselen, if they ask, but of course I must still worship as a Faerie and a Cherokee.”
Elderly little Líadan was one of the Faeries of Ireland who had come to Georgia in the Departure fifty-one years earlier. Again she had made a long journey west, this time so that she could remain close to her children and grandchildren. She patted Olcán’s shoulder. “If Inola were here,” she said, “your mother would tell you to respect our new friends. She would not mind that you became an Esselen, as long as you remember that you were a Cherokee first.”
“Thank you, Líadan,” said Olcán.
“What about you, Scoithín? As the ‘head man,’ what you do is very important to the Esselen,” said Ezekiel.
“Explain to me why the Esselen would join us simply because we shared their rituals of worship? How does that solve the trust problem?”
“It answers their question, ‘Are we Christian?’ They know from their experience with Catholic priests that Christians are forbidden to practice the rituals of other faiths. They understand that the Mother Church regards their old teachings as ‘pagan.’ If we worship with them, it proves that we are outside the Sacraments of Christianity,” said Ezekiel. “I should have thought of that, brother,” he said turning to Jeremiah. “After all, I’m the one who’s been out here with them for half a year.”
“Yes,” said a grinning Jeremiah, “but I was always the smart one, brother.”
Ezekiel ignored the teasing and spoke to Scoithín again. “Will you worship with the Esselen? As I said, what you do matters to them, because you’re the Leader. I realize this will be a burden on you. But all of us here in this council should make the pledge.”
Scoithín sighed. “I do not think I will betray God by joining our Esselen friends in their rituals. But I can’t speak for all the Faeries. This will surely be a contentious matter for some of them. And what about the Part-Faeries? You who are Catholic, or Quaker? You worship by the grace of the human Redeemer, who shed his blood only for your human ancestors, not your Faerie kin.”
“It would be enough for Juan and his people if the Elders committed to doing Esselen rituals. As for me,” said Ezekiel, “I learned a long time ago that a Part-Faerie never makes a full Confession in the booth. If my conscience bothers me, I’ll take that up directly with God — at least, until such time as there’s such a thing as a Part-Faery priest.”
“I’ll do the same,” said Jeremiah. There were no other Part-Faeries present for the occasion except Susannah, a part-Black woman who was the only midwife to make the trip West. More importantly, she was the only Quaker Part-Faerie present for the council. Scoithín turned and asked her, “Can you speak for the Quakers? Will any of your group share the Esselen worship, for the sake of persuading them we are trustworthy? Is that blasphemy under your rules?”
“When you asked me if I could ‘Speak for the Quakers,’ Scoithín, you just proved that you don’t understand us at all,” she said drily. “We Quakers answer only to the call of God in our hearts. I will join the Esselen in their worship if they invite me, and that doesn’t trouble my conscience. Most of us will feel the same way, I’m sure of it. I’ll suggest a Meeting for Worship with Consideration for Business to consider the matter. Scoithín, I suggest you to sit with us for a Meeting so you can hear us explain our beliefs. If we are to have one leader of the Faeries and Part-Faeries, that leader needs to understand the Quakers.”
“Very well.” Scoithín sighed again, deeply. “Ezekiel, yell Juan that I and all the Elders and many others ask that the Esselen lead us in their worship and we will celebrate their spirit world as they do.”
The Faerie offer was well received. The Indians showed their appreciation at once. Nevertheless, the eagle feather went around the circle more times than Jeremiah bothered to count, before Valdez and his people stood and and embraced their new neighbors. The berries were brought out from a woven basket and crushed. One by one, they each stained their hands and made their handprints on the white boulder that jutted from the hillside. Then both parties brought out food and they shared a meal.
“This is just the beginning,” Ezekiel warned the Faeries and Part-Faeries. “We still have to agree on the exact location of the Esselen village, and there are other details that will need arranging.”
“I can always pray,” Scoithín muttered, “that my time as Leader will be brief.”