Shining Son and Running Water
A long time ago, but not that long ago, in a far away land at the Northern tip of the world – where it gets very, very cold, there lived a group of people on a Reservation.
The people were simple tribes-folk, struggling to retain remnants of their old and wise ways. Many had left becoming urban fringe dwellers, drinking, gambling – with souls and spirits that yearned unconsciously for the land of their birth and the richness of their ancestors. Sadness filled their hearts.
The few who stayed on the Reservation lived out their days in distant mountainous regions. In winter the land wore a dazzling white dress and people huddled around central fireplaces. They lived in tipis made of skins and furs. Living the old ways with gratitude in their hearts they sang songs, wove baskets, hunted and gathered. A passion for life sparkled in their eyes. Mother Earth nurtured their bodies and Father Sky illuminated their minds. They lived by the will of Great Spirit.
Two villages had lived side by side for many generations. Only during Summer Camps did they join together for the Sun Dance. Nothing was more important to the tribes-people than their children and the growing times they passed through. The old ways always made sure that the young were honoured. They were taught by the elders and prepared for their journey from child to adult. Celebration, ceremony and ritual marked this special time.
Shining Sun was born only hours after the spring rains had stopped, hence his name. As he grew up, he living up to his name, singing or humming to himself as he moved around the village.
The boy did not think of the future and had no idea about his destiny. Life lived and danced through him, adding to all of life a sense of joy and freedom. The world was his playground.
At times Shining Sun and the other boys joined fathers, uncles and the men of the village, in circles, telling their stories and sharing knowledge. These were special times that the boys treasured. The men were strong and solid. The boys felt safe knowing they were there.
Things were about to change for Shining Sun – he had no idea what was in store for him.
Full moon was the time Shining Sun loved best of all. He lay under the stars, staying close to the village – wolves howled and bears grizzled close by.
Every now and again the men took a boy from the village. When he came back he slept with the single men on the edge of the encampment.
One morning, just before dawn, Shining Sun heard heavy footsteps outside his family tipi. The flap close to his head was dragged open. Men appeared looking stern and hard. He was shocked. He had no time to think. Before he could blink, his head was pushed into a sack, and he was dragged away.
Shining Sun, shaking from head to foot was cold, frightened and confused. He had never been so scared in his life. His lip trembling, afraid, he felt like crying. So cry he did and loudly too. The men took no notice of him. This frightened him even more.
After travelling some distance the men stopped somewhere. He heard them gathering wood and then lighting a fire. Shivering shamelessly by now, he was grateful. A kindly old man gently took the sack from his head and led him to the fireside. Shining Sun looked around. He saw a circle of men looking very solemnly at him. Alarmed, he realised his father was not one of them.
This was The Council. No one said a word. After what seemed like hours, the Elder Man spoke: “SHINING SUN, your time has come. You are showing signs of your coming manhood. We cannot leave you to be spoiled in your mother’s tipi. It’s your time to stay with the men until your work is done. Great Spirit will decide your fate. We do not know what your Journey holds for you and wish you courage and bravery.”
Shining Sun felt anything but brave, even smaller than the ant crawling across his foot. With dread he knew this was serious men’s business. The men camped together in the forest over the next days. Shining Sun was not allowed to eat. He sensed he was being prepared -– for what, he did not know.
After many night skies, Shining Sun was led once again to The Council. They informed him that this was his last night and at dawn the next day he was to face his fate.
It was time for the men to share with Shining Sun all they could about becoming a man. They told him of the changes happening to him, both physically and in other ways. They said that guidance from the Elders is important at this time. They told him that his male organ gets bigger, that hair covers his body and his voice breaks. The men told him of joining with woman and warned him to be aware of the preciousness of his seed, not to waste his life force thoughtlessly. They said that to love a woman and share his body with her body is a sacred act of Great Spirit’s love and to honour that. When men do not feel love and respect in joining they dishonour all of Creation.
They reminded him that any action, word or deed affects the next seven generations. He was told that when his first seed landed on the Earth his Soul’s purpose is activated. The reason for his Earth Walk is to set in motion and he can walk to the Mother as a man. After his Initiation the people call him a man and expect him to be the man he is becoming. There was a great deal for Shining Sun to consider.
The men shared stories of their challenges as they had made themselves into men from boys. They said many boys never truly become men; some stay immature until they go back to Great Spirit. They instructed him to thank his ancestors at this Initiation time and to be grateful to the men-folk of his village.
His sleep was half-awake of dream images of his ancestors and the webs they weave through life. Riding on horseback, hunting buffalo, celebrating the coming of Spring and gathering in for Winter. His ancestors felt close.
Next morning, before another soul stirred, he was fully awake, expectant! The oldest man came for him and Shining Sun followed. They travelled great distances into the wilderness. Walking for most of the day, passing through forests and fast flowing rivers they came to the foot of a mountain. The old man once again looked for signs. Spirit whispers. Something! Out of nowhere an Eagle flew past them. This was the omen. The old man smiled. “Shining Sun, Son of Dark Cloud, you have been blessed on your Vision Quest by the winged one. Great Spirit has sent you Eagle. Stay here alone without food or water and cry to Great Spirit for your Vision. You will know when your time is done. I leave you to your fate.”
Wandering the wilderness for days and nights, following the signs Great Spirit sent him, Shining Sun battled with himself. Sleeping little, his demons haunted him, Nature spirits tested him! Who knows what creatures visited him in the dark nights that followed? Wrestling the bear, howling with wolves, acknowledging the power of snake? His only witness was Night Owl – watching him. Who knows what visions he saw? What messages and understanding about his life he received from Great Spirit? What knowing of his purpose came to his heart? These things are personal to a boy becoming man.
Shining Sun was changed. He knew his quest was almost over. He had come to know himself. He sat with resolve, still, strong. Waiting! Before noon he saw dust rising in the distance. Running Elk, his oldest brother, appeared on a black stallion. He hauled the weakened Shining Sun onto the horse’s back. Flying with the wind at their back, they headed back to camp. Shining Sun held on, half asleep. All that night and the following day he slept. We leave him close to his dreams and the truth of his Soul’s purpose.
As the mountains melted and Spring came upon another village, we meet Running Water. Pretty as a picture, with pink cheeks and shining black hair, she is a girl of intelligence and maturity for her twelve years. For almost a year she has been listening to the stories of the grey-haired ones as they gently prepare her for her changes.
On her body she saw two small peaks where her chest had been flat and a thin clump of hair where there was none before. She was plumper! It looked strange to her – this changing body and although she knew what to expect, she was also a little afraid.
“The Mystery is a powerful place to be!” Her Aunt Howling Wolf told her: “Women got to trust in the Mystery. Great Spirit’s Wisdom is wondrous. But as a woman you got to be prepared to let go, get out of your head and stop tryin’ to control things. ‘Cos you can’t, your body won’t let you. The Mystery moves in you! It takes over and the moon will pull at you, and your belly calls you home, but you’ve gotta let go and listen to what she’s tellin’ you.”
Running Water knew that things were moving in her. She was crying a lot and losing her temper. This shocked her. When her emotions took over, the older women looked knowingly at each other for they could read the signs. They had experienced it themselves. They watched and waited, for her time was almost upon her.
Running Water was told: “Your body sheds the lining of your womb when you bleed.” She thought that was strange! She expected to see the redness from between her legs leave her body and was curious to find out what it felt like.
The women told her to watch carefully for her special dream. They said, “Usually it comes just before your first body bleed. It brings a vision, which reveals your Soul’s purpose for being here.”
When she considered it, Running Water decided it was good to be a girl. Not only because of her blood but also because she could give birth. She had a natural connection to the Mystery. She could stay by the hearth and drink warm teas from the herbs and bushes that are close by.
The weather was warming up! Emotionally she was scattered like the wind. She had a queer feeling in her belly and could tell by the way the women looked at her that at any minute her “floodgates” could open and the blood pour out over everything. The women told her this does not happen but this is what she feared. She stayed in the Moon-Lodge that night which was a resting-place for all the women at their Moon-time. The women looked after one another with great care. They welcomed the Mystery of their women’s bodies and knew their power.
And she dreamt! She saw a garden of beautiful flowers being fed by a red river. She entered the magical garden-grove. She saw a beautiful woman wearing a deer skin dress, with hair, raven black, hanging to her waist.
Behind the woman sat the biggest Eagle she had ever seen. Running Water gazed at the dark brownness of the woman before her: “I am you, as woman. You are travelling far, shining your love and light, and singing a song of freedom to the women of the Earth. Your message to woman is of beauty, harmony and powerful relationship to HER Self. You teach her about her sacred union with man. Eagle is your guardian, revealing the higher purpose of the challenges you face. Your service opens the hearts of many and your journey is long.”
The image faded and Running Water stirred in her sleep. The first light of dawn, alive with birdsong, woke her from her dreaming. She became aware of an unfamiliar trickling, a warmth between her legs. She‘s embarking on her journey to womanhood. The women in the Moon-Lodge stirred, they offered her all she required. They brought her a red garment in honour of her first blood. Going about their business they sang sweet songs of the journey from girl to woman and stories from Running Water’s life.
Her family planned to announce at Summer Camp that Running Water was becoming a woman. Other villages were invited to come and celebrate her. There was much preparation.
Running Water was also being prepared. As soon as the river warmed up she had to swim against the current for many hours over the next two moons. This is to strengthen her body for childbirth and her travels. A buckskin dress was beaded ready for the celebration.
Three moons after her first blood, tribes-people gathered. Amidst great excitement, Running Water was once again sent to the Moon-Lodge, to prepare herself for the Ritual. She missed the fun and games.
We find Shining Sun, staying in the men’s tent at Summer Camp. It’s been a long walk from his village. He has grown up since his Vision Quest in the Wilderness. When he looked closely he saw wispy hair on his face. It made him laugh!
He was with the men at the ceremonies! The men stood still with backs straight. They looked fierce! They were present and attentive to everything that went on around them. With full attention, relaxed, they were alert! Shining Sun felt strange to be with them, but also excited. Shining Sun could feel their power, adding to his own strength as he stood with them.
Imagine being there now. Camp fires and lots to eat. Old friends. The women sat on the ground with their children, nursing. The old folks on logs had the best view! The children ran wild as they always did.
The Ceremonies took hours. Late in the afternoon Running Water, wrapped in a blanket, was presented to the circle. Her mother announced that her time had come – she was to face the river. The old grey one took her to the dugout on the river. They rowed downstream for some time.
Running Water prayed to Great Spirit for strength. She knew this was one of her greatest challenges. It seemed they had gone downstream for miles when the old woman finally nodded. Running Water knew what to do. She took off the blanket and dived into the water. She swam upstream, harder and harder. Grateful for the hours of training, she thought: “I may make it if I keep going strongly.” Nearer and nearer! She saw the fires burning and her body trembled from head to foot as she crawled onto the beach. Someone brought her a blanket and led her to the fire. Weak at the knees and shivering she looked around at the people. They were cheering, hollering and all looking very proud of her.
Her father said, “A girl went down the river, a woman came back!” The crowd erupted! People moved towards her, bringing gifts in honour and celebration. Now she had passed the challenges and could marry when she was ready.
Poor Shining Sun! Standing stock still for all that time with the men. When he first saw Running Water his temperature shot up. He turned bright red. He felt a stirring in his loins! This was the first time anything like this had happened to him. He was sure everyone had noticed.
He could not take his eyes off her. Her eyes were bright and her heart was open – radiant! He could not take his eyes off her – not to miss even a single blink. As she thanked people, he caught her eye. He blushed to the roots of his hair and back again. Did she notice!!!
Special Meeting Place
During the next season Shining Sun sat under a crop of overhanging rocks close to her village. He could not forget her! He went to this place for comfort and to be alone. He was moving away from all that had been safe to him.
Another day Running Water walked in the woods. She found a crop of overhanging rocks. There was a special feel about the place. She sat for hours and yearned for the love of her opening heart to be shared. For the rest of that Summer both Shining Sun and Running Water enjoyed that place to be alone and dream. They never once met!
Winter set in, snows came, and tipis were under cover. The people stayed close to their own hearth, restoring and preparing for the turning tide of Spring. Shining Sun looked forward to being out in the wilds – dreaming of Running Water. Running Water yearned, expectantly, for the new life of Spring.
Both imagined their special place. It was their destiny to meet and meet they did!
A long time ago, but not that long ago, there lived a boy who was becoming a man, and only a whisper away, a girl becoming a woman. Nature waited to celebrate their meeting!
In the modern world the “old ones” no longer take boys into the wilderness or girls into the Moon-Lodge. Sometimes they don’t tell them about the changes they can expect or about growing up. If they are lucky enough – a grey-haired one might cross their path!