by David McLeod
Power of Kiva
Phillip regained consciousness. He blinked his eyes. Argon, who has holding Phillip's hand, sighed with relief. Phillip sat up. "You knew about me and Johnny Two–Horses?" he demanded of the Shaman.
"How could I not? He is my nephew and apprentice," the Shaman replied. "You've heard that skinwalkers surround his hogan?"
Phillip nodded, and the Shaman continued. "Who do you think started those stories? And why? It was to ensure that only those who were invited went to Johnny's place.
"The deepest secret of the Shamans is the third mystery Johnny began to teach. Again, you have only seen the lesser mysteries; you would have seen more, in time. We do not know why this mystery must be passed on, only that it must. Perhaps you will learn the answer if you go with Argon."
"Argon, why do you want me to go with you?" Phillip asked.
"Phillip, amo te," Argon replied. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Argon, and I will go with you," Phillip said.
The Shaman had left, leading the horses the boys had ridden. He promised to return in two days. "I will send others, too. They will assist in your training and purification. For now, do not go past the edge of South Mesa. It would not do for the Hispanglo archaeology students or tourists to see you."
The boys explored the cave dwelling in which they would live, and unpacked the supplies the Shaman had left them. They made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; now, Argon's face was sticky with jelly. "Phillip, we have not bathed in over two days," Argon said. "And I do not think we will find a bath in this wilderness." He scrubbed his face with the back of his hand. "Yuck!"
"The Shaman said that we would find a pool in the wash, just west of the kiva," Phillip said. "It will be cold, but we can bathe."
The wash was deep, carved by years of flash floods from summer thunderstorms. In winter, only a trickle of water remained. The kiva was invisible from the wash, yet the closer they came, the more excited Argon became. "We come to a place of power," he said. "A place of much fortiamus. We must go this way!"
"It is the kiva," Phillip said. "We must not approach until the Shaman takes us—"
Argon protested, but Phillip was adamant. "We walk as though we were on the edge of the mesa," he said, pointing to the sharp line formed where the bluffs met the pale winter sky. "A little wind, a misstep, a forbidden action: any of these may cause us to fall. No, we must not go to the kiva, yet. All in time." He took Argon's hand, and urged the smaller boy toward the pool. Argon reluctantly followed.
When Phillip woke the next morning, the cave entrance was still dark. He and Argon lay in the same position in which they'd fallen asleep: the smaller boy curled in Phillip's embrace. Phillip lay still, reluctant to wake Argon. He stared at the entrance, and watched the sun paint the sky mauve, then rose, then blue. Argon didn't want to have sex last night. Was he angry that I wouldn't let him go to the kiva? He kept saying no fortiamus, no power. But he was aroused; he had an erection, and we were both aware of it. Why, then? Phillip turned over ideas in his mind, but nothing gelled; nothing solidified.
Argon stirred. Enough light filtered through the cave dwelling's door that Phillip could see the boy's eyes fluttered open. Argon realized that his arms were still around Phillip, and hugged the bigger boy tightly. "Phillip," the boy whispered. "I am sorry about last night. You denied me the power of the kiva, and I was angry with you. I cannot be angry with you for long. You are Good, and you are right."
Argon released Phillip and bent his head. Phillip gasped as the boy's warm mouth found his erection.
Phillip pulled on his blue jeans. "We'll wash the underwear in the pool, later," he said. I haven't gone Commando since Johnny and I used to go skinny–dipping in the river.
Argon followed Phillip's example, however, he didn't put on his shoes or sox. "I didn't have small clothes at home," he said. "But my trousers weren't so scratchy," he used a word that Phillip did not know, and mimed, scratching his fingers across his legs.
"Small clothes, scratchy," Phillip repeated. "I still need to learn your language. More now, than ever. First, we need some food."
Argon watched Phillip sort through the provisions the Shaman had assembled hastily the day before. Phillip set up an aluminum coffee pot on a collapsible Sterno stove. He found tortillas, pickled cactus, pemmican, dried fruit, and coffee.
"How did you do that?" Argon asked, his voice reflecting excitement.
"Do what?" Phillip responded. "Light the stove?"
"Yes," Argon said. "How did you make fire? You have no fortiamus, and it is very hard to make fire without it."
Phillip showed Argon the match he'd used to light the stove, and struck another from the box on a rock. "Here, you try… Oh, hold it like this!"
The matches fascinated Argon, and he would have lit them all except that Phillip said they must save some.
"How would you start a fire?" Phillip asked.
"With flint and steel," Argon replied, miming striking two things together. "And with fortiamus, for without fortiamus, the fire will probably not start."
That's odd, Phillip thought. Why do they use magic to start a fire? He must have meant flint and steel, Perhaps their flint isn't good? Perhaps his world is damp. Preparing breakfast drove this thought from his mind.
Argon made a face when he tasted the coffee, and refused to drink it. Phillip shrugged, and gave the boy water in one of the canteens the Shaman had provided. Argon enjoyed the corn tortillas and dried fruit, but rejected the pemmican, calling it bologna.
After breakfast, the boys sat in the sunlight below the bluffs and continued the language lessons.
"You told me, once, that only clerics and nobles could read and write," Phillip began. "I didn't understand about your clerics. What do they worship?"
Argon did not understand what Phillip meant. "What is worship?" he said.
Argon was whittling with one of the knives the Shaman had put in the bag with the food. He was clearly tired of language lessons. Phillip retrieved his journal, and began to write.
When Argon first talked of Clerics, I may have misunderstood. The way he described them sounded like the Hispanglo Catholic priests and monks. Things the Clerics do, the way they live, all sound like the Hispanglo church. However, Argon's Clerics don't worship anything except, perhaps, an abstract notion of good, which Argon persists in calling _lux _(light). Serving the Light is very important on his world—at least, among his people. I must talk to the Shaman about this.
Oh, and the list of what he knows and doesn't know. Argon knows buttons, but zippers fascinate him; he's not seen them before. The burning can of Sterno puzzled him—he knows candles and oil lamps but they all have wicks. He does not know coffee (and does not like it), but I have agreed to help him find some herbs for tea. He knows horses—he knows about them and he knows how to ride. He was afraid of the cars and trucks we saw the night we escaped. He asked how they worked, and if it were my people's magic. I thought this earlier: if you can't see the cause, the effect may seem to be magic. I didn't have time to explain, but said that it was a kind of magic. I'll have to go back and explain what I mean by that. We saw only a few vehicles after we got on the Res, and we'll probably not see many out here!
The business about having to use magic to light a fire is puzzling. At first, I thought that perhaps the flint on his world didn't produce enough hot sparks. That got me thinking about what fire was, and how sparks are made with flint and steel. This led only to the realization I should have paid more attention in general science class!
A movement caught Phillip's eye. It was a cloud of dust raised by a vehicle moving on the dirt road of the canyon. This one was moving past Pueblo Bonito. "We need to hide," Phillip said. "Someone's coming. Wait," he continued. "I know that truck. It's my uncle."
Phillip's uncle's position on the council required a significant commitment to the traditions of the Athabasca Nation. During council meetings and ceremonies, and when receiving emissaries from other Peoples and nations, he wore elaborate ceremonial garb. When the council members visited outlying communities, they rode horses, eschewing highways and paved roads. Woven into his hair were turquoise stones—once believed to be a protection from lightning. Now, the stones were symbols of the nation's commitment to preserving its history and identity.
When Phillip's uncle was not performing council duties, his expressed another side of his personality by driving the most outlandish pickup truck on the reservation. A dually, with four tires on the rear axle wasn't unusual, nor was the rack of spotlights on the roof. What was unusual was the color: a bright candy–apple red. No truck or car, save one that received the care that Phillip's uncle lavished on this one, could keep its color in the hot sun and thin air of the high desert. He had recruited Phillip to help wash and wax its predecessors as soon as the boy was able to walk.
Two figures emerged from the truck. Phillip recognized his aunt and his uncle.
"Ya–ta–hay, Phillip," his aunt said. She carried baskets under each arm.
"Ya–ta–hay, Corn Maiden," Phillip replied. He took the baskets from her. Phillip's favorite childhood treat had been his aunt's honey–sweetened corn mush. He had called her Corn Maiden, after figures in the children's stories she had told him. Later, after his initiation into kiva, he had learned the true stories of the Corn Maidens, but had continued to call her that.
Phillip introduced his aunt and uncle to Argon. When he introduced his uncle, he gave Argon a sign to indicate that the man was a lodge brother, and then watched his uncle's face closely. His uncle glanced at Phillip and raised his eyebrow when he recognized the lodge handshake.
Phillip's uncle offered a lodge greeting. Argon looked at Phillip, who translated.
"The Shaman said he didn't speak our language," the man said to Phillip in Athabascan. Argon looked puzzled.
"Argon speaks none of our languages," Phillip explained. "I am learning his."
Phillip's aunt spread food on a blanket near the opening of the cave, and gestured for Argon to come and eat. Phillip nodded his approval.
His uncle took Phillip aside. "Phillip," the man said. "The Shaman wakened me long before dawn, and we spoke until the sun rose. I do not entirely understand, but I know that you will be going away. Your aunt does not know, yet. I will tell her when it is time. The Shaman has said that you must learn all the mysteries of the kiva and of the lodge. All, that is, that you can absorb between now and the time you leave. The Shaman will teach you all you can learn of the mysteries of the kiva; I and other brothers of the Builders Lodge will visit and teach you all you can learn of the mysteries of that lodge.
"The Shaman has said that you understand the need to take learning one step at a time? You understand that we cannot skip steps and take you to the apex of our knowledge? You know that we may not reach that apex in the time allowed to us, and that your preparation may be wanting?"
"I understand," Phillip said.
At the Shaman's direction, Phillip built a fire, allowing Argon to light the match that set it ablaze. The three sat with their backs to the rocks. The rocks held the warmth of the sun; the fire burned brightly and warmed their faces. A cold breeze reminded them it was winter in the high desert of the Athabascan nation.
"Before you begin your preparation for this journey, Argon, you must know something about this world, and about the people among whom you find yourself," the Shaman began.
"Our people passed through many worlds before reaching this one. The Basket Makers created First Man and First Woman. They lived in First World until a flood forced them to seek another world, where they lived until the waters of the rivers became too salty. They fled to another world, perhaps many other worlds, before entering this one. Of course, by the time they reached this world, they were more than only First Man and First Woman. They were more than only Athabasca, but were A'shiwi, Hopituh Shi–nu–mu, Ute, and Acoma, as well as Toltec, Algonquin, and others of our kin. From Xajiinai where they entered this world, they moved away in all directions. Later, some returned to this place to become the guardians of the mysteries.
"The Hispanglos' holy book teaches them that they were created to be lords and masters of the universe. The book tells them to subdue the world. It promises them dominion over the world and all that is in the world. It tells them that they are to reproduce until they have filled the world with their offspring. We, on the other hand, know that we were created with the universe to be one with the universe and with the world. We cannot harm the world without harming ourselves.
"I tell you this so that you will know who we are and why we will send you and Phillip to your home. We know that many worlds touch the sipapu. How do we know the world to which you will go? Each world has its own spirit. That spirit fills the world and all those who live in it.
"Our people greet one another and say farewell with the same phrase. The Hispanglos first translated it into the English words, 'walk in beauty.' It translates better, perhaps, 'walk in harmony.' You are not in harmony with this world. If you were to remain here long enough, the absence of harmony would express itself in illnesses of the body and the mind. It could also adversely affect the world and the people with whom you came in contact. We do what we do both to protect ourselves and to help you."
"But won't I be out of harmony in Argon's world?" Phillip protested. "Will I suffer illness, and harm that world?"
"Ha'tchi, Phillip. Again, you show wisdom. I have thought on this," the Shaman replied. "The Opening Way ceremony must prepare the traveler for the journey. It must make him in harmony with the world he is to enter. I say must because we know it has done so in the past. Until this situation caused me to think about it, I did not realize the importance of a particular part of the ceremony. Now I see it for what it is. Inherent in the ceremony is the creation of that harmony.
"Argon is not in harmony because his passage was unintended; he was not prepared."
Again, Phillip struggled to translate what the Shaman had said.
"Does he know why I am here and how I got here?" Argon asked.
The Shaman merely shrugged. "A wise question, but one I cannot answer. The reason may reveal itself; it may not. Come, now is the time to visit the kiva."
The kiva at Chaco was the largest Phillip had ever seen. Four doors—openings, rather—faced the cardinal directions. The Shaman led the two boys in through the eastern door—the one facing the rising sun. Phillip knew that except for ceremonial reasons, one always entered and left the kiva through the eastern door. Once inside, they paused so that their eyes could accommodate to the dim lighting.
The roof of the kiva was not supported by the poles and beams like the kiva of Phillip's society. Rather, an elaborate truss system distributed the weight of the roof onto the walls of the kiva, leaving the entire center open and unobstructed. The Shaman saw that Phillip was examining the roof. "Those we sent to the Hispanglo schools brought back more than rock–and–roll music," he said. "Some brought back knowledge which we have employed here. Come, sit."
The Shaman pointed to a small hole high on the wall of the kiva. "On the day we will conduct the Opening Way the sun will enter that hole when it clears the canyon wall and strike the sipapu. At midsummer, the rising sun comes through another hole and strikes the central stone. The other holes are associated with other dates."
"Is that part of the magic?" Phillip asked.
"No," the Shaman replied. "When our people came to this world, they built kivas to serve many purposes: social, magical, and agricultural. Although we use a lunar calendar, the solar calendar is more important to farming. At first, we put sticks in the ground and watched the sun's shadow. Later, rocks replaced the sticks. When resources permitted, kivas were built. The kivas became the calendar."
"This canyon is so deep," Phillip said. "The sun only reaches the kiva for part of the day. Why was it not built on top of the mesa?"
"Another kiva sits on top of South Mesa," the Shaman said. "Its role is different, although its calendar holes are the same. Remember that the kiva serves many purposes. This one was built where magic is strongest."
As the Shaman spoke, Phillip translated for Argon: "locus fortiamo fortissimo (place of greatest power)."
Argon smiled. "I told you so," he said. His smile softened the smugness in his voice.
"If the sun striking the sipapu is not part of the magic," Phillip asked, "then why is the ceremony on that day?"
"To protect our magic from outsiders," the Shaman replied. "The Hispanglos know we conduct our superstitious rituals on the days of the solstice and equinox. It will not be unusual for many of our people to gather here on that day."
The Shaman had raised his eyebrows when Phillip asked if he and Argon might visit the kiva whenever they desired, but had agreed. Now, Phillip and Argon sat on one of the benches.
"_Puer fortiamus, _boy magic," Argon said. "All boys gather it all the time. We didn't gather any until we came close to the kiva, because there was none to gather. Now, when we're near the kiva, we gather it. The closer we are to the kiva, the more we gather. We don't have to try to gather it; it just happens. A boy can't use the magic he gathers this way. If he gives it to another boy, that boy can use it."
"And that's through sex," Phillip said.
"Yes," Argon said. "But we call it sharing boy magic."
"And magnus fortiamus, the great magic?" Phillip asked.
"Only the Journeymen and Masters can use that," Argon said. "To gather it and to use it must be—" He struggled to find the word. "It must be deliberate, done with the mind, done with thought, done with… I do not have the words. I was just beginning to learn how to gather it when I was brought here."
Johnny Two–Horses and the Shaman were right, Phillip thought. Boy sex is the key to a great Mystery. We must have had more magic on our world at one time. We preserved the forms, but lost the substance, except in the kiva. Today, the greatest talent of the Shaman must be knowing where to built a kiva.
"But how do you use boy magic?" Phillip asked.
"Um, I don't know how to tell you," Argon said. "I just do—" His voice trailed off.
"Show me something, then, please," Phillip asked.
"Um, I don't have any boy magic," Argon said. "You didn't have any to give me."
"You mean, we've got to have sex before you can show me any magic?" Phillip asked.
"Um, yes," Argon said. He smiled.
Phillip felt the same electric surge he'd felt the first time he and Argon had sex. Not so long ago, either, he thought. _I wonder if Argon will feel the same… Oh… o h… oh…, _Phillip's orgasm was the most incredible, ever.
"Yes," Argon had said. "It is so much better with magic. I did not know that until we had sex without magic."
"Now we both have boy magic?" Phillip asked.
"Yes," Argon replied. "I can feel yours inside me. And, I felt mine go into you."
"I don't feel any different," Phillip said. "Will we lose the magic? Does it go away?"
"Yes," Argon replied. "It fades away after a few days."
"You need magic to do everyday things. to start a fire or, at least, start it easily. What else?"
"Let me show you," Argon had said. "At the pool where we bathe."
At first, Argon had been fascinated by Phillip's journal, but the novelty quickly wore off. While Argon busied himself tying elaborate knots and designs with the woolen string he'd found in the cave, Phillip wrote.
Argon is playing with string, making something between a dream catcher and a macramé plant hanger. He won't tell me what he's making. Perhaps it is because we don't yet share the words; perhaps it is because he doesn't know. Perhaps it is to be a surprise.
This is our fifth night at Chaco. The cave dwelling is more comfortable, and considerably warmer than my trailer would be on these cold nights. We have plenty of food, and I have much to do. Besides learning Argon's language, I have hours of kiva and lodge rituals to memorize. I am grateful to my uncle for lending me a book containing the lodge rituals. He asked me to promise not to read ahead; I have agreed, and will keep that promise. The kiva rituals are not written anywhere, so I do not have to study them after the Shaman or another of the dancers have left.
Today, Argon tried to show me how to use boy magic. When we bathed in the pool, he washed my hair, saying he was going to use some magic to do it. I think I felt a tingling, but it may have been the Hispanglo shampoo my aunt brought us. Afterwards, he said he'd dry me. I thought he'd pick up a towel to wipe me off, but he ran his hands down my body to wipe off the water. His hands didn't touch me, but the water rubbed off. It felt as if he were touching me, but I could see that he was not. What did I think earlier? Oh, yes. If you cannot see the link between cause and effect, you'd probably think it was magic. The effect, that is. Well, I have seen it. I still cannot do it. Argon said he used magic to start a fire; I've found flint, and we have a steel knife. We'll see what he can do, tomorrow. After I restore his boy magic.
We gather magic when we are in—or near to—a place of power. In Argon's world, that's everywhere—power is everywhere. We give it to another boy. The magic becomes part of him, and he can use it. If he uses it, it goes out of him; if he doesn't use it, it goes out of him, but more slowly. If we want to keep magic in us, we have to get more almost every day.
I tried to explain what I meant by magic making cars and trucks run, and think I got across the idea of cause and effect. I think I learned more from the explanation than did Argon—he's no longer interested in vehicles or how they work. I think any fear he had was eased when my aunt got out of one and then fed him honeyed corn mush!
"Argon? Are you ready for sleep?" Phillip asked.
The boy nodded. His tongue stuck out of one corner of his mouth; he tied a last knot. He set aside his handiwork and smiled. "Will you share boy magic with me?"
The Shaman and Phillip sat alone. Argon continued to play with the string net he was creating. "When we first spoke of Argon," Phillip began, "you said that the Quetzalcoatl image had been created by the Hispanglo missionaries. I didn't think about it then, but it's been puzzling me. Did you really mean that the Hispanglos created the image? Why?"
"Ah," the Shaman said. "As to why, the Hispanglo Catholics' doctrine includes a belief that our peoples—and all indigenous peoples they met when they built colonial empires—were evil because we had not been redeemed of original sin. They took an ancient image that belonged to our Toltec brothers and a newer image from their own mythology, conflating them in order to wedge their superstitions into the Toltec's beliefs."
"Conflated?" Phillip asked. "They melded a Toltec symbol with a Catholic symbol in order to inject their religion into the Toltec culture?"
"Exactly," the Shaman replied. "You see, after they came to this world, the Toltec peoples wandered to the south looking for a place to establish their city. They built their city on an island in a lake. Why did they do that? Because they knew they must when they saw an eagle land on a cactus on the island. The eagle was their people's spirit guide. This was the sign they had been looking for. The early Catholic missionaries saw that the eagle was an important symbol, and added the snake from their creation story. Do you know that story?"
"I know that Snake invited the Hispanglos' First Man and First Woman to eat—something that they weren't supposed to eat, something that would give them great power. Their god was angry, and cursed them and the snake. And their children, too, I think," Phillip replied. "That's what they mean by original sin, isn't it?"
"A fair telling," the Shaman said. "Their god had forbidden them to eat of a certain tree. Eating the fruit of that tree bestowed on them knowledge of what was good, and of what was evil."
"They didn't know?" Phillip said. "Their god created them without morality?"
"Exactly, although they prefer to think that their First Man and First Women were created as children, as innocents," the Shaman replied. "And yes, their god cursed the Hispanglos' First Man and First woman and their children—all of their children including those born today and those yet to be born. The Hispanglos are born neither innocent nor amoral, but burdened with the guilt of their first ancestors."
"They're born with guilt? With sin? It seems to me that the Hispanglo Christians confuse innocence with ignorance, and knowledge with sin," Phillip said.
"Another fair telling," the Shaman said. "That is a truth which is at the heart of their religion. And one which will eventually destroy it."
"I don't understand," Phillip said.
"If a person does not know what is right and what is wrong, he cannot err—he cannot sin. That is why a child is not responsible for his actions," the Shaman said. "Do you understand, so far?"
"Yes," Phillip said. I know what he's going to say next, Phillip thought. But I'm not sure where this is leading…
"When a child learns what is right and what is wrong, then he is held accountable," the Shaman said. Phillip nodded. Which is why Johnny Two–Horses killed Billy Appaloosa. I wonder if the Shaman—
The Shaman continued. "If a child remains ignorant of right and wrong, he will never err—he will never sin." Phillip nodded, again.
"The Hispanglo fundamentalists have confused secular knowledge with sacred knowledge. First, they have declared that their Bible is inerrant. That, of course, is a foolish notion, because their Bible contains internal inconsistencies and contradictions. So, they have declared that what they really meant was that it was originally inerrant, but that the various translations contain errors. They believe, they can read their Bible and decide what is still inerrant, and what is not. This gives them the freedom to select what they want to believe and what they don't want to believe.
"Second, they have declared that the only history and science they need to know is contained in the Bible. Some have decided to believe that if something isn't in the Bible, it does not exist.
"For example, one group does not celebrate birthdays, because the Bible does not mention a birthday party. Another group does not allow women to speak in their churches, because of an obscure passage."
"It sounds as if there were many different fundamentalist beliefs," Phillip said.
"Yes," the Shaman said. "Each group decides for itself what they will believe and what they will not. And their most fundamental belief gives them that latitude—the latitude to pick the truth.
"Their book permits slavery—of others, of people who do not hold their beliefs—and sets the value of a woman slave at three–fifths the value of a man slave. Even today, some two thousand four hundred years after their book was written, women in their society earn only about sixty percent as much as men in identical jobs." The Shaman shook his head. "And worse, most of them don't even realize the insidious influence those ancient superstitions have on their lives, today.
"Some of them believe that menstruation is a sin, yet I know of none that believe that if their daughter commits adultery she should be stoned to death. Although such a girl, if she is discovered or becomes pregnant, is often cast from their society."
"How can these fundamentalists have so much power?" Phillip asked.
"The answer is neither simple nor singular," the Shaman replied. It is in part because too many of the non–fundamentalists have no direction… they wear their religion like an old pair of shoes. The shoes are so comfortable, they've forgotten they are wearing them, and since a new pair would pinch, they're in no hurry to change.
"The fundamentalists, however, have a guide and a direction and what they believe is a mandate for change, however flawed it is—
"The non—fundamentalists dare not challenge the fundamentalists, because they would be seen to be attacking the core of their own beliefs. Unchecked by reason, unfettered by logic, the fundamentalists grow in numbers and influence.
"The fundamentalists refuse to allow their children to learn cosmology because it shows that the universe in which we now live is millions of times older than the 6,000 years or so of their literal interpretation of the genealogy of the Bible. They refuse to allow their children to learn evolution because evolution allows for the creation of animals and plants by mutation and natural selection, rather than only by their god. Without an understanding of cosmology, they cannot truly comprehend the physical sciences; without an understanding of evolution, they cannot truly comprehend the biological sciences.
"Where they cannot control the school system, they withdraw their children from the schools, and teach them at home. They teach them superstition.
"If they continue to grow in numbers and influence, Hispanglo science will be replaced by darkness and ignorance.
"Do you know why we insist that all our children attend the public schools?"
The Shaman's question surprised Phillip, but he answered quickly, "To learn skills and things they need to get a job, I guess."
"Not a good answer," the Shaman said. "Think again. We teach every child our history and myths; we also teach every child the wisdom that the Greeks and Arabs created and preserved. But, why do you suppose every child reads the Hispanglo playwright's Romeo and Juliet, and the Voyages of Sinbad, and that awful book, Heart of Darkness? Do you really think there's an important lesson in Conrad's book?"
"No," Phillip said, "we all hated it. We used to… Oh."
The Shaman waited patiently.
"School creates a common bond," he said. "Sure, we learn some things that are important. Arithmetic, yes, but analytic geometry? It only gives us all the same thing to complain about. Except for the few that will go to college. Shop class? It teaches useful skills, and every home has at least one shoeshine box—even though few of our people wear smooth leather footgear! But every boy made that shoeshine box! The girls—their home economics class—they were always complaining about an apron—that's it, a calico apron they had to sew. Nobody wears a calico apron!"
The Shaman smiled. "School is only partly about learning skills. It's partly about discovery; the boys and girls who find beauty in analytic geometry may continue to college. The boys who find beauty in woodwork may find their trade in it.
"You didn't mention metal shop, but wasn't that where that you discovered your talent for silver smithing? You didn't mention that every boy also makes a metal waste can, too." The Shaman smiled to take any censure from his words. "Skills and discovery are part of our schools. Equally important, school is about socialization. It's about having a common experience that links us to each other. The Heart of Darkness is more about socialization than literature. I didn't mention Silas Marner, but that's another example.
"Of course, these books do contain life–lessons; it's not entirely about having a common, distasteful experience!
"In any case, in addition to teaching superstition, the homeschoolers are teaching isolation and suspicion. Enough of those and their society will fall apart."
Steel–gray clouds hid the sun; a cold wind whistled over rocks and blew an occasional flake of snow. Phillip looked out of the cave dwelling. "It's going to get colder," he said, "and it looks like there will be a lot of snow."
"I do not like this weather on your world," Argon said. "It is too cold, and the storms blow the wrong way."
"What is your weather like?" Phillip asked.
"Like weather should be," Argon replied. "Sunshine and fair winds in the day, cool and calm at night."
"Do you not have storms?" Phillip asked.
"Oh, yes," Argon replied. "But the Master Mariners know when storms are coming."
More magic, I guess, Phillip thought before he was distracted by Argon burrowing into the blankets.
The snowstorm had passed. The wind had pushed the dry snow into drifts wherever a rock or bit of ancient ruin had slowed its path. Most of the ground was clear. Phillip and Argon sat outside the cave entrance, bundled together in a blanket. The stars were especially bright. "Which one is the sailor's star?" Argon asked.
Phillip thought back to the night he and Argon had first talked about astronomy, and how adamant Argon had been that the stars were not of those of his world. What Argon called the sailor's star was the one around which all the others rotated; it was the pole star, the North Star. Phillip pointed to constellation the Hispanglos called The Big Dipper. "That's Man who Rotates," he said. "The four stars that form a box are his body; the stars that trail down are his penis."
Phillip continued. "The two stars that are his shoulders… on the top of his body… they point to the sailor's star. We call it Igniter of the Revolving Ones. See the zigzag? Phillip gestured with his fingers, drawing a W, and then pointing to Cassiopeia. That's Woman who Rotates."
"That one looks like more like a man," Argon said, pointing to the constellation, Orion. "Shoulders and feet, and a belt with a sword."
"That is a man, according to some people. His name is Orion, and he is a great hunter. We have another man, but he's not in the shy, now. He is Man who Stands with Legs Apart. The Hispanglos call him a crow. When he appears just before dawn, it's time to finish the harvest and prepare for winter.
"Near Orion, see the cluster?" Phillip pointed to the Pleiades. "Those are very important. When they rise in the summer, we know it is time to stop planting maize, because maize planted after that will not ripen before the first frost of winter."
"What are their names?" Argon asked.
"They are called the Sparkling Figures," Phillip said. "The Hispanglos call them the Seven Sisters. I don't know if they each have their own name."
"And the River?" Argon asked, sweeping his hand across the sky, following the Milky Way. "What do you call it?"
"That's the Milky Way," Phillip said. "A river of milk. The old people call it Awaits–the–Dawn."
"We just call it the River," Argon said.
"These are my stars," Argon said, showing Phillip the knotted string he had been working on. "Each knot is an important star. The lines that join the stars are the routes we take when we sail from port to port."
Argon explained the knotted string thing he had made. It's a map of his world's stars, a child's rainy day occupation that becomes a tool of his trade—sailing. He was a sailor, or in training to become one. That's why he was so sure about the stars not being those of his world. It's also why he knows so much about weather—considerably more than I do. Or perhaps not. I have a good feel for what the next day or week or season will bring, but it's all associated with this part of the country. Argon has sailed between several ports, all on different island continents in a tropical region of his world. He is attuned to that weather, and especially to wind and storms.
My aunt comes to visit almost every day. My uncle comes whenever his duties allow. Yesterday, he came directly from a ceremony, and was still wearing his council garb. Argon was fascinated with the beaded designs on the shirt. Today, my aunt brought cloth, thread of sinew, and beads, and is showing him how to make a wampum belt. In return, Argon is trying to show her how to make a star chart from string. I believe he will learn more than he teaches; however, they are having a great time together—which leaves me more time for study. It is good to see Argon laugh!
The Shaman had warned us that they might not enter Argon's world near the point at which Argon left. "First, we don't know where he entered this world; but it probably wasn't in Athabascan territory, or he would not have been taken by the Hispanglo police. It was, therefore, a long way from the kiva. You'll have to be prepared to walk a long distance. Ask Argon what the terrain was like near where he was taken from his world."
"He said he was at his home, on a large island—possibly a continent—he calls Beringia. His home is a coastal village that is surrounded foothill, behind which are mountains," Phillip reported.
"If you enter in the mountains, is it likely that you will find people who will assist you?" the Shaman asked.
"He said that the mountains are uninhabited, except for a few shepherds in the meadows of the foothills," Phillip answered.
"Then you will need supplies, weapons. Can either of you use a bow?"
After speaking to Argon, Phillip shook his head. "I never learned, and Argon said that he did not hunt."
Argon and Phillip's aunt were playing some sort of game with loops of string, a game that seemed not to require words, but which evoked a lot of laughter from Argon. Phillip smiled to see the boy laugh, forgetting his situation if only for a moment. Phillip, his uncle, and the Shaman sat in the sunlight, talking.
"Many things about Argon's world puzzle me. One, in particular, is something I think I must understand," Phillip began. "His people have Priests. His language that is like Latin calls them Klerikos—which sounds more Greek than Latin. They operate churches—Templos—_and something that sounds like monasteries. They conduct daily services, they perform healing, and they conduct rituals at life points including birth, puberty, marriage, and death. But—and this is what's puzzling—they don't worship any god or gods, only _lux, which I am sure translates correctly to light."
The Shaman nodded while Phillip spoke, and then said, "Perhaps it is not surprising that his people have a belief that light–is–good and dark–is–bad. It's something the Hispanglo's ancestors invented thousands of years ago, and something from which they can't seem to escape. A Persian philosopher named Zoroaster started it around 6,000 BCE. Of course, the Hispanglo Catholics don't believe that, in part because they're so sure that the world was not created until 4,000 BCE and in part because they think every part of their religion was revealed to them—and only to them—for the first time by their god. In any case, it was Zoroaster's idea that the universe was a cosmic struggle between truth and un–truth, and that humankind's role was to support the truth. He also invented the idea of human free will—another notion the Catholics claim to be their own. The battle between god and the devil in the Judeo–Christian–Muslim tradition is merely a continuation of those old beliefs.
"Nor will the Hispanglo Catholics acknowledge that their Latin word for god, deus, originated in a much older word from the Hindus' Sanskrit language. The word div and devas means brightness. The Hispanglo Catholics would never acknowledge that their description of their god as the light of the world was plagiarized from an older religion.
"A lot of Hispanglos think we worship a _great spirit… _but that's because they worship a great spirit. They assume, then, that we must, also. Of course, we don't worship the Basket Makers, or First Man and First Woman, or Coyote, or Badger, or Spider. If any of these beings existed other than as teaching aids for little children, they were probably only Shamans.
"Spartus," the Shaman continued. "What was the first word you spoke at your initiation into Kiva?"
Phillip didn't have to think. "Light," he said. "But—the kiva was dark—oh!" Phillip had another epiphany.
"What did we evoke in the first chant at your circumcision? I know that you were one of the few 12–year–olds who knew our language well enough to understand," the Shaman added.
"Light," Phillip answered, this time more surely.
"Think on your oaths—in kiva and in lodge," the Shaman said. "Are you, too, not a servant of the truth and therefore of the light?"
"If you had asked me that last year, I'd not have been able to answer," Phillip said after a moment's reflection. "I knew that your magic was real, but thought that the rituals of the kiva and lodge were—well, mostly ritual, and that they didn't mean anything more than what they said. I mean—" He paused, confused.
"You mean that what you saw and said was all that there was?" his uncle asked. "And now?"
"Now I glimpse something beneath the surface," Phillip said. "I don't yet know what it is. That's the mystery you two are leading me to, isn't it?"
Both of the older men nodded, but it was the Shaman who spoke. "You are ready for the next step."