The past few days have been a little out of the ordinary and in some ways quite surreal and strange …..
Three days ago I visited Helsa. We chatted and joked for a while. She sat cross legged with a small bowl on a cushion in front of her. In her right hand she held a short wooden rod wrapped in leather along half of it’s length. In the folds of her brightly coloured skirt nestled her favourite tingshas. These were small cymbals from the Far Off Sway in the mountains of Lhasam to the west of Rigaa. I sat in front of her and slightly to her left. She was very specific about where I should be seated.
We had sipped fine green tea from bowls made of a porcelain so thin you could see right through it. We ate a delicious soup made from local sea weed and mushrooms. We had exchanged news of the past days. I had told her about the the strange bird business on the train coming east. While hurtling along at speed, just before the great waters at Manstree, I saw what appeared to be a small black bundle of rag thrown from the roof of the train. It turned over and over in the fast turbulence as though thrown by some unseen hand at a great velocity. Suddenly wings appeared from out of the bundle and a great black and green bird began to fly against pale evening sky. I thought there must be some thing wrong with the bird or perhaps there was some thing wrong with me. It all left me with a feeling of sadness and darkness which I could not explain or understand. Soon we pulled into the station and by the time I had disembarked the dark mood had lifted. Helsa and I talked about birds in houses and the old dread of it symbolising an imminent death. She knew a lot about birds and told me she communed with them and other creatures of the field and forest. Her people had done so for centuries.
Helsa was a Markian of Sami from the far north. Her shaman ancestory and legacy was more than merely historic. She was a practising healer and vision decoder. She knew more about the modern science and practice of personality profiling than any one. These skills eventually brought her to near destruction at the hands of the Movro. The Movro were sophisticated and extremely cruel. They were technologically brilliant but seemed only able or willing to use their expertise and power to cause others to suffer. It seemed they had to destroy every thing not Movron and subjugate every one of any other grouping. They had caused most of the suffering in the great East European war. They professed a kind of righteousness based loosely on existing church doctrines but here was not a shred of compassion for any one except their own kin. They had the courage of Spartans but the failings of the old nazis. Like the old nazis they too set out to exterminate half of the world who offended against their crazed aspirations or opposed them in any way at all. Many of Helsa’s people were slaughtered in the name of the Movron revolution which came to nothing. Unlike the great invaders down the centuries such as the Mongols, Vikings and Romans, the Movro left nothing of value when they eventually moved on or returned to their home land
Helsa poured some more tea from a beautiful old pot which was decorated with symbols and characters of a by gone age. We sipped the fragrant brew and were quiet. It was nearly time. There is a quiet place in every one and every where. The old monk Lao Tse spoke of “Sitting quietly doing nothing”. The quiet is absolute. The stillness is breathtaking and the peace is perfect. It sounds very simple though it takes a great deal of practise to attain.
With out any indication or signal Helsa picked up the tingsha and struck them together quickly. The resulting chime was sonorous and crystal clear with many subtle oscillations which rang around the room. Helsa began to chant softly increasing her volume slowly. The words were very beautiful and touching though I did not know their meaning. Helsa would always say the words are vehicles for the sound and not important in them selves. She believed there was an extra dimension to the chant if the words were understood but only on an intellectual level which was not her main interest. She did not think it necessary or even very useful to know the meaning of the words. She claimed the words could be invented at the time by the chanter. She acknowledged other forms of chanting such as those used in the Tibetan tradition used words in form of prayers and mantras and these words were very powerful. She said she had seen her grand father chant while in a trance state using words which were given to him during the ritual and not of his own language. He had taught her to chant for the well being of the peoples at a very early age. It was unusual for a girl to be initiated in the discipline at all. When she was six years her grandfather had made a successful representation to the elders during the spring when the Tundra was green and mosquitoes filled the air with their distinctive sound. Grand father could drive them away. It amused her very much to see the clouds of insects standing off the settled families during meal times. It was as though he commanded the insects against their life instinct to bite and feed off the people. The people would still be living on the lands of their ancestors today were it not for the huge hydro electric damn which flooded much of the earth they had known for thousands of years. Their peaceful entreaties to the despoilers were unconvincing and disregarded. Eventually Helsa’s people were evicted from the homeland and became scattered all over Europa as refugees.
As the chanting began to rise in volume I heard several notes embedded in the main tone of her singing. It was a sweet combination of powerful knowing and ageless innocence and I wondered how she had maintained the ability to express such beauty after experiencing so much evil rained on her by the world and some of the men in it. Listening to the healing sound of this ritual was an extremely emotional experience. I wondered how a women like her could rise above the torture and degradation she had suffered at the hands of the Movro. The sound filled me up until I thought my heart would burst. Here was joy carried on the voice of an angel of the earth, a mystic woman who loved every living thing with a passion and deep commitment to the old laws and traditions of her great people.
Slowly my mind began to empty all thought and it was like falling asleep at the point when you are neither awake nor asleep. I could not move and sat on the floor as though glued fast to it. For a short time a dull ache appeared at the top of my neck below the skull but it quickly disappeared to be replaced by a deep warming glow that spread slowly over my head filling me with a feeling of contentment.
The chanting stopped. I had lost track of passing time. I had remained still in the quiet place for a while when I heard the ringing , singing bowl. Helsa rubbed the little wooden stick around the rim to make the long note sing. I had seen it many times before but never while in the quiet place. It was as though time stretched the note of the bowl and separated all of it’s intricate harmonics. I could hear them all and felt them individually and severally through my whole being. Then she began to chant again and we both saw Maleka the reindeer man. Maleka appeared as the Tindu or rain man dressed in moss and rainbows. He wore a necklace of large black and green feathers. He carried a skin drum painted with the fetishes of the shaman. He danced like a dervish and hopped on one leg while he croaked incantations. He punctuated his utterings with violent spitting. As he spat on the ground a steam of a blueish hue rose from his spittle. There was a faint smell of aloe and some spice I did not recognise. The Tindu began to beat the drum as he spat and incanted his runic prayers. We watched him turn black and then fall to the floor writhing. He lay there for some time during which I was completely unable to move. Eventually the Tindu regained his colour and sat up straight very quickly. He stood up and came towards me. He spoke to me in my own language saying just these few words but I will remember them forever - “Your gone people are well. Your child pain is yours to throw away to the far winds”. It was as though he knew my preoccupations and what troubled me most. Had the shaman as the Tindu crossed over to the place of the dead and brought back news of my passed people?
It was some time before I came back into myself. Helsa and the Tindu were gone. I never saw them again. This is what happened. That is all I can tell you. It is all I know.
copyright e d g a r b r o u g h t o n 2008
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