Monday, March 12, 2012

The StarMaiden...

Toraja funeral casket with StarMaiden Symbol (Celebes, Indonesia)

Following is an excerpt from ‘Surcadia’. It is a fictitious letter written to the hero in the novel but everything in it is true and as it happened to me and was told to me. It explains how I first was drawn into the Native path and how I came to know my first ‘Star Maiden’ story.

The novel takes place in the present in a world imagined as if a certain young black senator had been assassinated and never became president. Instead the forces on the extreme right take over and people everywhere are being imprisoned and harassed for their non-Christian beliefs. Here, the hero’s father writes her from a prison deep within the Black Hills…

“Dearest daughter,

Forgive my penmanship and my poor stationery. The somewhat gruesome ink is only because I have the pleasure of receiving insulin three times a day and I am able to retrieve a little blood each time to make ink to fill my pen made also made with a syringe. I hope you are well and happy and I hope that this comes to you at an opportune time. I must tell you before anything else that I am writing this from a prison somewhere unknown and that, if I am alive, I will have been here for several years.  
It is possible that I am dead as they have no desire to give me a trial or release me. Some of my cellmates are from G’tmo and have been held for at least five years with no charges or trial. Most have been executed. If this is my fate, I have left instructions to send this to you along with a certain important package.  If you get this you must hide it well or even burn it. The package is why I am being held and ‘questioned’ every day. 

I cannot expect you to read this without saying and knowing that this letter should be about how much I love you, miss you and how sorry I am for leaving you yet again.  When you were five it was because of a broken heart; now it seems to be because of a broken dream.  There is always a reason and never an excuse. Please forgive me.

It should be about all of that but please know that my explanation and plea to you is filled with love and hope but even more so for your future and our cause. I was arrested several weeks before the passage of the ‘One Nation Act’ and have been held here without explanation, charges or trial.  I cannot risk explanations that might implicate our friends or me or let them know who we are but I am sure you and Googie can figure it out.

The address on the box will tell you what to do if you decide not to do this and if it is money that you really need then I would understand if you sold the coral box.  It is a handmade coral box originally made as a sort of spiritual time capsule.  It was buried under a small tree that was planted in a point on the map named after your dog.  

Buddhist Monks buried it there along with the first tree. The somewhat unbelievable date was 1491 and it can be dated and proved by opening the resin ball hidden in the base under the seal and dating it along with checking the DNA of the area trees where it was hidden.  There are none like them anywhere in this country.

The coral and the dragons were supposed to ward off bad witches and the Muslim Junk Fleet captain also scratched his name in the bottom along with a curse. Not only am I suggesting that the Chinese discovered America but something and some place even more important.  I cannot tell you where or why but it is imperative that you find it and that you discover why I am being held here.

Before you were born I was a union president and organizer. One day a fellow organizer from a sister union asked me to accompany him down to Kalamazoo.  We lived in Michigan. Thinking it was some union thing; I went with him.

Just before we got to Kazoo we inexplicably turned west, went off-road and were soon in the woods.  We drove down a long two track and soon we were driving on long unrutted grass.  I asked Roger where we were going and he just smiled his inscrutable Ojibwe Indian smile and handed me a cigarette.

We approached a clearing where a long pine bough and bent sapling building had been erected and there were probably a hundred people gathered around and a giant fire was roaring near a smaller building just like the first but much smaller.  So small that it seemed too small to stand in.  

It was.  The effect was of a giant mother and baby bear sleeping by a fire.  

We got out as a half-dozen men approached us who appeared to be Native.  Even the blued eyed ones had that look, attitude and posture that I would soon recognize united the Anishnabe people of the area.  Ojibwe, Pottawatami and Odawa were of different stock but united by two things; their religion and that look.  You couldn’t tell if they were going to laugh with or kill you.

I began to learn this and more that day as the oldest man came forward and introduced himself as George. Everyone called him GrandPa and he seemed to be in charge. He must have been eighty but he seemed much younger than even the young black haired men that surrounded him. He seemed unusually happy and quite ‘scrutable’ if that is a word and, if that look and attitude defined that, than he must have invented it.  

He held out his arm and took my forearm, pulling my whole body to his. He was quite strong and I felt as if he were talking directly in my ear.

“B’jou an’ Miigwetch – Thank you for coming. I have been waiting for you. Come to the longhouse so that we can talk. Have you brought some shorts? It gets awful hot in there.” He gestured to the little round building by the roaring fire.

Roger looked rather sheepish at GrandPa and then he looked at me. “GrandPa, er… I didn’t tell him that part…” GrandPa stopped. We all stopped. He grinned again, “Or any part.”

GrandPa laughed. “Roger Dodger.” He laughed again. “How you gonna lead your union army if you’re a chicken shit warrior?”

“It’s not an army GrandPa. I keep telling you.”

“ And I keep telling you that’s why you’re losing the war.”

GrandPa looked at me. “My apologies for my nephew. That is not our way. He’ll drive you back if you don’t want to be here but I asked him to invite you to sweat with us.”

I was taken aback. I wasn’t very religious and I told him so. Quite the opposite.  No offense to his gods.

He laughed his grunting laugh again.  “None taken.  Don’t have to believe to sweat.  Not like baptism.  More like bein’ born in'it?  Its just natural ‘cept they want us to wear shorts now.  Ain’t no women sweatin’ tonight so we could go nuders like the old folk… hmmm... Guess not. What 
are you? About a thirty four, thirty six?”

I don’t remember actually agreeing to sweat.  I just seemed to be swept into the longhouse and was putting on cutoff jeans before I knew it.  I was watching Grandpa quietly direct the fire-keepers as the sun was setting and the fire was crackling towers of sparks into the new night and I realized that I was staying for reasons that were not just politeness.  As they put the last wood on the white hot round rocks, we lined up to go in.

I went in last and was sitting by the little door as Grandpa pulled the flap down and it got incredibly dark. The rocks that had just been piled in by using deer antlers as tongs glowed an eerie red and the place smelled of cedar, sage and the burnt hair smell of the antlers used to move the hot rocks.

I was not a religious or even a spiritual man then but I felt oddly and totally at home there sitting in the dark steamy lodge.  GrandPa sang in a loud clear voice and then he prayed for each man in the lodge as if they had given him a list or as if he knew each of them intimately.  Then he prayed for me as if I had also given my list and then he prayed for the great ‘union’ army.

He opened the flap and asked for more rocks and then, when the flaps were closed again and the water had been poured on the hissing rocks, he spoke again.

“This is a special day.  Our brother Theo is here.  My nephew Roger brung him and I’ve been waiting over forty years to tell this story.  Back in ’44 I was stationed in Guam during the Big One and I got a three day pass to go down to Australia or Bali for a leave. We got pinned down by pirates off an island called Celebes.

These were Bugis pirates.  These were the guys the sailors used to call the boogeymen.  That’s where that word came from and they didn’t give a rats ass about the war or what side we were on.  They wanted our boat, gas and rations and then they stranded us on a volcano island.

Spent six month there and that’s where an old medicine man from down there told me this story. I told him about how we Anishnabs came from the StarMaiden and he told me this story.  Said I would find one of his people one day and the story would carry him home just as sure as my story would take me back home.

He said the seven sisters came down from the stars every so often to bathe in the waters of a lake at the top of the volcano, which was on the very island we were on. One day they came down and, they didn’t know it, but a great prince had been exiled there by his father so that his younger brother could be the king.

The prince saw the women fly down from the stars holding open their sarongs like wings just like our butterfly shawls only prettier. They flew down, folded their sarongs and bathed nuders in the water. They didn’t have water where they were from.

The prince spied as they bathed and as he did he fell in love with the youngest one.  He was afraid they would leave so he came up with a plan.  He would steal their sarongs and then they couldn’t fly away.

When they came out of the water they looked for their sarongs.  That’s their skirts. The sisters laughed when they saw his footprints were they had left their sarongs.  They followed the footprints and they surrounded him and surprised him as he hid sitting on their sarongs.  They demanded their 
sarongs and he apologized saying he just wanted to meet them, especially the youngest one.

He gave each of them their sarongs and he begged them to stay telling them his sad story.  They told him they had to leave as they were only allowed to be there for thirteen moons altogether and they had to save their time.

By now it was obvious that the youngest had also fallen in love and she begged her sisters to give up their moons so that she could stay at least thirteen moons.  The sisters all loved the youngest one and they agreed but warned her that eventually she would have to leave and come home and could never come back.

She didn’t care and they fell in love and soon they had a son.  Too soon after that it was the thirteenth moon and she had to leave both the prince and her son.

On the day she was to go back she kneeled on the place where they had met and drew a picture in the sand that looks like our starwater lily: 

She told her prince that if he could decode the symbol that he could find her.  If not, then her son would get a new symbol and so on when each new king died and when the last king died without an heir all of the symbols would come together and in that generation all would go home to the seventh sister.

Generations and kings went by and soon the Whiteman came and took away the prince’s religion.  For, you see, the natives, like us, had been given the pipe.  They had been using it to bring together and decode the symbols and now those ways had been forgotten, forsaken or killed.  

One day many ships arrived and the people were forced to fill it with all of the treasures of the island.  You see the Whiteman had had a war between themselves for fifty years in a far off land called New Amsterdam.  They signed a peace treaty and they agreed that the English would own 
New Amsterdam and they renamed it New York.  In exchange, the Dutch would get Celebes and they would fill twenty some boats with all of the spices and trees and coconuts of the islands and two-thousand slaves and they would turn New York into a tropical paradise.

The plan failed.  The seeds and trees refused to grow in the cold Manhattan Island the Dutch had purchased for a few trinkets and the slaves never made it ashore.  Seems they all decided to go to the next life rather than live in New York.

The one thing that did not fail was the plan of a medicine man that had filled the boat with strong twists of sacred black tobacco in hopes that they would be recognized and the way of the pipe would return so the symbols could be decoded.  The English and the Dutch loathed the burnt tasting new tobacco and traded it to the French who brought it west where it came just in time for White Buffalo Calf woman who had just brought the sacred Pipe to our ‘friends’ the Lakota.  It is this tobacco that they smoked and, in the words of their prophecies, they will return to their StarMaiden when the twentieth pipe-holder is named.  In our tradition we will go home when we remember the way of the lodge and our seventh fire prophecy says that a new people will be born but the old people will have fallen asleep.

I tell this story for you because you will carry the pipe back to your people; you will put the symbols together.  I tell this because you will bring this story to our former enemies, the Lakota and they will give you their pipe as well.  They will tell you their story and you will see we are all one.

You will be Anishnabe and Mide because your ancestor saved my life. I will now save yours.  I do this not for you but for your daughter and my daughter for they are the new ones and we have truly fallen asleep. Awanestika!

And with this, my first sweat lodge was over. I was an agnostic radical political artist with two small babies and a mortgage and I didn’t have time for this weird stuff. Within five years, I was living in the Black Hills of South Dakota and you were born. I was taught and given the pipes of both the Anishnabe in Michigan, the Lakota out West, Eastern Cherokee and a few out west I won’t name. I wish I could tell you that story and maybe your mother has, though I doubt it.

The Lakota named you Deep Blue Water Cloud Woman because you were born by the big rock that had the mysterious picture of the whale. They said you would touch the ocean and look into mirror of the deep blue water and remember yourself. 

The twentieth pipe holder may be named by the time you receive this, the last king of Toraja was born without an heir in 1979 and the ‘new people’ are the ones like you are who started popping up after the Summer of Love. The old people have fallen asleep but not all and they left behind enough clues to take you there.

I cannot tell you I love you enough or how sorry I am. All I offer you is the same danger that put me here and may have killed me. If this is not your destiny, then forgive a crazy old man and sell the box, change your name and hide. If I am not wrong and this is your destiny than this is the best I can offer for you and our planet. I hope it is enough.

I love you to infinity and beyond –Dad”

Over the years I have collected many more StarMaiden stories and, I believe, a pattern emerges. They all say that we will return someday to the Pleiades. That there are symbols to be deciphered. That the world will reach some sort of turning point (again) and that it will be the children who are our hope.

Like our Ghost Dance discussion, I dont really think that we will be heading back to the Pleiades soon but to a state that that image represents. Like the Garden of Eden or the Buffaloes return it is a metaphor for peace and abundance. In most cultires, the appearnce of the Seven Sisters always signaled the beginning of Spring or a new era.

Like Spring, I hope to see it soon...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I met Tom in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He was staying at my friends’ tipi camp. My friends are Bavarian and like many Germans, Austrians and Bavarians are crazy about the Lakota. These Tipi camps are all over the Black Hills and are swarmed by thousands of Germanic people every summer.

Tom was different though. He wasn’t a tourist and he already knew a great deal about the Lakota for a young man of twenty six. Tom owned a store in Hamburg called Tate Topa or The Four Winds, where he sold Lakota goods in the middle of the big city.

Tipi camps are odd places where you can see dozens of white older men in full war bonnet regalia playing Indian along with natives who are paid to hang out and play drums, shoot bows, lead hunts or smoke their pipe but this wasn’t why Tom Gold had come here. He didn’t wear costumes or join the activities set up for the others. He came because he knew that my friends were friends with the four men who were the care takers of Bear Butte.

Bear Butte is one of the sacred spots on the Lakota Medicine Wheel that is the Black Hills and it is where one goes to seek a vision. This was Tom’s dream. Hanbleceya. His sleeping dream and his waking dream. If Life is the Dream of the Spirit, his Spirit wanted to go to a dusty little bump on the edge of the plains by a town known more for bikers than being a holy place.

I accompanied Tom and my friend to Bear Butte a few weeks after the medicine man who had been given tobacco had talked to the other three and they had prayed to see if Tom would be allowed to visit. This had taken weeks and Tom had patiently stayed until he was asked to come up.

The encampment was a few trailers and a couple of old canvas tipis with a ragtag collection of cars. Some looked like they ran. Others, not so much. As we approached we were surrounded by children who knew that cars that approached Bear Butte would invariably be bringing chocolate, the customary offering left on the hill since a man in a movie called Pow Wow Highway had left a Hershey bar when he had no tobacco.

We had brought plenty of chocolate, tobacco, firewood, stones and coca cola. Tom was greeted warily and a sweat lodge fire was already cooking rocks when we arrived. No time was wasted and four pipes were on the altar. I knew from my own hazing that this was intended to make the newby sick. In Lakota tradition, you smoke every pipe offered and all smoke till each pipe is totally gone.

We sat around the small fire with our backs to the bonfire blazing behind us on a day that was already in the nineties and smoked pipe after pipe as young Akicitas (warrior society men) brought their pipes to the circle and left making six of us to smoke eight pipes. When we were done the old men looked at Tom who just said, ‘Washte in’t?’ It is good isn’t it? They laughed and we stripped down to go into the lodge.

When we were all in there the oldest man went in last and he pulled two buckets in with him. A sign that this would be hot. We needed no signs as the tiny lodge had already been loaded with white hot rocks as if it were a winter lodge. The old man signaled for the flap to be closed and admonished the dog soldiers to sit on the flap so know light could come in. Or get out. The old men laughed as the word for ‘light’ and ‘white’ were the same.

The old medicine man began feeding water to the rocks making it unbearably hot even before we prayed. He sang the customary song and suddenly his voice faltered. He was silent. Even before the second direction had been sung.

‘I am being told that I am being rude to our guest.’ The only sound was the shifting of the other men who were not sure what was happening. The old man continued. ‘I am being told to sing a different song to our friend. A song so old we only know the first four directions and even my grandfather had never learned the other directions. It is that old.’

With this he began to sing. The other two Lakota medicine men joined in and the Cheyenne Heyoka seated next to me was quiet. Neither of us had heard this song. The others sang all of the four directions and then they fell silent.

Out of that darkness a clear young voice began to sing. It was Tom Gold and he proceeded to sing the other three directions. When he had finished it was more silent than ever. The silence was broken by the Heyoka’s laugh and soon they were all laughing. “Washte young kola… How do you know our song?’

‘I grew up in Germany on the border with France and when I was young I was adopted by our neighbors on the French side. Their large farm had been started by a Lakota who had come through with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West a  hundred years before. He had fallen in love with a French girl and they settled in what was then a part of Germany. They spoke French, German and Lakota and they also sang this song. He was a Ghost dancer and his great grandson still has his Ghost Shirt.’

We all had said our prayers and ended up staying four days at he little encampment as the old men drummed and smoked, singing every song they knew and learning many more from a young German who knew many songs they had never heard. At one point they had driven into town to buy a small cassette recorder and (against their own rules) they recorded the songs. Often stopping to ask Tom what certain words were as most of them were from the old language.

Many weeks later, Tom was invited back for his Hanbleceya and vision quest and when he came down off the mountain, the old men did something they had never done before. They asked a white man, a foreigner, to Sun Dance.

The Sun Dance was to be held on a barren butte in Wyoming, not far from where I lived. Tom would be allowed to be pierced but no one was allowed to help him or touch him as he had no family there. Tom accepted this and made no expression as the wooden stakes were pierced into his chest and poked out again as was the old custom.

Tom and twenty or so other men danced and by the third day all but two remained as the others had been torn away by their families or had collapsed and been removed by the Sundance head man and his medicine men. Only Tom and a young Lakota remained. They were opposite each other and neither had eaten or had water for four days. Tom Gold was sunburned and his lips were a ghostly cracked white against his burned and peeling face.

It was in the afternoon that we first heard the thunder. Long before we saw the clouds we heard them. By three they were a giant wall of gray seen from the butte and by five lightning was visible all along its length.  People talked as the West wind was blowing hard in front of this storm and it was now moving faster then ever. 

Families were quickly breaking down their camps and by six, only the Sundance Arbor and a lone Tipi remained. All others were huddled in cars and campers tat had been circled to brace against the summer storm. Storms like these often sped unimpeded across the plains but would suddenly arise and dump down heavily when they encounterd the large Black Hills. We were on the edge and the side were that dumping happened.

As the rain started the men in the lone Tipi set extra poles against the wind and debated about what to do about the two remaining men. By seven, the dog soldiers had taken down the tipi as it was not a good idea to leave a tall structure on a tall butte in a lightning storm.

The medicine men had decided that they would wait as long as possible to see if the two remaining men could tear themselves from the tree. The young Lakota man had waived off  his family in an effort to not be bested by a Wasicu, a white man and his family stood bravely in the rain waiting to pull him to safety. They were all aware that the lone forty foot tall tree that had been erected on this butte was the tallest thing for as far as the eye could see and the tallest thing in the path of a storm that was now directly overhead raining hail, water and lightning everywhere. 

When a bolt of lightning hit so close that it seemed to shake the butte, the medicine men ran towards Tom Gold as the family ran to the young Lakota. The men in the family quickly grabbed his arms and pulled him ripping his rope thongs right out of his chest muscles. His screams were of humiliation as much as it was of the pain.

The old men never made it to Tom Gold. A second after the young Lakota had been dragged to safety; lightning hit the tree in a series of strikes that seemed to come from every direction. One strike seemed to bounce off the tree and hit Tom Gold in the face. He flew back tearing the thongs out of his chest and into the arms of the old men who seemed to have caught him.

Others rushed in to drag the old men and Tom to safety and they were all huddled behind a camper over the body of Tom Gold. One of his wounds was bleeding profusely, the other was not having been burned shut by the lightning. A doctor was moving everyone aside while putting pressure on the wound. As he arose to his knees to begin CPR something happened that startled the circle and everyone, including the doctor jumped back. 

Tom Gold blinked.

He blinked again and coughed a little. He tried to sit up and the doctor held him down. He struggled groggily and said a word. Bitte. Please. The doctor let him up and Tom sat quietly. He felt his nose gingerly. The bruises under his eyes were already showing that his nose was broken but other than that. Tom Gold was okay. His second words were ‘Washte’. Good.

Days later I was on Bear Butte and I asked the medicine man there what he thought of this and what had happened to Tom. He was one of the medicine men at the Sundance and he thought a long time before he spoke.

“Many years ago there was a prophet named Wovoka.” He began, “The people were dying, the buffalo was gone. This Crow Talker or Paiute man dreamed of a dance and said that if we whoever would do this dance would come back on the day that the Buffalo returned.

“If you imagine hundreds of thousands of Lakotas who had become Ghost Dancers out there as Spirits waiting to come into a body these days of the last pipe, than you will see that there is only a hundred thousand or so bodies to go into. 

“We as Lakotas are suffering. Maybe rightly so if you imagine the suffering we caused when the Horse was brought. It is like the Buddhist Kharma in’t. Many people laugh at the way the Germans want to be Lakotas and I suppose that we are kindred in spirit.

“Tom Gold is Bavarian and his people are a tribe. Like us they call themselves the Eagle Nation. Like us they have a pipe and prophecies. Like us they have lost their way and have caused pain on the neighboring tribes. We share the belief that we come from the Star Maiden. We also share Kharma. If you were NDN would you want to be a spirit in a man like Tom Gold? A man who knows the language, the songs and walks the road like we all used to? Or would you go to the res to be reborn?

‘Wovoka was raised by the Wasicu priests and his vision wasn’t like any other native vision. He said we were all medicine men. We all can have visions. We all can dream. It gave us hope. That was new. Or maybe so old it was new again, like the song.”

He thought a moment and laughed. “I chose this old broken down body, living in a trailer on a desert bump that burns down every time it storms. I should have chosen a body that lives in a warm sandy beach where the shaman drink out of coconuts and dream of fishing. All is Mystery, in’t…


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rest of the story...

I think of 'shamanic experiences' as both intentional; as when we go into ceremony or ritual and synchronistic; those things that happen to us shamanically when we are open intentionally and not. I'm often in the 'not' category and that's when it hits me...

I was at the lowest point of my life. Cliche really. Wife ran off with best friend, took children. I am jobless, car is in the shop and I have no money to fix it. The people I am staying with are being evicted and they have no room to take me to Florida where they are going. It is February. In the Black Hills of South Dakota. It's my birthday.

I walk to the edge of Hot Springs to see David American Horse, a shaman if there ever was one. A shaman who lived in a trailer with one chair, a tv tray and a mattress.

I told him my plight and he said, 'in Lakota we have a saying for that...'

'What is it Grandfather?'

You're fucked...'

'I already knew that.'

'So, Chicken Little, have you cried for a vision?'

'Of course, said my prayers, put out my tobacco...'.

He interrupted me. 'No, I mean cry. Like a baby. Get on your knees and wail till you get an answer.'


'Dont talk to me till you've been to the badlands and cried.'

'Its February. How long should I stay?'

'Till you get an answer or till you give up.'

'What shall I bring?'

'You're pipe and you'll want to steal a lighter cuz matches make the spirits laugh out there. No food. You have crying to do.'

I spent the next three days and nights huddled under my friends truck, crying in the bleak windy and freezing place that people who live in the worst place on earth call the Bad Lands.'

On the third night of nothing but the sound of my rasping cries, I quit. I screamed at the creator, 'I'm leaving , if you want me to do something than show your face. I don't care what it is. Whatever it is, just show it to me when I wake up and I'll go there and do whatever.' I went back to my friend's couch and slept until the doorbell rang. Three hours max.

My friend rushed to the door and there was a package. A big box that he pulled in excitedly. He tore it open and tore out wads of newspaper until the box was empty. He tore through the paper looking for something, anything and finally tore the box apart in disgust. When he did that a postcard fell out. He read it and threw it my way,'Must be yours, I'm going back to bed.'

I looked at the postcard and it was a picture of the ocean, a beautiful sunset off a rocky green coast. I turned it over. It said, 'Big Sur, view from Nepenthe.' The card was from a woman I had never met and said 'ha ha, wish you were here.' That was my sign. I was going to Big Sur...

When I woke up later that morning I announced to my friends that I was moving to Big Sur. They laughed at me and asked if I knew where Big Sur was.

‘Not exactly’

They informed me that only millionaires and billionaires lived there and I said, ‘What about your friend?’

‘Oh yeah, and crazy people.’

I was helping them move that afternoon, carrying dozens of boxes of books my friend owned from his dirt basement. As I carried an overloaded box up his rickety open stairs, it broke open spilling books everywhere including under the stairs. I turned around to pick up the mess and one single book had made it all the way down to the bottom of the stairs. It was opened up like a bible on display at a church only it was on the dirt floor.

I ran down and was reading the book trying to look for some sort of meaning but it was indescribably meaningless. It was Carlos Castaneda’s ‘Eagles’ Gift’.  My friend came running down and asked, ‘Are you ok?’

‘Yeah. Just reading.’ I slammed the book shut in disgust and that’s when I noticed that there was a business card sticking out where the book had opened to.  I read it and it was the business card of a friend I had not seen in years and had lost track of when we both moved.

‘How do you know William?’

‘Oh that guy… He sort of saved my life when I hit bottom.’

‘When were you in Colorado?’ Where he last lived.

‘No, I was living in Miami, coked out and crazy. He came up to me at a 'cafĂ© cubano' line and started to massage my neck. I thought he was gay and threatened him. He backed off and said that he could tell I had hit bottom.  I told him to fuck off and left without coffee.

‘The next day, I was sitting miles away at a bench in South Beach and the same dude sits down right next to me. He says, ‘I know you think this is weird but I had a dream about you and knew I would find you here. He gave me the book and said to call him anytime. I told him to fuck off.

‘That day, I went to work and ran into my boss lady in the parking lot. She looked at the book and asked where I got it. I told her about the crazy guy and she said, I was coming out here to fire you as my manager. If you take a week off and read that book I wont fire you.''

‘I read the damn book.  Twice. I didn’t understand it. It made me mad and I couldn’t stop reading it. I went to a used book shop and bought the other books. A week later, I went back to work and as I was about to talk to my boss, I just cried. I cried like a baby in the arms of a rich, spoiled Cuban girl and she held me just like a baby.

That week, she took me to Oaxaca and introduced me to the string of medicine people which is how I met you. How do you know him?’

‘I did a bunch of readings for him and his friends in SteamBoat Springs and then we lost track of each others.’ I told him that I had to call him and that I’d pick up the books as soon as I called him.

I called the number and a woman answered and said he wasn’t there but could she take a message. ‘Could you tell her Ted Jauw called and would he please call me back.’

The woman on the other end gasped audibly. ‘Did you say, Ted Jauw?’


‘Umm, William canceled all his appointments today and said he was going home until you called him. I’ll try calling him right away…’

Within minutes he called back and told me that he had been dreaming of me for the last four days and that the dream was so disturbing and horrible he couldn’t sleep and kept coming back to the dream every time he did sleep. Finally, today he couldn’t stand it anymore and went home to sit on his couch and do yoga and call  me on his ‘aboriginal radio’.

I laughed and asked him about his dream. He said he dreamed that I was on Mars and that I was screaming but no one could hear me. I quickly told him what had happened and he said in Buddhism we also have a phrase for that, ‘Dude, You’re fucked…’

He then told me that when we last were together I had done a series of divinations for him and his friends and they had collected money to send me but then he moved and I moved and he’d been sitting on $450.00 for the last few years. He said he would scrape together more and would send it to me. He would see his friends for breakfast soon and ask them to help me too. Then he asked what my palns were.

I was not going to tell him what I had decided after the last time I told my friends. I told him I didn’t know, maybe go back to school.  He suggested I get a massage degree and I could make as much money as he did especially since I knew native modalities hed never heard of. I asked him where he went to school and he said Esalen. I asked him where that was and he said, ‘Big Sur. Have you heard of it?’

The next day I borrowed my friends truck to say goodbye to my children about a hundred miles away. When I got there we had an awkward day with my wife and my best friend now living together. My boys and I walked in the cold and when I got back it was time to leave.

My ex wife handed me a box and said that she was working in a bookstore now and had found this book. She said they don’t sell these books because the author was pornographic but her boss told her that the guy who wrote it was thirty nine when he published his first book. Thought it might inspire me. Happy Birthday.

I think she meant is as a joke or even a jab as my wanting to write a novel is something I had never finished like many dreams I had shared with her.  Maybe it was a peace offering. When I opened the book though, I must have seemed crazy as I hugged her. It was a book by Henry Miller called ‘Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch.’

I drove the hundred miles back to Hot Springs sad to leave my children but at least feeling there was some kind of hope.  When I got back there was a Western Union check at the Pamida waiting for me for $650.00 along with a note to standby…

The following day I put $600.00 down on my car and helped my friends load their truck as the next day would be their eviction day.  I talked to my friend in Colorado that night and he was excited to get my call…

‘We got together for breakfast and I told everyone your story and we collected a thousand dollars… But that’s not the best part.’

He then told me that as they were talking an older woman pulled up her chair and said, ‘excuse me but I cant help but over hearing you talking about Ted Jauw...’

My friend asked, ‘Do you know him?’

‘No, but I’m a Jungian Psychoanalyst and his teacher was my teacher. When she died she passed her notes to me of her teachings with her last apprentice. That was him. It has to be. How many Ted Jauws are there?’

‘I heard you were sending him to Esalen and I want to help.  I studied there with Fritz Perls and Ida Rolf.  Ill pay for any one week session there and here’s a check for a thousand dollars.’ She had already written it out and handed it to William. Her story brought on more discussion and more donations and the upshot was that when I woke up there would be over two thousand dollars at the Pamida in a Western Union check.

William asked what workshop I would take and I had no clue but wanted something without the words ‘human’, ‘potential’ or ‘movement’ in it. ‘Gestalt’ and ‘scream’ and ‘therapy’ was also out. I had looked at their online offerings, a lot of processing and yoga, massage and naked people.

William apparently was online as we spoke because he said, ‘Here’s one. Its fun mindless and different. Plus us old hippies think he a gas.’ He used the old word like he had a million times.

‘Who’s that?’

He put on his best hippy/hipster voice and said. ‘There’s this cat named Baba Olatunji that played Woodstock with Santana.’

He had no idea what that meant to me.  For the past several years I had been working with women in the Yoruba tradition called Ifa. It was the parent of Santeria, Lacumi, Candomble and many other mixed religions of the Carribean Diaspora..

More important, It was at the home of a Yoruba Priestess in Scottsdale Az. That I had received the news of my divorce. I had gone there to look for work and my friend had gathered her priestesses and initiates for a feast. In the middle of dinner they all suddenly left and she asked me to wait for her in the swimming pool and, as I was used to their often erratic ways, I went into the pool and waited. In a short time she came out fully clothed in white robes, headdress and ceremonial beads.

She walked into her pool fully dressed and was about to say something when her head snapped back, her eyes rolled back and a voice, not hers, came out. I had heard that voice many years ago at the end of a seven hour divination that had ended with that voice telling me that I would lose everything one day and on that day she would speak to me again.

So here she was. She said she was Yemaya and pronounced it like the Brazilians do. She said that in two days that my wife would call me and say that she wanted a divorce, was with my friend and had sold everything so that they could move in together. I was in shock. I ran out of the pool and tried desparately to call home. Tried to call anyone and no one, no friend, no relative would take my call.

Two days later the phone rang and my friend simply handed it to me without even asking who it was. It was all true.

My friend told me that at their divination for the new year that someone would ‘lose their head on this day’. They had been charged with putting that person back together and giving him whatever was needed to restore his head, which is their word for destiny.

They did healings, massages, rogacion, many prayers and many divinations. I was in too much shock to resist, care or understand a lot of what they did but what I do remember is that they did a divination to understand what my ‘orisha’ was. Like a totem animal. It was a story and a being that held the archetypal life story that I was living. It explained my predicament.

I was told that I was the headless mermaid and that my friend only knew one other person who had lived that story and survived. It was her friend and mentor, fellow priest Babatunde Olatunji.

After this a whole series of things happened that would be a whole book onto itself but the upshot was that it had left me broke, homeless and carless in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Now William was telling me that Babatunde Olatunji was at Esalen.  I had been told that my life would be a mess until I sat at the ocean and a priest of the Yoruba Tradition would sit down beside me and tell me what to do next to save my life.  The priestesses had already sent me to LA to be at the ocean but had warned that if fishes died that I would have to leave immediately. They bought me an open ended ticket. After two weeks at a friends’, I finally had made it to the beach and nothing happened. When we got home all his prized saltwater fish were dead. I left that night.

 William listened to my story and just said, ‘I guess you know what you have to do now…’

The next day I retrieved the car, and the money, said goodbye to my friends with a little money that I thought I could spare and slept that night in the empty house. The next morning I left. For Big Sur.

It took me longer than I thought and more than I thought as well. When I arrived it was March 2nd and I pulled into a parking lot at midnight wondering exactly where Big Sur was. I pulled up to a phone booth and a guy stepped out and asked for a ride down the coast. I asked him where Big Sur was and he said, ‘You’re looking at it.’

Turns out that Big Sur isn’t really a town but a rugged stretch of ninety miles of impossible coastline bisected by a single highway. Dirt roads will lead you to hidden roads where millionaires and billionaires live but, other than that, it’s a few stores, a post office and a single gas station on a long windy road.

After calling my friends to tell them I was okay, I took the barefoot, white Rastafarian named Adam down to a stream where he lived in a camp and he pointed the way to Esalen. Adam was partially deaf and spoke the clipped cadence of the deaf with a California accent. He also signed as if I could understand. He then hugged me like a Californian gave me a large pot bud from a bag of even larger skunky buds and disappeared into the forest.

I parked by the side of the road and slept till the sun and cars woke me up and rolled down the hill to a little store. I only had ten bucks left and I went in and bought two packs of cigarettes. The kind lady behind the counter said, ‘That’ll be $10.52 please.’ I stared at her like she had just killed my dog. She repeated it and I excused myself to scrounge the car for fifty two cents. I found fifty four.

So it was with 2 pennies that I rolled into Esalen that morning. I had a check for the week and I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

That day we were shown our quarters given a tour and left to eat at the large mostly vegetarian dining room. Their baked breads were outrageous and I stowed away a loaf and some home made goat cheese not believing my good fortune.

That afternoon we began the workshop and there was no Babatunde Olatunji to be found. We were assured that he is a night owl and would teach that night. I was disappointed too to find that I was not only the youngest person there but, apparently, this workshop was entirely for old rich ladies many who spoke little English and most with no rhythm.

After dinner Baba appeared in full Yoruba regalia led by two women who were his singers and dancers. Baba’s both hands were bandaged. The result of losing two more fingers to diabetes that week. He was frail, old and he was also completely blind.

He smiled a huge smile and was led to his drum. A drum which he never played. He only pointed to it as he taught us what we had already been taught that afternoon. That night I realized two things.  The first was that he was not who I imagined and the second was that his caretakers would let no one near him. They whisked him off before the rest of us were finished.

The next two days were more of the same. For a guy who was sitting naked in California, in hottubs, with naked women every day, I was fairly unhappy.  I was really more scared than anything else.

On the third day I went to the workshop area to find a sign that said it was closed for a special ceremony that day. I went to the dining room to find it oddly empty and fixed myself a bowl of soup and some more of their sourdough.

I sat down facing the ocean and had been alone for half an hour when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked at the black rough hands and the bandaged nubs and I didn’t even have to turn around. It was Baba Olatunji.

I turned around quickly and got up. There were no handlers, no entourage and no nurse.  I looked at Baba and he was grinning as if he could read my mind.

He grinned wider, ‘I escaped.’

He let me help him onto a seat at the end of the table that turned out to be his special seat. Baba had moved there the week after Woodstock and was revered and loved by all. He smelled my soup and smiled. ‘They have any soup with meat?’

I laughed. We were two carnivores in a vegetarian world. I then realized that Baba was dressed entirely in white. He had his beads on and a ceremonial white embroidered pillbox hat. I crossed my arms as if he could see them and said, ‘Ashe Baba Ori Ye Ye.’ The customary greeting to his Orisa. I hurriedly explained or babbled that I was told by divination that I would have a priest of his faith sit beside me in white and that man would tell me what to do next.

I also explained that we had mutual friends and that I was told we had the same exact Orisa.

‘Oh yes..? Who would that be?’ He said never losing his smile.

‘Osun Ilode, the headless mermaid. My odu is Oyeku Meji… like yours…’

‘Meji… That means twins. We are twins then and you are Iya I’l’ode too.’ He grinned wider still, ‘In Yoruba, you know what we say…?”

‘No, Baba, please tell me…’

‘You’re fucked…’ And he let out a laugh that sent him into a coughing fit.

I helped him compose himself and he looked up at me as if he could see. ‘And I’m supposed to tell you what to do next with your life.’ It was a half statement.

‘Yes, Baba. I mean yes please…’

‘That’s a heavy trip to lay on an old blind man.’ He thought a second and said, ‘Why don’t you get me some of that beef soup and some of whatever bread your eating with honey butter and more honey. I’ll think on this and give you an answer.’

Baba ate his soup slowly. I think more to torture me than anything else. He carefully dipped small pieces of bread in honey and savored them as if they were his last meal. ‘They wont let me eat honey here. Or meat.’

I had been wondering, ‘How did you get here? How did you escape?’

He laughed and leaned towards me whispering, ‘I told them that I must meditate alone before doing ceremony. They’re probably looking for me now.’

I asked what ceremony and he told me that he was to do a naming ceremony for the director of the place, a man named David Price who had just had a son. Baba was to name the month old baby in a few minutes in a nearby room and he was sure they were looking for him by the stream where he was left. I asked him how he had made it all theway back and that grin was followed by a thumb raised, ‘I can still hitch hike.’ He laughed again until he coughed.

When he was finally done, he sat back and looked seriously at me as I waited patiently for his words. ‘So I’m suppose to tell you what to do, hmm?’

‘Yes Baba. That is what the Odu said.’

'And no matter what I tell you, you will listen?’

'Yes, Baba. No questions.’

‘No question at all then…’

‘Yes, Baba.’

He leaned slowly towards me and I towards him. ‘What you must do is this…’ long pause. He began again. ‘What you must do is this… are you listening?’

‘Yes, Baba.’

‘Then here it is…’ He suddenly sat back and said, ‘Relax.’

I waited. Nothing more. ‘Relax…?’ After all of this build up I kind of exploded. ‘But Baba, how can I relax? In three days they’re going to kick my ass out of here and I have no money, hardly any gas and your drummers have smoked my last cigarettes…’ Baba laughed at my outburst and he raised a nub at me…

‘Ah…’ It was a sharp staccato cutoff and the phantom finger went down like he had just ended a song.

‘No questions.’ He rose. ‘The ladies are probably all over looking for me. By now they are wading in the ocean crying my death song to Oya or maybe Yemaya.’ He held out his arm and I escorted him the short distance to the large hall where all of Esalen had gathered that morning.

When we entered, the room erupted into cheers and a half dozen women came running from the front and he waved them off and asked me to seat him up front by the baby’s mother. He sat me down next to him and, looking up, I realized that the people who were greeting him were also greeting me like I was somebody famous they ought to recognize.

When the ceremony began, he had me sit with the mother as the father took the baby to the front. Baba began singing as his drummers drummed softly. He sang the praise songs of every Orisa and with each song he fed the baby. With each feeding the gasps in the room grew frown silence to whispers of alarm.

Baba freely walked about as if he could see and gave the baby milk, then honey, then fruit jelly, then salt, then pepper and finally cayenne and gin. When the baby had tasted gin he laughed and giggled and baba took him from the father.

He rocked the baby and then in a swift sudden motion held the baby aloft over his head as he sang loudly. The drums played the familiar song as Baba did a dance that looked like he was about to fall. The baby’s father held onto the mother as the rest of us held our breath.

When he was finished he held the baby high up and his familiar grin poked out from beneath the baby’s chubby legs.

‘It’s like the Lion King isn’t it?’ His joke broke the tension and he began to tell the story of the baby’s new name.

‘This baby is named, ‘Babatunde’ just like me. No he is not my boy but 'baba tunde' means, ‘the father returns’. When I was a baby they said that I was the reincarnation of my grandfather, a famous priest and so too it will be with little Babatunde. He will carry on his grandfathers great work and they will call him Alexander. He will be a child of his grandfather's Orisa, a child of Ogun who owns all of the rocks.’

It was dead silent. The baby Babatunde Alexander was the grandson of the man who founded Esalen. A man who was famously once committed to an insane asylum for thinking he was Alexander the Great. A man who had died while meditating on that very land, crushed by a huge rock.

Baba smiled, ’We are not privy to the ways and reasons of the Orisa. That is why our way is called ‘awo’, or mystery.  There is no shame in the life of a man whose dark night of the soul has healed so many. There is no shame in death and the way in which we choose to go.’ He held the baby high up again. ‘…and how he chooses to return.’

With that Baba began singing a four directions song and presenting the babay two each of the directions. What that entailed was a blind old fingerless  man tossing the baby high in the air and catching him as he sang and danced his wobbly dance. The father, who had seen this before as he had grown up with Baba and played the bass in his famous band, held the mom tightly.

Through all of this the baby squealed with delight and then Baba then fed the baby a little more gin. Baba took mouthfuls of gin and sprayed the audience, singing all the while and finally, to her great relief, handed little Babatunde Alexander to his mother.

An exhausted Baba sat next to me and was instantly surrounded by his ‘entourage’, well wishers and a few people who had not been spit on. He obliged them like a little child being allowed to be naughty.

Finally, he took my arm and waved his little retinue away and gripped my arm saying, ‘My friend and I must talk now. I will see you all at the feast. I will be fine…’

He had me walk him towards the ocean and he was obviously tired from his exertions. ‘Not used to being up this early. So where where were we? Oh yes… Relax. You can learn a lot from a baby…’ He let that last thought trail off as if it were self explanatory.

It wasn’t. ‘How do you figure, Baba?’

Baba held up an imaginary baby as he walked. How he knew where he was going is still beyond me. ‘Babies trust the universe. They take each day as it comes and every new taste,sight and sound delights them. That is until we signal that they need to be afraid. Old men like me are like babies, no?’ He tossed his imaginary baby in the air and put his arms in mine not bothering to catch it. He laughed as he felt me involuntarily trying to catch an invisible baby. ‘Relax. Why don’t you take rest of the day off and drive into Big Sur?’

‘But Baba, I have no gas and there is no Big Sur…’

‘I’m sure you could sell that stinky bud in your pocket to my djembe players. Probably fill your tank.’ He laughed as he pointed to his nose and wrinkled it. It occurred to me that the bud was indeed in my pocket. Of my jean jacket...  in my cabin. ‘No questions. Go. Relax…’ I dropped him at his cabin and went to get my jean jacket.

After a little horse trading I was soon heading into ‘town’ to gas up. As I turned a corner I saw the beautiful view that was on the postcard and pulled over into a little parking lot just before the restaurant ‘Nepenthe’. I was about to walk across the street when I noticed a sign mostly obscured by shrubbery. It read ‘Henry Miller Library and Archives’.  I walked up to the fenced in compound and saw only a garden. I walked over to the gate and as it said ‘open’, I did. It wasn’t much of a library. It was a small house with a deck overlooking a grassy round surrounded by tall redwoods and odd sculptures of every sort.

On the  deck were a dozen men drinking wine, coffee and playing guitars. I sat on a bench and listened as the men laughed, drank and took turns playing. Finally they stopped for a smoke break and some came over to me to greet me. They asked where I was from and one of them said, ‘Don’t ask him that, ask him where he’s going…’

‘Not sure. I’m at Esalen til Sunday and then… who knows.’ I shrugged like it didn’t matter. It did.

One of them sat down next to me and motioned around, ‘Why would you want to leave this?’

‘I wouldn’t and I’d stay if I were a billionaire or at least a millionaire…’

They all thought this was hysterical and now all of the men had joined our group. One of them piped in, ‘So who’s a millionaire here?’ No hands. Only laughter. ‘We must be billionaires then…’ They roared.

We all talked for the next half hour as they asked me what I did. I had done everything but one of them quizzed me about being an event co-ordinator and a grant writer. ‘If you can hang around til May, I could get you a job here as a development director. Doesn’t pay much but it wouldn’t be a hard job. Not for you.’

“Thanks, but I don’t think I could hang out here for two months without a job or money.’ Some of them thought that was funny. Apparently they were doing just that. They were surfers and many of them lived in their cars year round by the side of the road. I laughed at the thought and said aloud, ‘Ted Jauw, surfer… I like that.’

I was about to say something when someone pushed through the crowd. It was a small beautiful black woman with dreads and she thrust out her hand to me. ‘Ted Jauw. I heard ya were comin’’

I was taken aback. Surely I would have remembered someone like this. ‘I’m sorry, do we know each other?’

‘I’m Sowelu. I sent the empty box to your friends. We almost knew each other in the Black Hills.’

It was true. As a gallery owner in Hill City I had heard of her but we had managed to not meet each other even though we had many mutual artist friends. She hugged me like we were old friends and in her Hightower Jamaican she peppered me with questions. She turned to one of the men and said, ‘isnt there a job at the deli?’ No one knew but someone ran inside and brought out a phone. In a minute I was talking to the owner, the one who had sold me overpriced cigarettes. There was a job available starting Monday. The catch was that I had to live in Big Sur.

‘Tell Joanne, you’ll be livin’ wit me’ I looked at her and she poked me. ‘Tell her now…’

I told her and it was settled. It turned out that Sowelu lived at the library in a renovated one stall garage that had been turned into a cabin so Henry Miller would have his own place whenever he returned to his beloved Big Sur. I had just read about this place, only it wasn’t a library then. Just the home of a friend. Now it was to be my home.

The next morning I returned to Esalen with a home, a job, a full tank of gas and a carton of cigarettes to share with Baba’s Band. I brought Baba some tobacco too but more as a medicine gift.

As I approached Baba’s table, the women slid down the bench to allow me to sit next to Baba and they all greeted me like I was someone famous. Baba grinned and said, ‘So…? did you relax?’ I can swear his blid eyes twinkled and he winked. I laughed.

He had me recount the days miracles and teased me about where I had been all night. We also talked about Henry Miller and how he had once done divination for both Henry and Anais Nin. He told me how Henry also was an Oshun archetype. Not the peacock like most or the mermaid but the vulture. The one who lives on death and is born a living ancestor. A ghost. The women at the table listened rapt and wanting to ask something, the same thing. Finally one interrupted him and piped in and asked breathlessly, ‘Oh Baba, you didn’t say you could do fortune telling. Will you read my fortune?’ The others now chimed in as well.

Baba laughed and held up his hands. “These hands no longer hold the kola nuts.’ Then he put a hand on my shoulder. But my friend here, he has read all of my priestesses and for a hundred bucks, Im sure he'd be willing to do divination with you…’

I spent the rest of that week doing readings. When it was time to leave I had over twelve hundred dollars. More importantly, I had made a friend who would become my mentor and teacher till he died a short time later. Like Grandfather American Horse he was the real deal. Like Grandfather he would say he’s just a drummer… What Grandfather and Baba could do with a drum is a whole other story.

As I drove away from Esalen that morning, I rounded a sharp curve and there, hovering in front of me as i came to a screeching halt, was a giant California Condor. Hovering on an updraft it seemed to just grin and it flew north. I followed...

“I am the drum, you are the drum, we are the drum…”
-Babatunde Olatunji , Drums of Passion    

"Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos..."
-Henry Miller , Tropic of Capricorn