Falling for the Snake Shaman by Anna Marie Laforest

 

 

     She approached the older one and this time held out her hand to touch his snakeskin armband.  So close, she saw he was coated with a fine film of dust and his lips were dry as birch bark.  He appeared not to hear her approach.  But the moment she touched his armband, both of the brothers stood up fully alert, skin glowing, muscles alive to the very air around them, as if their parched selves of a moment ago were just a mirage.

 

     “How is your grandmother,” asked the older brave.

 

     “Thank you, she is fully recovered.  She said the powder made her insides feel like fire at first, and then like wildflowers.”

 

     “You must have sung the chant well for her.”

 

     Glispa and her sister looked at each other.   Glispa said, “We have been wanting to ask you about that.   Our elders have never heard such a chant.  They said it sounds like no bird or animal they have ever heard, but as if it came from deep in the core of the earth.”

 

     “Yes, that is true.”

 

     “Are there more healing songs to know?”

 

     “Yes, there are.”

 

     “We have looked for you for 13 moons.”

 

     “We have waited for you for 13 moons.  Come.”

 

     And Glispa and her sister followed the brothers on a long walk, gently sloping downward away from their village, and Glispa fell more in love at every step.  When they reached a lake, glistening and deep, the frogs jumped out of the way, the turtles sang, and the herons took to the sky to call Thunderbird.   The brothers shape-shifted into their snake-warrior forms and slid under the lake to hold it up high for the sisters to walk under.

 

     When the sisters were deep enough, the lake and the red earth closed over them with a resounding CRACK!   Thunderbird, who calls the rain, had been circling above watching the sisters disappear, and when he heard the CRACK of a thunder he had not caused, he worried for them.

 

     But Thunderbird was always a worrier.  Glispa and her sister felt exhilarated as they followed their snake warriors under the primordial water and further, to the core of the earth.  Far below the turquoise, they marveled at the overlapping crystal veins of inner earth, the walls of the many caves along their path sometimes translucent, sometimes oily, now snow-seeming, now a granular matrix of purples and black.

 

     When they reached the snake people’s village, a soft crystal lattice appeared over it, echoing the muted rainbow hues of the snake people’s skin.  There were large amethyst geodes on either side of the main gates, and the girls felt a rush of energy as they walked between them.   As Glispa’s warrior entered his village, the snake people bowed to him and saluted his brother-traveler.  They smiled warmly at the girls and gave them presents of snakeskin boots and snakeskin ribbons for their hair.

 

     The sisters stayed with the snake people for 26 moons, or two years.  Glispa studied and practiced all the healing rituals and chants, while her sister focused on the tiny crystals and prepared samples of the rocks to bring back.  The snake people were not only natural healers but they had a great sense of humor, always laughing and joking and showing each other a different way to look at things.  They were always shedding their skins and transforming into stronger and stronger versions of themselves.  Glispa and her sister had never laughed so much in their lives, and they fell in love with the snake people, and further in love with their warriors.

 

     Glispa and her husband were always singing, and each time Glispa sang, she became more beautiful.  She had been fine-looking to begin with, but now she was radiant inside and out and very strong.  She learned that music not only brings pleasure but that its vibrations heal various parts of the human body and soul, depending on which vibration it is.  Her husband showed her that singing notes in the key of C realigns muscles and bones while singing in the key of F strengthens the heart, and so forth.  Glispa saw that health and beauty were twin truths, and so she called the chants “the Beauty Way.”  Her sister, who was also becoming more beautiful from the inside out, began to see that wearing gems from the earth in necklaces, armbands, or boots, was not simply adornment, but nourishing as well.

 

     After the two years of laughing, dancing, and shedding of old selves, Glispa and her sister longed to visit their own village above ground.  Glispa wanted to teach everything she had learned about healing to her grandmother.   Her sister had a different motivation.  She had not yet married her shaman warrior, and she wanted to double-check the braves in her own village to make sure she was making the right choice before coming back to settle down.

 

     On the night before they left, the shamans took down their drums and showed the sisters how to create a re-entry to the spirit world by following the deep and rhythmic vibrations of the drums.  “You will need to remember this drumming when you try to return to our world,” Glispa’s husband said.

 

     The next morning the shaman warriors guided the sisters back to the Lake of Emergence, turning themselves into their snake forms in order to hold the water up for the women to pass through.  “We will see you when you return,” they called.  “Never doubt that you will make it.”   Then they slithered back to the latticed gates of their village alone.

 

     As Glispa and her sister emerged into the top world, the lake and the red earth split with another CRACK!  and Thunderbird was there to meet them.  “You’re okay!” he exclaimed.

 

     “Yes!  Follow us, Thunderbird, to our village, and watch.  We are going to teach our people many new things.  And we will teach them how to call you when they need the rain.”

 

     Thunderbird was intrigued, and he circled around Glispa’s village for two moons, watching her tribe practice new rituals and songs.  He was only too happy to make it rain onto the plants and trees when he was called to, and he loved the attention the new ceremony brought him.

 

     Glispa and her sister had long and wonderful talks with their grandmother and the other women elders in the moon lodge.  Glispa taught them each chant in each key, with all the elaborate variations, and the women were quick to learn.  “We have felt for a long time that this information was hidden somewhere,” they said.  “Now it seems as though it is being unlocked from our bones.”

 

     And the women elders told Glispa and her sister that although they missed them terribly, they felt that the snake warriors must be the sisters’ true loves.  “Snakes are the umbilical cords that join humans to Mother Earth,” they said.  “Snake people are powerful medicine, and your children will become powerful medicine women and men who will return to us with their skills.”   And the old women blessed the young women deeply, and gave them provisions for their return trip.

 

     “Before you go, teach your brother and the other men of our village the drumming and the chants.  They won’t remember it all at once, but now that it has been unlocked from our grandmother bones, they can always ask us what they forget.”

 

“Yes, grandmother.”  And Glispa taught the men everything that her husband had taught her.  She taught them that they needed to use strong intention while they chanted, and not to do it idly.  She taught them how to break into the sick person’s rhythm with their drumming, and set them to sleep while they realigned the sick person’s cells with healthy vibrations.  She taught them to keep the bond going until the person was truly well, then to set them on their way with a good laugh.

 

     Meanwhile, Glispa’s sister looked into every corner of the village and was satisfied that no one was as handsome or brave as her snake warrior.  She left a healing stone with each young man she spoke to, and taught them how to listen to the stories in the crystal matrix.  She kissed each man on the forehead so he would remember her.

 

     On the last evening with their tribe, Glispa and her sister taught the men and women how to laugh and have a sense of humor between male and female.   This alone kept the village from having any sickness for a thousand moons.

 

     The next morning the sisters were blessed again by their grandmother, and set out to find their way back to their beloved snake shamans.  They took several deep breaths as they walked through the flaming pink prickly pear blossoms and skipped a few stones for old times’ sake.  The turquoise and silver trimming on their skirts still gleamed in the sun as they danced along, but no clouds came forth to turn into warriors in the clear blue sky.  This journey would be shamanic in itself - to make their way alone, and with the intention of staying in the underground village forever.

 

     Only Thunderbird was there, circling and watching over them.

 

     They arrived at the Lake of Emergence and sat at its edge, their feet cooling in the water, while they discussed how they might go down and through the water.

 

     “We don’t even know how to get in it,” said Glispa’s sister.

 

     They walked around the Lake, studying it.  Then they tried diving, but couldn’t dive deep enough.  They tried throwing themselves in, fate-to-the-winds style, but they merely floated up to the top.

 

     The sisters sat at the edge again, cooling their feet.  “Well, now what should we do?” said Glispa’s sister.

 

     Thunderbird started rumbling.

 

     “Oh, no, please don’t rain on us,” said Glispa’s sister, looking up at the large storm bird.  “We are trying to think.”

 

     “BOOM,” Thunderbird said.

 

     “Perhaps he has a plan,” said Glispa, who knew Thunderbird was always well-intentioned.  “Though I don’t know what it could be.”

 

     “BOOM,” said Thunderbird again.  “BOOMBOOMBOOM!”

 

     The sisters waited.   The Lake became very quiet.

 

     “BOOM BOOM BOOM!”

 

     Was the red earth starting to shiver?

 

     “BOOMBOOM!”

 

     Finally the Lake and the red earth couldn’t take any more of Thunderbird’s taunting.  They put their heads together and… “CRACK!”

 

     The Lake opened and the sisters found themselves tumbling in and down to the bottom of the primordial waters.  They ran as fast as they could to get far below the Lake before it closed back up and settled on top of them.  They almost made it, but a few steps from the first crystal cavern the sea caved back in on them.  It was no good remembering how easy it had been when the snake shamans had held the waters up for them two years ago.

 

     “Quick, take the lunch out of your skirt pockets,” said Glispa, and they held their grandmother’s spongy bread above their heads.  Thanks to grandmother’s special blessing on that bread while she was baking early in the morning, it grew and grew and sopped up the heaving waters long enough for the sisters to reach the safety of the first cavern.

 

     The sisters went on through two more, deeper, caverns just to make sure the Lake could not follow, and they stretched out on some soft rose quartz to dry themselves and catch their breath before continuing.  Neither was able to talk for the next few miles down.

 

     Finally, when they thought they must be fairly close, Glispa felt her chest tighten and she could not breathe very well.  They stopped, and her sister spread her shawl on the mica floor for Glispa to lie down.  Glispa coughed and coughed and could not catch her breath.  She had gotten so chilled going through the primordial waters that she was now gripped with terrible mucus in her lungs.  Glispa’s sister lit a beeswax candle she had brought with her from their village.

 

     “The candle does not help,” gasped Glispa, becoming very frightened indeed.

 

     “It does.  It helps me see,” said her sister, who was looking through all the secret folds and inner pockets of her skirt.  “Ah, there it is.”

 

     And she drew out the one remaining healing stone she had decided not to leave in the top world.  She ground it into powder and put some under Glispa’s tongue.

 

     “Sleep now, dear sister.  I will do the singing.”  And Glispa’s sister chanted for three hours while Glispa slept.

 

     Glispa awoke in perfect health and hugged her sister.  They continued the last quarter mile downward, looking forward to seeing the crystal lattice and amethyst guardians at the village gates again.  Suddenly there was a vicious serpent with hot coal eyes coming toward them, hissing and spitting fire from its brilliant blue tongue.  Just as suddenly, Glispa’s sister’s warrior appeared with a shield, a drum, and a spear, and he started fighting the serpent.

 

     When he was thrown into a spiky iolite wall at the side of their path, Glispa watched her sister grab his spear and charge with full anger at the serpent.   Glispa tried to rush forward to help her sister, but found she could not move.  Her husband’s voice at her side said quietly, “Do not move.  This is your sister’s test.”  She looked toward the voice, but could not see anyone.

 

     Glispa’s sister fought the serpent for three hours before she succeeded in killing it.  When she did, it fizzed away into nothing.   The sisters rushed to the warrior who had fallen and saw several iolite arrows sticking out of him.

 

     “Oh, this is terrible” said Glispa’s sister, looking through her skirts for another healing stone which she knew was not there.  She kissed and held her warrior, but they knew they had to get him to his village without delay.  The sisters tried to lift him, but in his dying state he was as heavy as three warriors.

 

    Then Glispa remembered what her husband had said before she left, about the drumming.   She told her sister to start chanting, and she grabbed the warrior’s drum and began the proud and rhythmic beat that would appeal to the spirit world.

 

     She beat harder and harder and chanted in what is now known as the key of A and felt her sister’s grief as her sister chanted through streaming tears, holding her poor snake warrior.

 

     And then it seemed as though the latticed gateway to the snake people’s village rushed up to meet them, or maybe it was some sort of underground fog or vapors lifting, but there were the amethyst geodes in front of them, and all the snake people were rushing to meet them in a dancing parade.  Glispa looked around and there was her sister’s warrior, tall and smiling and shape-shifting quickly out of his disguise of weakness.

 

     “I had to make sure you really loved me,” he was saying to her sister.

 

     “I knew you’d make it back,” Glispa’s own warrior, now visible beside her, put his arms around her.

 

     The snake people had new gifts for the sisters.   But first, they liked to tell everyone the moral of the story.

 

     “Now you know how it feels to be the one who is sick, frightened, and healed,” they said to Glispa.

 

     “Now you know that no one can survive alone,” they said to her sister.

 

     “Now that you have completed your own shamanic journeys, you have earned these.”  And they gave Glispa and her sister gleaming snakeskin skirts that would enable them to shape-shift into snakes whenever they wanted to cross under the primordial waters and back.

 

     “Yes, yes, thank you!” said Glispa’s sister.  “That is the moral of our story.  But let’s lighten up now, all right?”

 

     “All right!  You can marry your warrior and have baby shamans right away.”   And they started laughing and laughing.

 

     Glispa’s sister wanted to tear her hair out, but she realized she was too happy to do that, and she laughed and kissed her fully healed warrior instead.

 

     Glispa merely turned to her husband who touched her belly.  He knew their first little shaman was already on her way.

 

 

    A clear sun shone on the lime green paddle arms of a pear cactus outside Glispa’s village.  Its pink barrel buds, tipped in bright yellow bursts, looked like little kisses from the sun, and this cactus traveled in runners throughout the red clay land.  Glispa and her little sister skipped stones and jumped over the prickly arms, playing a game, their skirts flaring as they jumped, making them look like fat birds trying to loft themselves off the ground. 

 

     The turquoise and silver trim of their skirts shot glints of pale fire high into the air as the girls jumped, and caught the attention of two thin clouds that were making their way stealthily across the otherwise clear blue sky.  The clouds came closer and looked down over the two girls who, suddenly shaded, looked up and thought they saw faces in the sky. 

 

     In fact they did.  The two thin clouds were snake shamans, brothers who had risen from the center of the earth as vapor, and they were in search of wives.  The brothers dropped down in front of the sisters in the form of handsome young braves, their hair strong and black and woven with fossilized spiral shells that flashed intensely and opalized their skin.

 

     The young men had buckskin breeches, snakeskin armbands, and snakeskin boots.  Glispa wanted to touch the armbands, but she stood still, and tall.  Her sister shrank back a bit, but the braves proved to be gentle and kind and willing to play the stone-skipping game.  After a while Glispa told them that she and her sister must go home.  She wanted to see her grandmother who had been lingering in illness for two moons.    

 

     The elder brother asked Glispa for details about the grandmother’s illness, and Glispa told him.  He pulled a tiny healing stone from a small bag that he carried around his waist, took it to a hard rock and pulverized it.

 

     “Here,” he said to Glispa and her sister.  “Give this powder to your grandmother and be sure to sing to her while she takes it.”

 

     “What should we sing?” Glispa asked.  And the brave taught her a few notes in what we would call today the key of “E.” 

 

     Exactly 13 moons later Glispa and her sister happened upon the same spot among the blooming prickly pears outside their village.  There were the two braves, sitting very still on the red clay next to a rock.  Glispa could not tell if their eyes were open or shut; if open, they were staring at the pink barrel buds of the closest cactus.

 

     She approached the older one and this time held out her hand to touch his snakeskin armband.  Up close she saw he was coated in a fine film of dust and his lips were dry as birch bark.  He appeared unable to hear her.  But the moment she touched his armband, both of the brothers stood up, fully alert, skin glowing, muscles alive to the very air around them, as if their parched selves of a moment ago were just a mirage.  

 

     “How is your grandmother,” asked the older brave.  

 

     “Thank you, she is fully recovered.  She said the powder made her insides feel like fire at first, and then like wildflowers.”

 

     “You must have sung the chant well for her.”

 

     Glispa and her sister looked at each other.   Glispa said, “We want to ask you about that.   Our elders have never heard such a chant.  They said it sounds like no bird or animal they have ever heard, but as if it came from deep in the core of the earth.”

 

    “That is true.”

 

    “Are there more healing songs to know?”

 

     “Yes, there are.”

 

     “We have looked for you for 13 moons.”

 

     “We have waited for you for 13 moons.  Come.”

 

     And Glispa and her sister followed the brothers on a long walk, their path gently sloping downward away from the village, and Glispa fell more in love with the older brother at every step.  They reached a lake, glistening and deep.  The frogs jumped out of the way, the turtles sang, and the herons took to the sky to call Thunderbird.  The brothers shape-shifted into their snake-warrior forms and slid under the lake to hold it up high for the sisters to walk underneath. 

 

     When the sisters were deep enough, the lake and the red earth closed over them with a resounding CRACK!   Thunderbird, who calls the rain, and who had been circling above, watched the sisters disappear, and when he heard the CRACK of a thunder not caused by himself, he worried for them.

 

     But Thunderbird is always a worrier.  Glispa and her sister felt exhilarated as they followed their snake warriors under the primordial water and further, to the core of the earth.  Far below layers of turquoise, they marveled at the overlapping crystal veins of inner earth, the walls of the caves along their path sometimes translucent, sometimes oily.  Now snow-seeming, now a granular matrix of purples and black. 

 

     When they reached the snake people’s village, a soft crystal lattice appeared over it, echoing the muted rainbow hues of the snake people’s skin.  There were large amethyst geodes on either side of the main gates, and the girls felt a rush of energy as they walked between them.   As Glispa’s warrior entered his village, the snake people bowed to him and saluted his brother-traveler.  They smiled warmly at the girls and gave them presents of snakeskin boots and turquoise threads for their hair. 

 

     The sisters stayed with the snake people for 26 moons, or two years.  Glispa studied and practiced all the healing rituals and chants, while her sister focused on the tiny crystals and prepared samples of the rocks to bring back.  The snake people were not only natural healers but they had a great sense of humor, always laughing and joking and showing each other a different way to look at things.  They would shed their skins and transform into stronger and stronger versions of themselves.  Glispa and her sister had never laughed so much in their lives, and they fell in love with the snake people, and further in love with their warriors. 

 

     Glispa and her warrior, now her husband, were always singing, and each time Glispa sang, she became more beautiful.  She had been fine-looking to begin with, but now she was radiant inside and out and very strong.  She learned that music not only brings pleasure but that its vibrations heal various parts of the human body and soul, depending on which vibration it is.  Her husband showed her that singing notes in the key of C realigns muscles and bones while singing in the key of F strengthens the heart, and so forth.  Glispa saw that health and beauty were twin truths, and so she called the chants “the Beauty Way.”  Her sister, who was also becoming more beautiful from the inside out, began to see that wearing gems from the earth in necklaces, armbands, or boots, was not simply adornment, but nourishing as well.

 

     After the two years of laughing, dancing, and shedding of old selves, Glispa and her sister longed to visit their own village above ground.  Glispa wanted to teach everything she learned about healing to her grandmother.   Her sister had a different motivation.  She had not yet married her shaman warrior, and she wanted to double-check the braves in her own village to make sure she was making the right choice before coming back to settle down. 

 

     On the night before they left, the shamans took down their drums and showed the sisters how to create a re-entry to the spirit world by following the deep and rhythmic vibrations of the drums. 

 

     “You will need to remember this drumming when you try to return to our world,” Glispa’s husband said. 

 

     The next morning the shaman warriors guided the sisters back to the Lake of Emergence, turning themselves into their snake forms in order to hold the water up for the women to pass through.

 

      “We will see you when you return,” they called.  “Never doubt that you will make it.”   Then they slithered back to the latticed gates of their village alone.

 

     As Glispa and her sister emerged into the top world, the lake and the red earth split with another CRACK!  and Thunderbird was there to meet them. 

 

     “You’re okay!” he exclaimed.

 

     “Yes!  Follow us, Thunderbird, to our village, and watch.  We are going to teach our people many new things.  And we will teach them how to call you when they need the rain.”

 

     Thunderbird was intrigued, and he circled around Glispa’s village for two moons, watching her tribe practice new rituals and songs.  He was only too happy to make it rain onto the plants and trees when he was called to, and he loved the attention the new ceremonies brought him.

 

     Glispa and her sister had long and wonderful talks with their grandmother and the other women elders in the moon lodge.  Glispa taught them each chant in each key, with all the elaborate variations, and the women were quick to learn. 

 

     “We have felt for a long time that this information was hidden somewhere,” they said.  “Now it seems as though you are unlocking it from our bones.” 

 

     And the women elders told Glispa and her sister that although they had missed them terribly, they believed that the girls had found their true loves in the snake warriors. 

 

     “Snakes are the umbilical cords that join humans to Mother Earth,” they said.  “Snake people are powerful medicine, and your children will become powerful medicine women and men who will return again to us with their skills.”   

 

      And the old women blessed the young women deeply, and gave them provisions for their return trip.

 

     “Before you go, teach your brother and the other men of our village the drumming and the chants.  They won’t remember it all at once, but now that it has been unlocked from our grandmotherly bones, we can always remind them when they forget.”

 

     “Yes, grandmother.” 

 

     And Glispa taught the men everything that her husband had taught her.  She taught them to use strong intention while they chanted, and not to do it idly.  She taught them how to break into the sick person’s rhythm with their drumming, and set them to sleep while they realigned their cells with healthy vibrations.  She taught them to keep the bond going until the person was truly well, then to send them on their way with some good healing laughter.

 

     Meanwhile, Glispa’s sister looked into every corner of the village and was satisfied that no one was as handsome or brave as her snake warrior.  She left a healing stone with each young man she spoke to, and taught them how to listen to the stories in the crystal matrix.  She kissed each man on the forehead so he would remember her. 

 

     On the last evening with their tribe, Glispa and her sister taught the men and women how to keep a sense of humor between male and female.   This alone kept the village from having any sickness for a thousand moons.

 

     The next morning the sisters were blessed by their grandmother, and sent out to find their way back to their beloved snake shamans.  They took several deep breaths as they walked through the flaming pink prickly pear blossoms and skipped a few stones for old times’ sake.  The turquoise and silver trimming on their skirts still gleamed in the sun as they danced along, but no clouds came forth to turn into warriors in the clear blue sky.  This journey would be shamanic in itself - to make their way alone, and with the intention of staying in the underground village forever. 

 

     Only Thunderbird was there, circling and watching over them.

 

     They arrived at the Lake of Emergence and sat at its edge, their feet cooling in the water, while they discussed how they might go down and through it. 

 

     “We don’t even know how to get in it,” said Glispa’s sister. 

 

     They walked around the Lake, studying it.  They tried diving, but could not dive deep enough.  They tried throwing themselves in, fate-to-the-winds style, but they merely floated up to the top. 

 

     The sisters sat at the edge again, cooling their feet.  “Well, now what should we do?” said Glispa’s sister.

 

     Thunderbird started rumbling. 

 

     “Oh, no, please don’t rain on us,” said Glispa’s sister, looking up at the large storm bird.  “We are trying to think.”

 

     “BOOM,” Thunderbird said.

 

     “Perhaps he has a plan,” said Glispa, who knew Thunderbird was always well-intentioned.  “Though I don’t know what it could be.”

 

     “BOOM,” said Thunderbird again.  “BOOM-BOOM-BOOM!”

 

     The sisters waited.   The Lake became very quiet.

 

     “BOOM BOOM BOOM!”

 

     Was the red earth starting to shiver?

 

     “BOOM-BOOM!”

 

     Finally the Lake and the red earth couldn’t take any more of Thunderbird’s taunting.  They put their heads together and… “CRACK!”

 

     The Lake opened and the sisters found themselves tumbling in and down to the bottom of the primordial waters.  They ran as fast as they could to get far below the Lake before it closed back up and settled on top of them.  They almost made it, but a few steps from the first crystal cavern the sea caved back in on them.  It was no good remembering how easy it had been when the snake shamans had held the waters up for them two years ago. 

 

     “Quick, take the lunch out of your skirt pockets,” said Glispa, and they held their grandmother’s spongy bread above their heads.  Thanks to grandmother’s special blessing on that bread while she was baking early in the morning, it grew and grew and sopped up the heaving waters long enough for the sisters to reach the safety of the first cavern. 

 

     The sisters went on through two more, deeper, caverns just to make sure the Lake could not follow, then stretched out onto a patch of soft rose quartz to dry themselves and catch their breath before continuing.  Neither was able to talk for the next few miles down.

 

     Finally, when they thought they must be fairly close, Glispa felt her chest tighten and she could not breathe very well.  They stopped.  Her sister spread her shawl on the mica floor for Glispa to lie down.  Glispa coughed and coughed and could not catch her breath.  She had gotten so chilled going through the primordial waters that she was now gripped with terrible mucus in her lungs.  Glispa’s sister lit a beeswax candle she had brought with her from their village.

 

     “The candle does not help,” gasped Glispa, becoming very frightened indeed.  

 

     “It does.  It helps me see,” said her sister, who was looking through all the secret folds and inner pockets of her skirt.  “Ah, there it is.”

 

     And she drew out one remaining healing stone, which she had decided not to leave in the upper world.  She ground it into powder and put some under Glispa’s tongue. 

 

     “Sleep now, dear sister.  I will do the singing.”  And she chanted for three hours while Glispa slept. 

 

     Glispa awoke in perfect health and hugged her sister.  They continued the last quarter mile downward, looking forward to seeing the crystal lattice and amethyst guardians at the village gates again.  Suddenly there was a vicious serpent with hot coal eyes coming toward them, hissing and spitting fire from its brilliant blue tongue.  Just as suddenly, Glispa’s sister’s warrior appeared with a shield, a drum, and a spear, and he started fighting the serpent. 

 

     When he was thrown into a spiky iolite wall at the side of their path, Glispa watched her sister grab his spear and charge with full anger at the serpent.   Glispa tried to rush forward to help, but found she could not move.  Her husband’s voice at her side said quietly, “Do not move.  This is your sister’s test.”  She looked toward the voice, but could not see anyone.

 

     Glispa’s sister fought the serpent for three hours before she succeeded in killing it.  When she did, it fizzed away into nothing.   The sisters rushed to the warrior who had fallen and saw several iolite arrows sticking out of him. 

 

     “Oh, this is terrible” said Glispa’s sister, looking through her skirts for another healing stone even while knowing there were no more.  She kissed and held her warrior, but they knew they had to get him to his village without delay.  The sisters tried to lift him, but in his dying state he was as heavy as three warriors.

 

     Then Glispa remembered what her husband had said before she left, about the drumming.   She told her sister to start chanting, and she grabbed the warrior’s drum and began the proud and rhythmic beat that would appeal to the spirit world.

 

     She beat harder and harder and chanted in what is now known as the key of A, trying to keep the man’s spirit in his body, and felt her sister’s grief as her sister chanted through streaming tears, holding her poor snake warrior. 

 

     And then it seemed as though the latticed gateway to the snake people’s village was rushing up to meet them, or maybe it was some sort of underground fog or vapors lifting, but there were the familiar amethyst geodes in front of them, and all the snake people were rushing to meet them in a dancing parade.  Glispa looked around and there was the warrior, tall and smiling and shape-shifting quickly out of his disguise of weakness. 

 

     “I had to make sure you really loved me,” he was saying to her sister.

 

     “I knew you’d make it back,” Glispa’s own warrior, now visible beside her, put his arms around her.

 

     The snake people had new gifts for the sisters.   But first, they liked to tell everyone the moral of the story.

 

     “Now you know how it feels to be the one who is sick, frightened, and healed,” they said to Glispa. 

 

     “Now you know that no one can survive alone,” they said to her sister.

 

     “Now that you have completed your own shamanic journeys, you have earned these.” 

 

     And they gave the girls gleaming snakeskin skirts that would enable them to shape-shift into snakes whenever they wanted to cross under the primordial waters and back.

 

     “Yes, yes, thank you!” said Glispa’s sister.  “I see that is the moral of our story.  But let’s lighten up now, all right?”

 

     “All right!  You can marry your warrior and have baby shamans right away.”   And they laughed and laughed.

 

     Glispa’s sister wanted to tear her hair out, but she realized she was too happy to do that, and she laughed and kissed her fully healed warrior instead. 

 

     Glispa merely turned to her husband who touched her belly.  He knew their first little shaman was already on her way.