During my travels, people often asked me to speak or to give lessons. Sometimes, these were just invitations to a homey lunch. Santa Fe, being the Different City, prepared a singularly significant experience for me.
"Hello, there is someone who wants to meet you," I was told in my third Sunday at the Lutheran Church of the Servant. Following a short talk, I found that I’ve been invited for lunch in one of the suburbs by Shanadii, Geronimo’s granddaughter. Not knowing who Geronimo was, I used the trip to get a quick update by the brothers who invited me. Geronimo was a prominent Native American leader of the Chiricahua Apache. He fought against Mexico and the United States for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars.
Shortly after, we arrived at a large house in Canyoncito, about half an hour south of Santa Fe. It was surrounded by a forest of pines, majestic Ponderosas and sturdy Pinions. Two years short of eighty, Shanadii turned to be a vigorous soul with a rare intelligence. "Do you want to drink something?" She asked while leading me to the kitchen, where perhaps two hundred kinds of teas were awaiting me. Looking at the wide selection and wanting to drink the same one as she, I asked which one was her choice; "I drink coffee, from the soluble kind," she shot while lighting a cigarette which was later exchanged for others until I left a few hours later.
Next week, I was invited again, this time for a meal. There were about a dozen invitees, and Shanadii tried hard to balance the discussion among the different participants. However, people kept asking me questions.
Then I looked around. People were smiling at me. Then, I looked at the hostess. She was beaming at me.
The coffee served then was sweeter than ever, though I never add sugar. Before I left, Shanadii told me: "I want to give you a gift; you are invited to our next Fire Circle."
Fire Circles turned to be ceremonies performed by Apaches and related groups. This graphic representation of their orally transmitted traditions was performed around a central fire. When the day came, I arrived at the same site. Around 5PM, we had a magnificent potluck, and waited until it cooled down a bit. An hour later, we were led to a small opening in the forest, where a circle of stones awaited us. Thirty-two participants sat on the stones while Shanadii took an elevated seat just out of it. She presided over the ceremony’s different stages, which were performed by others.
A central fire was lighted, and then the drawing of the Circle began. The drawing was done with grounded corn and created sharp yellow lines on the pastel-brown ground; after putting the corn on the ground and drawing the desired shape, the line was redrawn with a finger following the corn path, so that each line got a depression in its center. The corn is considered a sacred plant due to its many uses in their culture. All the drawings were done at the rhythm of a slow, deep drumming. The first drawing was a circle around the central fire; it represented the Earth and was drawn, as most of the other pictograms, from the east through the south. Following was the Creator’s Circle, wider and containing the first one. Four short lines, each one marking a compass direction, crossed the circles and then Infinity Lines were added at the intersection of those with the outer circle. The Infinity Lines were shaped as an "X" with their center at the exact intersection point; they represented the gifts of the Creator to us. Two short lines connecting the inner part of the X’s to the compass line were added and represented our thanks to him. Shanadii asked the people drawing to explain the meaning of their drawings; sometimes she added a few words. Then, two Pipes of Peace were added in each quarter. They represented the different people. They also represented a New Covenant between the Creator and the People, following an old downfall. The pipes had a feminine and masculine side and their symmetry showed a perfect equality among the genders. A third circle was drawn between the pipes, showing the unity among people. Then two shapes were added to each quarter, next to the outer circle. First, a symbol for the trees and another for the bushes were drawn at the southeast quarter, then one for the four legged creatures was drawn at the southwest quarter, and then symbols for the sea water creatures and the birds in the third quarter. In the last one, symbols for the fresh water and crawling creatures were added.
At this moment, Shanadii explained that we are living in a transition year. The mark for two-legged creatures—as humans were oddly referred to—was added next to the four-legged one. In other years, the human’s symbol is not drawn. A symbolic eye was added at the outer part of each "X," and then the eye was finished. A blue point, the only non-yellow point in the whole drawing, was added to each. They represent the constant watch of the Creator over his creatures.
Once the drawing was finished, a fourth circle—a number considered sacred by Apaches—was created on the central fire and was dedicated to the Creator. Then, everyone stood up around the external circle. Prayers were said, and the fire was left to burn out. At 9PM, already in darkness, we left and devoured the rest of the food and traveled home, not without an invitation for the coming Solstice Circle.
(Excerpt from The Cross of Bethlehem II – Back in Bethlehem; the book reads independently of Part I, The Cross of Bethlehem - The Memoirs of a Refugee.)
The Cross of Bethlehem II – Back in Bethlehem is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.