...She is a messenger of the Great Spirit...
Raven Strong Promise
They call her Raven Strong Promise. She is the keeper of lost stories -- the healer of old wounds.
In untold numbers, lost stories stretch for miles, from soul to soul, generation to generation. Stories without words, stories we are born with -- these are the lost stories of knowing.
Some mistake knowing. They name it intuition, wisdom and insight. Some embellish it with traits, give it rituals and name it certain powers. They call themselves mighty, and still others believe because they were weakened by "the mighty" boastful claims. The believers sometimes believe so much that they lose their knowing.
Raven Strong Promise is a messenger, a healer -- a being that takes a physical form. She is a messenger of the Great Spirit. There is but one keeper of lost stories, and there is but one with all knowledge. The Great Spirit gives knowing to all people and gives its key to the keeper.
There is a place that, with your ear pressed to the ground, you can hear lost stories. You can hear the casket rattle, the deep rasps of rigid houses and the doors with rusty hinges that swing long and low.
This is the place of four corners, located between two deserts where all temptations come to rest. This is the place where lost stories bloom like cactus flowers in the eyes of ancient bones. The place, to which, Raven Strong Promise returns.
She summons their dreams and their stories,. She returns knowing to its rightful place. She comes from the heavens, travels to the great mountain and prepares for her journey.
For two days she sings to the sun and the moon.
On the third day, she bathes in the living water and prepares her hair with braids. She gathers what she needs; some fragrant herbs and leaves. On the third night, she makes four circles in the great open space.
She burns her offerings: sage, piñon and juniper. The smoke rises and summons the West Wind. She receives her direction, stands and walks into the moonlight. Her hands bear only feathers.
Some say they have seen her in the middle of the night. Some say they only see her in dreams. Others say it is impossible, but they cannot look you in the eye.
Her mission is to walk the straight path for three nights and three days.
On the fourth day, at sunset, she builds a circle with smooth round rocks. She places the feathers in four directions and builds a fire that's left to burn down to embers.
For four days she dances for the sun. The rhythm of her feet raises the dust of lost stories and dreams.
For three nights she sings praise for the moon.
On the fourth night, she dreams beneath the intense tent of stars. Subtle images appear -- luminous skulls, eyes full of moonlight. She presides over stories, faint songs and low whispers (both familiar and strange) like rivers, memories and wind.
She restores knowing to its rightful place.
by Deborah Russell
Originally published: Quill & Parchment, 2004
Image by Tony Martinez, "D. Russell & Dancer"
Denver Powwow, 2005 (used with permission)