Tonight, She is Most Wise

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

She went away a girl and returned two years later a mysterious woman, unmarried, without child, her hands soft from lack of labor. She came back, she said, because she dreamed seven nights in a row of a black full moon rising between the spires of the Twin War Gods.

To the elder women, including her mother, she explained that she had nursed a sick child back to health in the village of her mother’s sisters. After hearing that, every mother within a day’s walk brought her their sick children and she rarely saw the light of day.

For four days the women held counsel. They ignored her premonition of the black moons rising and decided to give the girl a new name, Satikya, healer of children, and planned a ceremony to celebrate her return and coming of age. They chose the rising of the full moon following the first harvest of fresh sweet corn.

As custom dictated, she sat in a special place that day and evening before the rising of the moon and the villagers called on her for her blessings and guidance.

“Tonight, she is Most Wise, more even than Grandfather Skywatcher,” said her mother to anyone who cared to eavesdrop.

Grandfather came last to see her, even as the first perceptible light of the moon smudged the northeastern sky. With much effort he kneeled before her and looked into her radiant face. Her hair had been woven with turkey feathers and flowers into a wide arc that half-haloed her head. The dancing flames of a young fire lit her face.

“Give me your hands,” she said, and Grandfather placed his gnarled paws in her warm brown hands.

She closed her eyes and swayed as if winds buffeted her, then brought Grandfather’s hands to her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks when she opened her eyes.

“Soon you will be in pain no more,” she said. “Something terrible will happen that has never happened before, and you will become high above others, and everyone will see you and some will come afterward who will prevent that terrible thing from ever happening again.”

She released Grandfather’s hands and covered her face with her own.

Grandfather wondered what she meant, but asked no question, as custom called. For years, since before this girl had left a girl and returned a woman, he had dull premonitions he could not clarify. Something terrible would indeed happen, he thought, as the girl said. He would be held high for all to see, and it would rile some into revolution.

I will be a martyr, he thought.

He rose slowly, pain shooting through his knees and lower back such that he could not breathe. He stood until it eased.

“Thank you, my wise fortuneteller,” he said. “I accept my path.”

Then he left to watch the rising of the full moon as he had done without fail since before all others in the village had even been born.

A sign is coming, he told himself. I must be vigilant. It must be left to others to prepare for what comes after.

# # #

Although no one knows Anasazi customs, it’s not uncommon among Native American cultures for young girls who become women to be considered “most wise” during a short period of time, during which they bestow blessings and healing words to visitors. The coming sign that brings terrible things is the Taurus Supernova, which appeared on July 4, 1054, and became the brightest object in the sky except for the sun and the full moon for a month.


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Historial Fiction


An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

The scream woke all the light sleepers in the village and they poured out of their houses carrying sticks and axes and throwing stones.

“Who made the scream?” Natwani asked over and over. People pointed in different directions.

“It was not human,” said a woman whose quivering voice betrayed her fear.

Too many people began talking, some saying the scream sounded like an evil spirit, others saying it was an animal.

Natwani quieted them. “Is anyone missing?” He felt the need to act, to run somewhere and help someone or attack an enemy. He didn’t know where to turn.

Everyone eventually return to their sleeping mats, but a disquiet hung over the village, and the next night when the screams happened again people came out into the night angry and hysterical.

“The village is haunted! We must abandon it!” cried a woman with small children.

“If it is a person, we must kill her,” said a man, which made two women angry who said they must kill any men who want to kill women.

Natwani calmed them and sent them back into their houses, then he gathered a group of men and set up a watch the next night.

Early the next morning closer to first light than midnight, a figure with white hair ran into the village and screamed like a tortured spirit in the courtyard beside the great kiva, then ran down the slope out of the village. Natwani had been roused out of a fitful doze and with a half-dozen other men he chased the screamer until they lost him in the darkness.

When they returned, everyone in the village waited for him.

“It is a man,” said Natwani. “A man with white hair.”

“Did you catch him?” asked a woman.

“He is fast and he hides well.”

The next night they set a trap of a strong cord stretched low across the pathway out of the village, with four strong men in hiding to pounce when he tripped over the line. But the white-haired screamer leaped over the cord as if he knew it was there.

The next night, Natwani and the men resolved to use deadly force and the best archers hid in the shadows of the trail down the slope, but the white-haired screamer didn’t return. For the next five nights they waited, and on the sixth they gave up, and shortly after midnight the screamer screamed and the frazzled village roused.

“It’s not a man,” said an elderly farmer. “It’s a spirit in the wind that looks like a man.”

They held an impromptu all-night ceremony in the great kiva, everyone in the village present, and in a quiet moment when the fire had died to coals and many dozed, the white-haired screamer dropped through the entrance in the roof without using the ladder and landed with a hard thud on the floor. He screamed and spun about and began to climb up the ladder to escape, but his leg did not work properly and he struggled. Natwani pulled him down as others added sticks to the fire and in the light they all recognized him.

“Lucio,” Natwani said. “The Sun Spider man.”

Lucio screamed again, rolled his eyes and thrashed, but Natwani held him.

“Why?” Natwani asked.

Lucio went limp, and began to sputter. “No sun. No sun. Without Sun Spider I … nothing. No sun. No sun.”

# # #

I didn’t know myself who the screamer would be … then the Sun Spider man stepped into the role. It’s funny how the subconscious of a writer works. Things happen that I can’t rightly claim.


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Historial Fiction

The Sun Spider

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

Lucio found the longest, straightest sapling he thought he could handle. He cut it down and beat all its limbs off with his river-stone ax, then dragged it to the open glade rock below the village.

He found seven more and did the same.

“What are you doing, Lucio?” a boy asked.

“Building a Sun Spider,” he said.

A crowd began to gather as he worked. Women carrying water from the little river changed their path to pass by the glade rock. Hunters left and returned the same way, and old women set up their looms in the shade on the uphill side.

Lucio beamed in the attention, but he refused all help and worked alone. After he gathered eight long polls, he began stacking shorter logs like a strangely laid bonfire. He set the logs in an interlocking fashion that towered into a strong structure more than twice his own height.

He leaned the straight poles against the structure and tied them together with long cords of yucca string, then climbed and work for days atop the structure.

When he had secured the eight polls together at the top and stacked stones at the footing of each he noticed the ancient skywatcher standing in the shadows. The old man had never shown the slightest interest in Lucio, and now his chance had come.

Lucio called to the boys of the village and gave them the logs for firewood from the central scaffolding as he dismantled it, until only the eight spidery legs stood over the glade rock. Where he had tied them together with the cord he had woven a small body of a spider made of willow sticks. It hovered over the glade rock like a giant long-legged creature waiting for something. The next morning, Lucio stood in the small shadow cast by the spider’s body and slowly moved with it until evening.

The old skywatcher came to him and spoke. “You will mark the pathway of the shadows with small stones.”

“Yes, Grandfather. And there will be moon shadows two.”

“Mark those as well. I will keep an eye on you.”

Women began bringing Lucio regular meals and water. Boys brought him small river stones for marking the shadow paths, and men built a small pit house where he rested when there were no shadows. Grandfather sent special stones to mark auspicious events, such as the first shadow on solstice days or the arc of shadows produced by a full moon during harvest.

For three years, he meticulously recorded the shadows of the Sun spider. The glade rock became covered with tracks of palm-sized river stones and he walked with great care among them.

Then one night a storm crashed down the spindly legged spider and scattered the stones, and Lucio couldn’t bear it. During the storm, he left, and the people of the village did not know what happened to him.

# # #

I know of nothing like the Sun Spider I describe here. But these people paid more attention to the sun and the moon, direction and shadows, than modern Americans pay to professional sports. There were, I imagine, many such structures built to track the movement of the sun and moon, most of which did not work and did not leave any recognizable archaeological residue.


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Historial Fiction

The Upright Log and the Sun

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

After the fall harvest and before the big snows, Grandfather directed the men of the village to find a long straight log and hundreds of stones as large as a man could carry. For weeks, they worked and sang and laughed. Children played among them and women kept them well fed and watered.

Grandfather had them erect the log on a spot he had chosen with great care, all the stones stacked in a cone at its base to hold it upright.

A week before the winter solstice, he pointed to the Mesa Ridge to the West. “Natwani,” he said, and a short man with massive shoulders and chest stepped forward. He grew the best crops each year and served as captain of the archers. “Take three men and cross to the mesa top there.” He made Natwani site from the log to the crest of the cliff opposite to precisely find his spot.

Natwani memorized the features of the place, then turned and looked at the horizon in the opposite direction, imagining what the pointing-up log would have as its eastern backdrop. Then he nodded to Grandfather.

“On the morning of the standstill of the sun,” which is when the sunrise moves no further south at the winter solstice, “mark the spot where the sunrise and this log line up. Make a place where only one man can stand between cairns of stone we can easily find next year. I will light a signal fire here the night before the solstice sunrise — but you can count it as the seventh sunrise starting tomorrow.”

Natwani nodded again. He understood what the old man wanted, and he wanted it too. From the time of the winter standstill of the sun, they could count days and watch the movement of the sun to know when they must plant the year’s crop. They lived in a place with a tight growing season, barely long enough most years for one good harvest of corn. Planting a week early or late could cost them dearly.

Fat flakes of snow fell the next morning when he set off with another man and his son, Choovio, who had grown nearly as strong as his father.

“Why does that crazy old man make us do these things?” Choovio asked as they crunched through the new snowfall.

“What makes the corn grow?” asked Natwani.

“What does that have to do with it?”

Natwani said nothing. They waded across the small river at a shallow place, the rippling near-freezing water stinging them to their thighs. They dried their feet and pulled on their foot coverings and leggings they had carried on their shoulders across the water, then began ascending the mesa, which warmed them.

“Sunlight and warmth and water,” answered Choovio.

“Yes,” said Natwani. “And more. You know. Go on.”

Choovio sighed. His father wanted him to answer like a child reciting after his teacher. “And the spirit of the sun must touch the spirit of the earth and then each go back to their separate places and the corn grows between.” Every child and villager knew this. But it didn’t explain why they had to go spend a week on a cold ridge top.

“When the winter sun stands still, when the sun rises in the same place for days in a row, that is when the sun and the earth come together. Grandfather wants us to see it more clearly so that we can better thank the sun and the earth when they are closest together, and they will not be offended, and so our crops will grow.”

“Couldn’t we just do that from the village?”

At the top of the ridge, Natwani found the place he wanted to be, the standing stick near Grandfather’s sky-watching platform pointing to the cleft in the eastern mountains where he expected the sun to rise seven mornings hence.

They gathered enough stones before nightfall to build a low wall that blocked the cold wind, and they huddled for warmth. The next morning, they watched the sun come up near the cleft.

“Just watch and learn, my son,” said Natwani to Choovio. “Someday soon the wisdom of manhood will come to you, and you will understand.”

Choovio felt too cold to care whether he understood anything ever again, but the following mornings he noticed how slowly the sun crept into the cleft until it seemed to stand still. The morning after they saw Grandfather’s signal fire, the whole world seemed to come to a halt, the wind died and the little river stopped rushing, and the only signs of movement came from The People in the village.

Natwani lined the upright log with the first appearance of the sun and marked the spot carefully, then he raised his hands in welcome and Choovio, feeling a strange rush of power, joined him.

# # #

On the sharp ridge due west of Chimney Rock, Colorado (the northeasternmost outlier of the Anasazi culture near Pagosa Springs) are many sites that appear to have been used by the ancient ones to use the twin columns of Chimney Rock like a gun sight to view celestial events with precision. When they couldn’t look through the twin columns, perhaps they raised logs upright to use as sighting guides.


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chimney Rock, Historial Fiction, Pagosa Springs

The Brave Son

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

His father and older brothers gathered round him.

“We leave you here now,” said his father. Salt from dried sweat crusted his father’s eyebrows. His brothers shifted and grinned behind their father. “Watch the fields and protect them. Run home if you become afraid and I will send a son more brave than you.”

“All of us are more brave than him,” said the brother closest to him in age.

“He will run home tomorrow, my father,” said the eldest, the firstborn. “Remember the time he ran from the badger? Or when he thought that huge fire-blackened tree trunk was a bear?”

The brothers laughed. The brother closest in age said, “He ran away so fast he almost flew off the cliff like a falcon.” The brothers laughed harder, and his father pressed his lips flat as if to keep himself from laughing.

“Enough,” his father said. “You stay. We go.” Then his father chanted sacred words to ask the spirits to protect these newly planted fields and help his untried youngest son be brave. He threw pinches of cornmeal and cedar ash and dried corn pollen onto the boy, then they turned and left him.

In the darkness of the first night, something crashed through the brush by the river and he ran halfway back to the village before he stopped. He imagined mountain lions stalking him or grizzly bears snapping the trees like twigs to get to him. He found a crack between rocks and huddled there until morning, and then went back to the fields. His stomach grumbled and his head ached as if a tight band wound tightly above his eyes, but he felt better in the sunlight.

He decided to walk the periphery of the fields they had so laboriously cleared of brush and planted in raked-up mounds of soil. He munched parched corn and drank from the little river and found a place where he could sit in the warm sun and see nearly every seed mound. The world felt safe and calm.

He dozed and dreamed that he ran so fast off a cliff that he flew like a falcon, as swift as an arrow, so high in the sky that he could see all the bears and mountain lions and seed mounds and all his brothers loafing about the village. High toward the sun, he flew, until it grew so hot it awakened him, and he blinked, the noon sun blinding him and baking his face.

When he sat up he saw a mountain lion, its long tail twitching, staring across his father’s fields to where a grizzly bear stood on its hind legs looking at the lion. Overhead he heard a screech and looked up to see two golden eagles tumbling through the air, momentarily locking talons as they fell toward the fresh earth of the cornfield, and then they separated and flapped their strong, thick wings as both the bear and the lion turned their heads to watch.

Something spiraled in the air, a feather from one of the eagles, and without a thought of worry about the lion or the bear, he went to where the feather had fallen and picked it up, a long middle tail feather, pristine and iridescent in the sun.

He remembered the bear and the lion and he looked for them, but they had gone.

From strips of rawhide, he wove a band to wrap around his head above his eyes and he fit the feather into it. He stood and felt, perhaps for the first time in his life, unafraid of the world. The fighting eagles had blessed him, and even the bear and the lion had fled his presence.

At the edge of the cornfield he built snares of twisted-grass string and that evening he ate roast rabbit. He did not return to the village until after the fall harvest, the largest from the fields of his father since he had begun farming as a young man.

# # #

There is plenty of evidence that small groups of Anasazi, perhaps single individuals, stayed with certain fields during the growing season. And you know, sooner or later, they’d make the youngest son do it.


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Historial Fiction

A Clash of Delegates

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

The two visiting dignitaries ignored each other as they performed their morning rituals to welcome and encourage the coming of the sun. They offered cornmeal and corn pollen to the sunrise, they chanted ancient words, and they acknowledged the four directions that became six when they called to the underworld and the above-ground world.

They also listened carefully to each other and noticed the differences.

“You give much emphasis to the underworld,” said the delegate from the North as they walked together back to the great house of the High Priest.

“You give much emphasis to the above-world,” said the delegate from the South.

“All things come from the sky: the warmth of sun, the water for life, the wisdom of moon and stars.”

“Yet The People crawled up from below into this world. The underworld is our womb, our mother.”

“The People were born of the earth and the underworld, it is true. But once born, no one returns to the womb.”

“You are wise and speak truth — but neither does one, once born, fail to honor one’s mother.”

“You are wise and speak truth as well. But while to honor one’s mother is a requirement for balance, men also must raise their heads and recognize the higher spirits of the sky.”

“To recognize the sky is without question necessary for balance. But the superior spirit force resides in the underworld, there must be no question.”

“There must always be question,” said the man from the North, feeling anger within him. “The proof of superiority lies solely with the health and happiness of The People. The spirits of the underworld give their bounty only grudgingly, with the constant urging of Father Sun and gentle rain.”

The man from the South also felt the heat of anger rise into his head. “The spirit of the underworld does nothing begrudgingly. All that we have, our buildings and our tools and our food, have their roots, their beginnings, in the underworld. It is right and proper to worship Másaw as the supreme spirit.”

The man from the North stopped and the man from the South took two paces, then turned to face him. The Northerner narrowed his eyes and said, “The Plumed Serpent of above-ground, of the air and the sky, is, and has always been, the supreme spirit.”

Without speaking further, they stood, each trying to be more stoic than the other, until a page said they were wanted in the great kiva with the High Priest and the other delegates.

“Events will prove who is right,” said the Southerner.

The Northerner nodded. “It is out of our hands.”

# # #

We can only speculate, of course, about the religious tendencies of the Anasazi, and extrapolate, perhaps, from their living descendants. But something significant happened in and around Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, a thousand years ago that made these people build the largest buildings in North America (until the 1800s in New York) and then abandon them. Religion could have been a primary driving force.

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Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Historial Fiction

Waking the High Priest

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey

“I will not wake him,” said the Owl Man.

“Who, then?” asked the warrior.

Both were the most junior and newest members of the High Priest’s house, and they were the only ones left on duty in the hours before first light. Both knew what happened to the last ones to wake the High Priest.

“Pok,” said the Owl Man. “Pok should wake him because he is in charge of protecting this canyon.”

“I will not wake Poke,” said the warrior. He knew the order: do not disturb the Chief Warrior.

“They must know,” said the Owl Man who had been with the High Priest’s house more than a moon longer than the young warrior.

“So who do we tell?”

The Owl Man’s eyes darted from side to side. “If we do not say anything soon, they will be the last to know. That will be worse than waking them.”

“Maybe we should wait until it’s visible from here,” said the warrior. “In case they want proof.”

The Owl Man eyed him. He has a good point, he thought. “You are right. We have not even seen this new star. We just have the runner’s word from the High House.”

“Runners do not lie. If he said he saw it, he saw it.” The warrior stood tall to emphasize his thumb-width’s height advantage over the Owl Man. “But maybe it will go away before it rises over the canyon wall.”

“I am not a skywatcher,” said the Owl Man. “I do not know these things.”

They stood quietly, both their eyes searching from side to side in the darkness, looking for an answer, a way to do their duty and not risk their necks.

The Owl Man sighed. He glanced at the orange flicker of the dying signal fire from the High House. The risk of not telling the High Priest about the unexpected appearance of a new star in the sky began to seem more grave than merely waking him. He sighed again.

“We must tell someone,” said the warrior.

“I will wake the High Priest,” said the Owl Man. He looked at the rim where he expected the new star to appear along with a sliver of moon, but he saw only the usual smudges of light. “I will wake the High Priest,” he said again. He looked at the warrior who held his gaze a moment, then nodded.

“And I will wake Pok,” said the warrior.

The Owl Man and the warrior both nodded, but they stood without taking a step in the chilly morning air.

# # #

Am I too obscure about the new star? Just for the record, it’s the Taurus supernova that exploded into the Crab Nebula, visible on earth as the brightest object in the sky (other than the sun and the moon) for about a month beginning on July 4, 1054. Imagine being down in Chaco Canyon and reports come in about this new star, but you can’t see it yet because its not risen above the canyon rim. Would you wake the High Priest before you actually saw it?


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Historial Fiction