Story #24- The Dance of the Ancestors

The photo for this story was submitted by lovely Australian photographer, Monika. Thank you so much for contributing to the blog! 


When he was a tiny babe, he heard the sound of their voices. They sang to him in his cradle after his mother had gone to sleep. When he heard them, the boy knew that one day he would follow them. He would follow when the time was right.

Twelve years later, the boy was called down to the village center. It was his day to perform the task that all young boys do when they are ready to be young men. He would take the golden disc the size of a man and roll it up the mountainside. Once at the top, he would wash it with the water of the Vann stream flowing across the mountain. After the giant golden ring was washed and rolled back to the village, it would turn a color that signified his place within his community.

The boy was not a strong boy. But he was determined and strong of heart, which is actually the best kind of strength to have in the task of growing up. There was only one problem for this boy.

He did not wish to take on any of the roles in his village.

He did not want to butcher meat. He did not want to bake bread. He did not want to craft saddles or packs for the horses. He did not care for blacksmithing. And he especially did not want to hunt.

He wanted to dance.

There was no music in this village. But the boy heard music every night from the voices. They called to him and tugged his shoulders to sway and his knees to roll and his feet to slide and kick. They hummed low in his chest and made his heart buzz.

Fall, fall, fall onto your knees. 

Plea, plea, plea for open gates.

Run, run, run into the winds.

Spin, spin, spin around the fates.

As the boy pushed the golden disc up the mountain he sang this song to himself. The disc grew heavier and heavier with each step. The incline was steeper now, and pushed back against him. The boy felt his arms losing their strength. But his heart pumped hard and the song flowed through his veins. He kept behind the disc, balancing it along the path up and up the mountain to the very top.

He first drank from the Vann stream to sooth his dry throat and parched lips. Then he cupped his hands and dipped them deep into the pure and clear water. He brought it over to the circle of metal and dropped it onto the golden surface.

At once the metal turned a charred and smoky black.

The boy recoiled, almost falling into the stream. He had never seen this color before. Hunters made the disc turn red. Butchers, pink. Bakers, yellow. Saddlers, tan. Blacksmiths, silver.

But never black.

He did not know what this color would mean once he returned to the village. But this was his path, whether he could see down the road or not. And so he spent another two hours cupping the water from the stream and dropping it over the disc. He did this until the entire disc was wet and dripping black.

The boy walked in front of the disc on the way back down the mountain, making sure that the circle would not go off course. But as he walked, he felt the metal grow lighter behind his back. The stream had made his future light, and he was grateful. The song was still inside him and he sang it loudly as he traveled.

Sun rays were stretched across the low evening skies and the villagers were waiting around the community fire. The chief sat in the large stone chair to the north. The boy rolled the disc through the crowd of people and next to the snapping flames. It was still slick and wet from the water. The villagers stared at the circle with their mouths hung open.

“But it is… black!” one woman cried out.

The chief stood and pointed at the boy. “You have ruined our spiritual guide,” he boomed.

“No.” The boy shook his head. “This is what the water has shone me.”

“You painted our precious wheel black to obscure your future. Perhaps you have no future here.”

The boy turned and saw his mother hide her face into his father’s shoulder. Both their eyes were filled with sadness. But the chief’s eyes were all anger.

“How dare you destroy this ritual.”

“I haven’t, honest. I-“

And now the boy paused, because somewhere, very far upwind, there were the voices. They sang to him as they had always done. The boy looked around the circle of people. No one else could hear the song but him. He had to share it.

Fall, fall, fall onto your knees. 

Plea, plea, plea for open gates.

Run, run, run into the winds.

Spin, spin, spin around the fates.

The boy’s voice split the air open and filled it with melody and soul. The winds whipped, singing louder, and the boy had to find the deepest place inside his chest to match their volume. The gleaming black disc spun around and around from the music. The people watched with awe. As it spun, the black paint slid off the smooth surface. Underneath it was gold again. But this gold was not the gold of jewels or stones. This was the gold of the earth.

Shadows danced across the golden disc. They clapped their hands and stomped their feet. They threw their shadowed heads back into the fire.

“Our ancestors,” the chief whispered.

Fall, fall, fall onto your knees. 

Plea, plea, plea for open gates.

Run, run, run into the winds.

Spin, spin, spin around the fates.

The boy was still singing. But he was also dancing too. He spun about and grabbed his mother by the hands and led her into the circle. Then he grabbed another villager, and another, until they all swayed and bent their knees and moved from side to side as they sang the song of their people.

On that day, the boy brought music to his village. And he was forever known as the first village performer. Over the many years after the boy’s passing, very few children received the honor of bringing home a black disc. But the craft of the performer was eternally etched into the roles of the village.

For after the boy brought down the song from the mountain, the people could hear the wind voices too. They felt the seeds of stories to tell and songs to play. And on nights when the moon was very bright, and the wind came strong around their fire circle, they gathered to talk and to sing.

And of course, to dance.



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