The Great Bear III: Old Grandfather

There is a word — it comes from Latin facere, “to make”; more specifically the nominal form, facticius, “handmade thing, craft”. It descended into Portuguese as feitiço, and came to refer specifically to handmade charms and talismans crafted by the inhabitants of the Guinea coast of Africa, frequently visited (and ravaged) by Portuguese sailors in the 1500’s. It was borrowed into French, and then English.


FireAndWater(The use of “fetish” in the psychological / sexual sense comes from the idea that a fetish is something “irrationally revered”.)

Maine is known for its fascination with the Moose, and Bar Harbor has moose everywhere — on signs, on posters, flashing in neon (I kid you not), on t-shirts and postcards and…

But what I kept seeing were the bears. There were no bears on signs (neon or otherwise), but they were everywhere else. Particularly in the shops. Particularly in this one shop…

IMG_2210The patterns of imagery on this bear fetish (made of pipestone by one Wilfred Kylakawa) are particularly moving to me. The stars and constellation-like stick figures (especially the holy twins), the spiral, and the strange lines of force on its back tempt something in me deep.

Alison bought it for me as a sort of “engagement present”, and I treasure it. As I used it in meditation over the next few days — contemplating it, and thinking on bears, and wondering why I was suddenly drawn to them so strongly — I thought back to all the times I had seen bears in the woods. Was the Bear archetype / spirit trying to tell me something?

Old Grandfather

IMG_2211Standing in my inner landscape, I tried to figure out how I could meet Bear. I decided to go to Bison in the Sun Prairie and see if he could take me to him, since I sensed they were connected somehow.

Bison knelt so that I could ride him, and he ran across the prairie until the ground fell away and he was soaring. In less than a breath’s time, we had gone so high that the sunset-painted sky fell away into darkness, the air was replaced by a bitter cold, and all around us were the icy stars. And above us: the constellation Ursa Major. Bison plunged into its heart.

And suddenly Bison was gone, and I was elsewhere. Somewhere new:

A forest. The floor was soft leafy earth, mottled with sunlight, with large white mossy stones lying here and there among the trees. There were beech, oak, and pine. Birds were singing. To my right, a clear brook ran over a rocky bed, tumbling and splashing in the sunlight. Following it with my eyes, I saw that it ran a little way and then disappeared among some great rocks some distance away. Ahead of me, the ground rose up and became stony, and I realized I was at the foot of a mountain. In the side of the mountain I could see the mouth of a cave.

Then I heard a steady thumping coming from my left, and I turned. A man was there, not very tall, but with broad shoulders and strong arms. He was wearing a straw hat, and was using a hammer to pound a fence post into the ground. He turned to me, and his face was not unlike my grandfather’s. I nodded at him, and he at me, and then he turned back to his work.

I stood and waited a little while, enjoying the peaceful surroundings and the feeling of patience and sturdy hard work that emanated from the man. Then the Bear (for I realized the Bear had taken this form to make me more comfortable) turned to me again, gestured for me to follow, and led me, not to the cave, but on a path that led up around and above the cave mouth. There, partway up the mountain, was a grassy, sunny field, and while it wasn’t at the actual top, there was a great view and it seemed like you could sit there forever.

And then of course I remembered my dream with Orson Scott Card, and it occurred to me to wonder for the first time why it was bears that had “gotten” my father. That struck me so forcefully I had to end the meditation.

(to be continued)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: