MAHACHEE

It was a cool fall moonlit night when Mahachee, a Choctaw Indian crawled up to Big Mama’s porch and died.  He had been possum hunting in the woods nearby when he was fatally bitten by a poisonous snake.  Realizing he was dying, his only hope was to get to the little cabin at the edge of the woods where the old medicine woman lived.  He was a stranger to these woods, in his travels, she was mentioned as someone to see if he was passing by the black river.

As the snake’s poison moved through his body, he could fee his life-force draining, but he was determined not to die alone in the woods.

The old woman was finishing her evening prayers, and calling the names of her Ancestors, a ritual she practiced religiously every morning and every night before she lay down, when the Choctaw dragged himself to her cabin door and died.  She was just about to turn back the covers when she heard a heavy thump outside her door.  She stayed still standing beside her bed, listening but there was only silence.  She pulled the covers back, but just as she was about to climb in bed, a man with long black hair, walked through her door without opening it.

The old woman hands stayed locked in a grip on her bed covers as she watched the strange spirit standing in the middle of her cabin.  His hair was so long it fell down pass his elbows.  He was wearing buckskins, and his dark eyes sat so far back in their sockets  that his look seemed to come from far away.  He didn’t speak a word, he just stood in the middle of the floor starring at her with that far away look in his eyes.  From out of nowhere a putrid smell filled the air, and the dark spirit pointed down to his leg.  She was familiar with the smell of death, having been so close to it so many times.

Without saying a word, the spirit turned and walked out the door.

Big Mama gathered her courage and slowly walked over to the door and slowly pulled it open, only to find find the man who was just standing in her cabin laying motionless on the ground.  She leaned down and touched his face.  It was still warm.  Her healing instincts took over, and she quickly grabbed hold of his shoulders. Just as she was struggling to pull him inside, two men from the Quarters walked pass her cabin.  They had been in the woods setting traps, and when they saw the old woman kneeling down over the Redman they stopped.

“What y’all looking fuh. Catch hold his foots.”

The men grabbed the Redman’s feet and helped the old woman drag him inside her cabin.  His eyes and mouth were wide open, and when the men realized he was dead they dropped him.

“Big Mama, dis man dead!  Ain’t no cure fuh no dead man.”

Not knowing what possessed her, she heard herself say, “Who say so?”  The two men left the old woman’s cabin, walking backwards.

She summoned all the strength she could gather in her old shoulders, and pulled the stranger in front of the hearth by the fire.  She had to keep his body warm.  She had never seen a Redman like him before.  He was wearing buckskin boots that went all the way up to his knees, and instead of a hat, he wore a colorful cloth wrapped around his head.  A flat drum hung across his chest, along with a heavy medicine pouch.  She removed these articles, carefully setting the aside.

She felt anxious as she knelt down and pressed her ear to his chest.

Nothing moved.  But how could he be dead she thought.  He had just walked through her door and showed her the snake bite on his leg.  She hastily pulled off his long boots, tore the buckskin away from his leg, and there it was, the snakebite that killed him.  His swollen leg was already turning black, and when she looked back at his face, his color changed before her eyes.  Moving quickly, she reached under her bed and grabbed the corker-sack where she kept the bark from her special tree.

Wasting no time, she pulled the black pot filled with rainwater over the fire.  She always kept  her black pot filled with water over the flame in her fireplace so as to always have warm water at her disposal.  She threw a handful of bark into the pot, and a fist full of kindling onto the fire.  While she waited for the bark to come to a boil, she took the knife that was stuck down in his boot and cut a hole in his leg where the snake had bitten him.  She filled her dipper with the brew from her pot and poured the warm liquid inside the bleeding hole in his leg.  Bending down, she quickly began sucking the poison from his leg, stopping intermediately to spit the blood into the fire.  She continued the process until the taste of the poison was gone.  Once again she filled the dipper, this time to wash the poison blood from her own mouth.

She spat the bloody brew into the fire.  Still working with haste, she lifted his limp head onto her lap and proceeded to pour the remainder of the concoction into his mouth.  He didn’t resist.  His unmoving eyes seemed to give his approval, so she covered his mouth with her own and forced the remedy down his throat.  Between breaths, she called on the Gods and Goddess of her Ancestors.

“Elegba, Ogun, Obatala, Yemonja, come here”, but when she looked back on his face, his eyes remained opened but unmoving.  Frightened that she had lost him, she called her Ancestors out loud.  “Come help me now grandmother! Come great-grandmother, help me now, help me!”

Again she filled the dipper, and again she covered his mouth with hers, forcing more of the brew down his throat, but his eyes stayed closed.  Determined, she continued pouring the brew in his open mouth, forcing it down his throat with her breathe, and each time she administered her herbal brew, she prayed another prayer.  All total, she poured twenty-one dippers of her remedy inside his body, and still nothing changed.

“Redman don’t you die in my house.”  Exhausted but determined, she stayed with him for the remainder of the night, with his head in her lap, rocking and singing the songs of her Ancestors.

“Mama Yemonja, papa Ogun come here and help me wit dis man.”

With her eyes fixed on the fire, she continued rocking his head in her lap, and calling the names of her Ancestors and praying.  It was nearly morning when her Ancestors finally got the call, and she knew it the moment it happened because at that instant her spirit went into the fireplace and took on the shape and form of the flames inside the fire.   She never felt the sweat pouring under her breasts, nor did she know how it came to be that her whole body was wringing wet.  Nothing was anymore.  Not the fire, not the sunlight coming through the cracks of her cabin, not even the smell of death.  Everything was gone, and there was nothing left accept the heavy feel of his head on her thighs.  She was one with her Ancestors and they were one with her.

And then it happened.  The feel of his breath on her thighs brought her back to the world, and when she looked down at him, his eyes popped closed and then popped back open.  He was alive.

Suddenly his whole body shook, his eyes rolled back in his head and he began to tremble so violently she had to grab hold of him with all the strength she had to keep him from hitting his head against the hearth.  Then came a nasty smelling foam erupting from his mouth, as he began to puke all over her. Through it all, the old woman held on and when the puking finally stopped, the Redman lay on the floor in his own regurgitation.

Big Mama didn’t waste a moment.  She quickly grabbed him under his armpits and pulled him to his feet.  He was dazed and disoriented, but she persisted as she gripped his body and began walking him in a circle, round and round, back and forth, until she was satisfied that he was really alive.

Finally she walked him over to her bed and laid him down.

As his vision began to focus he wondered who was this black angel standing over him.  Bewildered and disoriented, he watched her removing his clothes and washing his body.  Still believing he was died and that she was one his Ancestors sent to prepare him before he entered the land of his grandfathers, he never resisted.  But when she finished dressing his wound, and he was laying on her geese feathered mattress, the feel of her warm hands on his body made him realize he was still alive.

The old woman gave the Indian a cup of her “heal all” potion to drink along with two cups of sleeping tea, and within minutes he was in a deep sleep.  It was daybreak by the time she finished cleaning his puke off her floors.  She threw a handful of pine needles in the fireplace to remove the smell of death from her cabin. That morning when the field hands passed by on their way to the cane fields they smelled the scent of pine coming through her shutters.  No one had ever heard of anybody curing a dead man before, but by the end of the day, everybody between the fields and the Quarters heard the news.  Big Mama had brought a dead Indian back to life.

While the Redman was recuperating in Big Mama’s bed, she slept on the floor in front of the fireplace.  One night while she lay sleeping on her pallet, a little girl came to her in a dream, asking if she could be born.  When Big Mama woke from her dream she wondered who in the Quarters was going to have a baby girl, and long after the dream had passed, the memory of the little girl lingered on.

To show his gratitude for saving his life, the Indian became the old woman’s faithful servant that fall, spending the remainder of the season hunting and fishing for her, and tending her garden.  He planted corn, squash, beans, sweet potatoes and pumpkins, and all that fall, the smell of pumpkin soup filled the air around her humble little cabin.

Over the many years of her dealings with Indian’s who came to her cabin to trade corn seeds for her medicine pouches, she had never met an Indian like him before.  His name was Mahachee.  He was from the people of The Five Nations, said he was a member of the Council of rain dancers and spirit walkers.  The wide flat drum he wore around him body was the instrument he played when he danced the sacred dances and called down the rain spirits of his Ancestors.  According to Mahachee, the spirits of his Ancestors dwelled in the clouds and whenever it rained it was the Ancestors coming back to the earth to grow corn for their people, to fill their rivers with fish, and to clean their souls.  Among his people it was believed that children born during a storm were great Ancestor spirits returning to earth to do great deeds for their people.

The moon was full again, the time of the month when the old woman pulled up  herbs that grew wild in the woods behind her cabin.  Mahachee began playing his drum and dancing that night.  So Big Mama sat down on the ground under the light of  the full moon, sorting wild herbs and watching the Indian dancing to the beat of his drum and singing in a language she couldn’t understand.

Mahachee danced and sang, and sang and danced all night, filling the air with the sounds of his drum and his songs.  After a time, the old woman began to feel something moving in the atmosphere.  Then suddenly, a loud bolt of thunder caught her by surprise, making her jump.  Then the dark sky opened wide, and like magic it began to rain.  It wasn’t a rain that made you run, nor was it cold.  It was a soft sweet warm rain, and the feel of it was something she had never felt before.  So the old woman sat still letting the sweet rainwater cover her as she watched the Indian who kept on playing his drum, and singing and dancing his rain dance.

That was the night saw them for the first time.

There under the full moonlight, a cadre of spirits were moving with Mahachee to the rhythm of his drum.  It amazed her.  Where had they come from she wondered.  And then she remembered what Mahachee has told her.  They were the rain.  The infectiousness of the whole thing suddenly got hold of the old woman, and she found herself on her feet moving.  It was all so magical, the rain, Mahachee, his Ancestors, so much so all she could do was dance and laugh and cry all at the same time.  And so for the reminder of the night, Big Mama and the Indian danced together in the rain by the light of the full moon.  From the magic they shared that moonlit night, a bond was sealed between them.

That next morning when Big Mama went to her rain barrel and filled her dipper with the magical rainwater’s, she wondered who these powerful healing waters would cure, rainwater made by a dancing Indian who had come back to life from the land of the dead.

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2 Responses to “MAHACHEE”

  1. Ted Wallace Says:

    Great story ! It moves magically and weaves a fabric right out of native forklore. Looking forward to more great stories.

    • naimahfuller Says:

      Ted, thank you so much for your comments, and for your encouraging support. I too look forward to sharing this incredible story that has been given to me. Please come back and subscribe to my blog so you will be notified via your email when new entries are posted. In the meantime, many blessings. ~ Naimah

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