Saga of Darkness Vision of Light
Chapter Three

Ghost Dancers

by Dennis R. Cook

Living Water at the Oasis
Living Water at the Oasis

Saga of Darkness Vision of Light
Chapter Three
Ghost Dancers
by Dennis R. Cook

After we finished loading the 4X4, Steven returned to the porch to say good-bye to Sarah. I began thinking about our journey. The thought of going to New Mexico intrigued me. The choice of a high place in New Mexico as a vantage point from which to purify oneself spiritually seemed to me an intriguing way to become acclimated to a new environment.

I thought of New Mexico in two ways. First, there was "the land of enchantment," a land of intricate beauty sculptured through the inroads of time and relentless winds. Second, there was the land of the Navajo, the Anasazi, and the Zuni, a land perfected by the tears of broken hearts, cast down spirits, and shattered dreams, a place where true native Americans fought to overcome their pain through their strong wills and strong faith. Others, however, I would learn, were bent upon gaining respectability by ignoble, even disreputable means, building their castles on the downtrodden. Unfortunately, it would not take long for me to get to know the latter.

We were headed to a remote mountain called "Old Furry" not more than an hour's drive from the four corners area. I wasn't sure Steven and I were supposed to be atop "Old Furry" at any time. The Navajo, most of them anyway, were forbidden by religious tradition to traverse more than half way up. The huge, painted face of Death on the west face, Steven told me, was an earnest attempt to keep trespassers away.

We didn't intend disrespect, but Steven told me to say, if anyone asked, that we were solely intent upon a little communion with nature and the Great Spirit that supposedly inhabited the mountain. Steven's more exact explanation for our journey up the mountain, however, was a bit more complex. He insisted that our journey would enable us to attain a more pure spiritual perspective, tune ourselves to the more exact movement of the Great Spirit, and develop an attitude in line with the native belief systems, one that would not overly imbalance the ethereal ecological plain.

Steven yelled, "let's go," after his extended goodbye to Sarah.

Sarah wasn't going with us. Still had business. I was about to ask Steven what it was she did, but Steven the fore-thinker had already shoved what I found out to be one of many Old Blackgoat tapes into his cassette player. Seems he had numerous copies. Lucky me! I disdained being rude, so I determined to listen.

Blackgoat began:

My dear people, "it is true that we, the Navajo, as well as other native American cultures, have a deeply defined spirituality, that does, in a sense, give us our beauty, but knowing the Holy Father as I do, I can only see our tears, the result of a naive association with demonic influences, influences that have blessed us with poverty, sickness, and death.

True, the white American was the noose around our neck, the instrument of Father's judgment, and cause for the removal of many of our native American cultures far from what they might have called their own land, but I hasten to point out, this same lesson Father has been trying to teach the whole of humanity since the dawning of recorded history. God judges nations that become overly attracted to spiritual influences not His own.

We must not forget the lesson of Israel, who, although the instrument of right judgment upon the peoples worshiping and romancing demons round about her, later became the captives, killed, enslaved, and abandoned; all the result of the Israelites' involvement in the occult. Baal and all that.

So, my people, the true Americans, take heart. Dry your tears. Father is right and just. What comes around, goes around. If the white American vanguard of our society persists in wading ever deeper into this generation's occult explosion, rest assured, their fate will be worse than ours.

And remember, too, it takes Father considerably longer to make a statement to humanity using analogical data. His ways are so much higher, and to him, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years a day.

The sermon continued like that, but you get the picture. I don't know how many cassettes authored by Old Blackgoat we had listened to between Palo Alto and the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, but believe me, I got the picture, too!

Relief from the noisome pestilence (ha!) came as we entered the expanse of Navajo territory just north of our destination. Old Furry was in sight, but as Steven put it, we might have some difficulty or other.

"We need to keep all our wits about us through here," Steven informed me, with deep concern. "Be on the lookout for any topographic change that seems odd to you."

"Reason?" I queried.

"Quick sand, for one thing," Steven clued me. "Some of these dirt roads out here can be real 'dead ends' if you know what I mean."

"Deep enough to swallow your 4X4?" I questioned.

"Don't want to find out, do you Joseph?"

"Guess that's an understatement," I replied sheepishly.

"Anything else I need to know?"

"Be on the lookout for Kachina dancers," Steven mumbled.

"What's a China dancer doing out here on the reservation?" I questioned naively.

"Spirit dancer, Joseph, Kachina means ghost or spirit in Navajo. Don't you know anything about Navajo religious history? I know you took at least one course in Comparative Religion at Duke."

"Well, forget about all that stuff," I said, "make your point...hey...what is that, Steven? What is going on out there?" I pointed out my window mountainward where numerous pickup trucks were parked near a blazing bonfire.

"Ah, shoot! Joseph," Steven exploded, "that is what I was trying to tell you about."

On further inspection, I could make out several dozen young bucks and squaws dancing at a fevered pace not three hundred yards off to our right toward the base of Old Furry. The only thing that alarmed me about the dancers was their lack of attire, but soon Steven's bizarre reactions told me there was much more.

He slammed on the brakes of his 4X4, and pounded his fist against the steering column.

"Now listen very carefully to what I'm about to tell you to do, Joseph," Steven breathed, regaining some semblance of self control. "There are two cans of gasoline in the back, one on either side of the cargo bin. Crawl in the back and get one. Unscrew the cap. Open the back latch. Get out. Pour the gasoline all the way around the 4X4. Make sure the beginning and ending of the gasoline trail meet. Get back in the 4X4 and start praying. Ready?"

"Gotcha," I said.

"Go!" Steven ordered.

I slithered between the front bucket seats and crawled past bags and stuff to the cargo area and grabbed the can on my right, unscrewed the lid, unlatched the cargo door, then swung my legs out. I made short work of delivering the gasoline to the targeted area, and made my way back up front, taking just enough care along the way to replace the gas can lid. I started praying..., but stopped short when Steven tossed a lighted match stick out his window.

"Oh, *#*$&!" I yelled.

"Relax, Joseph," Steven cautioned, "I think we'll be fine now."

"Whoosh!" The sound of torched gasoline streaking around the 4X4 startled me.

"How can I relax sitting in a ring of fire with nude Kachina dancers dancing near dusk?" I demanded.

"Don't worry," Steven chided, "they won't bother us now. They'll think we just called on a powerful demon for protection, and that's why we invoked the power of the unbroken circle. See," Steven pointed, "they're disbursing already."

"You sure?" I asked. "Are they disbursing or are they coming after us?"

"Relax," Steven chided me again, they are more afraid of us than we are of them. They enjoy casting spells on the unsuspecting, but want no part in a counter attack."

I wasn't so sure. I kept my eyes on them as they faded into the background. One pickup truck remained behind as the others sped off toward the northeast, the way we had come.

Steven put the 4X4 into gear, and we cautiously resumed the last leg of our journey. I was speechless, but I had questions. Steven seemed to sense my confusion.

"I'll catch you up on things out here before long, Joseph," Steven began. "Those ghost dancers were young practicing satanists and witches. Ghost dancing, as it was practiced toward the turn of the twentieth century wasn't a threat to anyone. I guess a couple of different forms of the ritual come to mind.

First, there was the traditional. Most tribes in North America encouraged their young men to go on a vision quest. From time to time one of the seekers would receive a special revelation which would benefit an entire tribe. Such occurrences were rare, but special enough to rate a celebration. Dancing ensued. It was that simple.

Second, there was the vision of Wakova, a native American converted to Christianity in the 1880's. One afternoon during a solar eclipse, the young buck fell prostrate into a trance. There, the Lord told him he must teach all Indian tribes to love and forgive. Made quite a stir. Dancing ensued. It was that simple.

"What about what we saw, Steven?" I asked. "What was so dangerous about that dancing?"

"Nothing simple about it, Joseph, those dancers we saw out there were young satan worshipers calling up demons. Didn't want those youngsters or their demons following us up the mountainside."

* * *

Even though our first night on the mountain had the potential to begin with clear skies and twinkling stars, storms were in the forecast. Steven had gone off to look for shelter while there was still some remaining sunlight, and left me to guard the 4X4.

It would have been the perfect opportunity for me to meditate, but the instant Steven disappeared over a nearby rise, I picked up on the sound of automobile tires rolling ever so slowly over the rocky mountain road toward me. I bristled. Was it the lone pickup truck that had remained behind, back, and far below at the ghost dancer's ritual site?

Were we being followed? Or was I just being paranoid? I was confused. My intuition was screaming, clouding my judgment. Hadn't we run them off?

I didn't want to leave Steven's 4X4 in search of him, it might not be there on our return. On the other hand, better the sacrifice of the vehicle than our lives.

Nearby was an overhang that afforded a view of the approaching vehicle. Getting a glimpse of the occupants in advance of their arrival might enable me to calm down, and put my intuition to rest.

That was not to be. A shiny, black, late model, double cab, six wheeler, rolled into view on the winding mountain trail below me. Dark tinted glass windows on all sides made it virtually impossible for me to see who was about to pay me a visit. The vehicle's visage did not fill me with hope, however, just concern. I returned to the 4X4 determined to make a stand if necessary. I devised a plan, envisioning my actions as I walked.

Soon, the stylish pickup rolled to a stop near‑by. My heart raced. I took a deep breath and prepared to greet the occupants, heart-rate quickening all the more at the sound of doors opening, first on the passenger's side of the vehicle, then on the driver's side.

Black hats and cowboy boots came into my line of vision above and below the shimmering surface of the pickup's doors. I swallowed hard. Then I overheard a female's voice from the backseat, whisper, "please don't do it, Harley."

"Shut up, Arlena," I heard the one called Harley say. Afterward, he turned his tall Navajo frame toward me, and revealed his face for the first time.

I didn't like what I saw. There before me stood a very angry young man. I couldn't see the face of the other young buck, who was still standing on the other side of the pickup, but I assumed that his face was just as contorted.

"Well," I thought to myself, "welcome to the reservation."

"What can I do for you?" I asked the young Navajo before he could get too close.

"I'll ask the questions," the angry youth shot back. "What are you belladonnas doing up here on our sacred mountain?"

"Thank God Steven had prepared me to respond to that question," I thought, before answering the youthful native.

"My friend and I are here to commune with nature and the Great Spirit that inhabits this mountain," I said.

"The Great Spirit will not hear you," the young buck snapped, "you are not a medicine man. The mountain is sacred. Get off our mountain!

"If the Great Spirit does not want us here," I snapped back, "then let Him drive us away. You are not going to drive us away," I continued. "You saw our magic down in the valley. Our magic is powerful. We are more than capable of dealing with the likes of you and your spirits. Besides," I continued, "you do not know where my friend is. He may have a rifle trained on you this very moment."

That got the young buck to thinking. He dropped his eyes, turned and walked around the front of his truck to confer with his companion, who was still a non‑participant in our little battle of wits.

"Harley," the other young man pleaded, "Arlena told you not to do this. She is afraid we will wind up in jail. We cannot afford that. I must work to provide a living for my family, and Arlena must be free to nurse our baby."

"We will let the spirits of the mountain deal with them, then," Harley said, making certain I overheard the reply he gave to his companion. "But Torre, I warn you, this is the last time you interfere in my work."

He is even more angry, now, than when he arrived, I thought, as the mean spirited youth returned to the driver's side of his pickup, slid in behind the wheel, and slammed the door.

I watched them turn and followed their tail-lights as they braked repetitively, going back down the mountain.

Darkness was closing in, in more ways than one, it seemed. Still, there was no sign of Steven. I surveyed the sky for ominous looking clouds. Satisfied that storms weren't eminent, I sighed deeply before taking a seat on a near‑by rock.

I finally had the perfect opportunity to meditate, and recall the unfamiliar sights and sounds I had experienced that day. I wondered if my experience was perhaps similar to those experienced by shepherds on plush, foliaged, mountainsides of long ago. The expanse of the universe lay stretched out before their eyes with grandeur unparalleled, stretched out like a canvas, stroked with the hand of all majesty, perfected and to be admired, breathtaking in it's appeal, finished by His hand with an exclamation of His infinitesimal glory.

It was no wonder man sought the painter whose genius wrought on canvas the wonders he beheld. Old Furry, the mountain we were on, was one of those wonders. At first glance it had reminded me of one of my granddad's biceps. Granddad had been raised on a family farm back when farm work either built your back or broke it. Pounding fence posts and toting bales of hay, coupled with massive quantities of egg and milk protein, produced a powerful man. He took great pride in showing off his massive biceps, and, as a child, I never tired of admiring them. Granddad would unbutton the shirt sleeve of his red flannel shirt, and push the sleeve above his biceps. Like Old Furry, the biceps broke sharply downward from the top, before gently sloping all the way to its base.

The mountain got its name from its "furriness". From a distance, the greenery that sprouted from its sides seemed to be kin in texture, to bear fur.

I decided that whatever time we spent seeking the Great Spirit on Old Furry was going to be beneficial after all. I was more confident. Though death roamed the valley below and demons the countryside, I made up my mind to see the mission through to the end. I believed we would find the culprit conjuring the substance Steven had named pure faith.

Although the story Steven had unfolded to me in Palo Alto of hair-raising events on the Navajo reservation was somewhat unnerving, his tale of how he and Old Blackgoat had come upon the cave of the serpent sounded a battle cry, and somehow, deep within, I knew I had answered.

Perhaps if our offensive against ritual sacrifice on the reservation was successful, that is to say, particularly if we could pin back the ears of a few leaders, young bucks like Harley might not be so confrontational. The demons driving them might have to find new territory.

The fact that Steven had brought home the real substance of faith gave my hope for all young people a foundation with new depth. I prayed the future would allow me to explore more exactly the real construct, but knew God had not delivered the unique opportunity into our hands for any reason except for His glory, the advancement of His Kingdom, and the acknowledgment of His Truth.

My meditation period continued. I leaned back on my rock pallet and sought to become one with the glowing, twinkling orbs that appeared each night to wink at us from so far away.

I gave up on Steven and gave in to meditation. After all, we had come to the mountain to fast and pray. Perhaps that is what he was doing. Or perhaps he was still seeking shelter for us. He had been thoughtful enough to take a lantern with him. I determined not to worry about him unless my intuition sounded an alarm.

As I continued to gaze dreamily into the ever‑brightening night‑time sky, for some reason, the air around me seemed to thicken. At first, I concluded the phenomena represented the first sign of an impending storm, that is, an increase in air moisture, but momentarily, I, myself, was enveloped in a blanket of thin, white, cloud wisps that weren't at all like the cumulonimbus I was expecting.

Like an intense, deep, night dream, my senses heightened. The atmosphere around me suddenly exploded with blazing sunlight. I felt the mighty power of red-hot summer rays on my arms and shoulders. Then, as my eyes focused, I found myself gazing at what I understood intuitively to be a once forbidden ritual purification ceremony called the Sun Dance.

"Is this another form of the ghost dance?" I wondered, as I gazed intently at the proceedings. I marveled at what I saw. Many natives were moaning and groaning in the spirit. Others were chanting emotion filled prayers, pleadings, and thanksgivings. All were fasting.

In the center of it all, one lone warrior was preparing a sacrifice..., himself. With a sharp knife, the brave cut a short gash in the flesh and muscle of the left, upper portion of his chest.

Although bleeding profusely from the self inflicted wound, the proud buck walked to a near‑by tree that had been stripped of all foliage and bark. Several leather straps were attached to it, and at the end of each strap, a small dowel rod was affixed.

I shuddered, fully realizing what the warrior intended to do with the dowel rod. He picked up the small stick and secured it beneath the bleeding gash he had created in his own skin.

I winced. The bold native began walking backwards until he, strap, and rod were pulling mightily against the tree while gazing, with eyes wide open, directly into the punishing rays of sunlight pummeling down upon him.

"And all this without so much as even one little flinch, wince, or hint of pain," I thought, as the man of valor increased the tension on the leather strap, rod, and tree to the point, where, I thought I must burst forth with a scream if the warrior didn't.

"Arrggh!" came the guttural cry from the proud buck. Breaking free from the tethered thong, he collapsed backward, eyes still full ablaze with the sun's glory.

"What can all this mean?" I groaned within, through my impassioned state of wonderment. Then I understood... My mind leaped! I perceived the truth...Through much affliction we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven....

Then, the revelation of what was occurring hit me... I was experiencing a vision. Was the vision a portent of what was to come for Steven, Old Blackgoat, and me? I wondered...

"Joseph!" Steven yelled. "Joseph! Can't you see, man...That was lightning! Hurry, get in the 4X4!"

I hadn't noticed the storm come up behind me. If not for Steven's sudden appearance I might have been toast! A crisp thunderclap jolted me. The sky was so close I could feel the raw electricity in the air. It was uncanny. One moment all was calm, the next we were enveloped by a shroud of electrons and the smell of ozone. Reaching the 4X4, a biting spark nipped my fingers at the first touch of the door handle. "Thank God, I thought, "there's no such thing as static cling where metal is concerned".

"Ouch"! I moaned.

"You Ok," Steven panted, once we were safely inside his 4X4.

"No harm done here," I said. "How about you? You Ok?"

"Not much the worse from the wear," Steven joked, but I may have gained a pound or two from the excess electrons."

I laughed. "You may not be able to shed those extra pounds, either, until we get out of this storm."

"Couldn't find suitable shelter," Steven said, still breathing hard. "Guess we aren't high enough up. Old Blackgoat told me we would be lucky to find a suitable overhang, and even luckier to find the small cave he had heard about. Guess it doesn't matter.., my conscience has been bothering me ever since we got here. I know now we should be with Old Blackgoat. We'll head down at first light."

I said nothing of my experiences at the time. I doubted he would believe me anyway.

We awoke to sunshine. That made our trip down 'Ol Furry a pleasant one. I took note of the rain droplets on evergreen foliage that gripped the mountainside with fierce, unyielding determination. The pines and firs were like the inhabitants of the land I surmised, a people who would not give their lives easily to change, for season to season, day in and day out, they were the same. Their roots were iron spikes in concrete. They were not meant to be moved from the land of their enchantment. Move them and they would die. They would not make up a hedge around a yard, or brighten a home on Christmas day. They were the land, and to their land they would return. The sun and sky were above them, but they were in the land, and the land was in them.

Steven got my attention by thumping my chest with a heavy right hand. "Look due south. That's Window Rock," he said, stopping the 4X4, and placing his left leg out of the cab. "Sometimes you can see for a hundred miles or more when the sun is out and there is a high sky like this morning. Believe me, if Old Blackgoat's church was the size of Shiprock, you would think you could reach out and touch it."

"Excuse me, Steven," I Interrupted, "but I thought you said that was Window Rock.."

"That is Window Rock," Steven protested. "Shiprock is north of here. I said you would think you could reach out and touch Shiprock, not Windowrock, because Shiprock is so much more grand. You'll see what I mean."

"Ok," I know it's early, and I'm not quite with it yet, but what the heck is Shiprock?"

"You don't know about Shiprock?" Steven scoffed. "Well, you're just greener than a gourd. The Navajo will sure have a field day with you. Better hide your money. Better yet, hide it under a rock. There's Shiprock, Windowrock, Frogrock, Roundrock...take your pick, but you better hide your money."

"I don't get it, Steven," I puzzled all the more.

"Don't take me seriously all the time," Steven ribbed. "You'll do fine with the Navajo. As we go through the community of Navajo momentarily I'll show you Frogrock."

Our mountain trail ultimately left the north face of Old Furry and intersected a dirt road. It curved around the mountain taking us back to the main road which ran through the small native community of Navajo.

Frogrock wasn't much to look at, but then again who spends a great deal of time looking at a frog. Ships have some majestic appeal, or at least I think so. Shiprock, I thought, might be the interesting sight Steven portrayed it as, but I wasn't convinced Roundrock would make my day, although I respected their importance to the Navajo.

The fact Steven had not pointed the landmarks out to me on our way to Old Furry held no significance. After all, we were single minded in our pursuit of becoming combat ready, although the gorgeous Sunday morning wasn't doing much more than taking my mind on flights of fancy.

According to Steven, Navajo was a community in limbo. The Navajo tribal headquarters located in Windowrock, Arizona, was only twenty or twenty five miles away or so. If not the state of Arizona, I thought, why doesn't the tribe itself spend some money to build the community up. Of all the things I knew about the Navajo, which wasn't much, I did know the men needed more job opportunities.

Except for a few small businesses and the local schools which served a broad area in the surrounding community, Navajo was a community in need of progress. When I expressed my views to Steven, he helped my perspective as I knew he would. As I mentioned earlier, Steven was an expert at sharpening perspectives. I still don't know how he made it through graduate school. His arrogance could not have gone unnoticed.

"The Navajo are keen on bringing interested parties onto the reservation to promote the upward mobility of the population." This, Steven advised me as we crossed the cattle guard that signaled our exit from the community. "It won't be long until the Navajo have a great many more opportunities to provide a higher standard of living for their families, shorten the distance they have to travel for necessities, and enjoy a better education.

"Some of the tribal elders are not too keen on the idea of modern education, though. Old Blackgoat said it best, "I have heard of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. It was a great theory. I wish we had a great theory that would help our young people learn, but we are not so fortunate, here. The educators here believe in advancing their own theory. I call it the theory of relative stupidity, the closer you get to central office, the dumber you get."

Steven continued, "The tribal elders feel that modern education has taken their children away from the roots of their culture, and it probably has. One way they have countered is by insisting school curricula include a block of time for instruction of their children in the old ways. I think that's great as long as Christianity continues to flourish here. That's why we're here, though, right, Joseph?"

"Wouldn't have it any other way," I said, as Old Furry left our view for the time being. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

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