Buzzards, Hawks and Ravens
(Account of Six Friend's Life in the "Dark" Age)
Going Through the Rites of Passage
-- Mystery of the Big Wheel -
It was late Sunday afternoon. Bastian stormed into the house, waving to his peers good bye. He was soaked with sweat, but happy, having passed the qualifications in fighting as a part of the education for the initiation. He hurried up the stairs to their little room in search of Ruwen. "Hey, Little Brother, where are you hiding? Have you forgotten our plan? You promised to hike with me to the Big Wheel." Bastian was on top of the world. "Guess who the best in fighting was? I was! You have to congratulate me!" But Ruwen didn't move. "Don't be that glum, Bro! It's a wonderful day! Come on little brother!"
Bastian had turned sixteen in May. A growth spurt had increased his height to 6ft 1in. His blond hairs had darkened slightly and he was sporting his first whiskers. He was an eye-catcher and every girl got itchy just thinking of him. Ruwen was neither jealous of Bastian's strength nor of his reputation as the prettiest youngster of the village. He preferred liked to be the inconspicuous one of the TIB's, the Two Inseparable Brothers, as the villagers called the two. He favoured to stand out in skills and knowledge. But now something was ahead that could possibly alter their closeness abruptly, the rite of passage. Bastian would go through the initiation rite together with six boys and six girls of his age and soon belong to the adults, while Ruwen still would be ranking among the kids.
At the age of 16 every boy and every girl of the small village, as in many other villages around, had to go through the rite of passage to be admitted formally to adulthood. The initiation rite was neither a bloody nor a humiliating event. It was a period of education, culminating in a mystic, ritualistic ceremony and a big festivity involving all villagers.
Since midwinter the youngsters to be initiated were introduced to the task of adults. The education of the boys was mostly public, while the one of the girls took place more secretly and spying on the girls, especially by boys, was punished severely.
Together with his peers Bastian was instructed by the elders how to defend the small community against intruders and robbers. They had to improve their skills in attack and defense with blades and daggers, with truncheons and lances, with bow and arrows. They also had to learn how to care and improve for the fortifications of the village, how to slip out the village unseen by besiegers, to sneak up to the enemy in cover during the day or in the deep night and to communicate with signs or sounds and not with words. It was a hard training but to the liking of Bastian.
"Hey Buddy, don't be so discontent. It's not my fault. I am sixteen and you are fourteen only. I would prefer to be initiated together with you, you know that! Come on Bro."
However Ruwen pretended not to hear Bastian and kept on reading a book sitting on the bed.
Bastian sneaked up to Ruwen from behind and tickled him. When the tickling attack didn't show the expected result and Ruwen's face stayed gloomy, Bastian embraced him softly from behind. But Ruwen continued to read on stubbornly. Now Bastian turned him around and fondled him like a baby.
Out of breath he repeated, "Please Ruwen, don't stay that glum. In two years you will belong to the big ones also and in the meantime nothing will change between us two! Lets hurry up, the Big Wheel is waiting."
Ruwen was downcast since Bastian's birthday and got more downcast the closer the midsummer night came and with it the ceremony of the rite of passage. The soft embrace relaxed Ruwen's tension. How could he be upset with Bastian, his dear blood brother? He smiled and then broke free of Bastian, "Let's start! We have to leave on the spot, because nobody should visit that haunted place of the Big Wheel on a night like today, the night of the new moon. The Wyrd Sisters might cast a spell over us two and we may turn to stone if they catch us in the dark at the Wheel."
Coming out of the shadowy wooded gulch Ruwen and Bastian arrived at the oval clearing of the Big Wheel. The Big Wheel was a mysterious labyrinth, a relict from pagan times. The clearing was immersed in the golden light of the afternoon sun. High trees, elms, poplars and alders, surrounded the clearing like pillars and merged with the dense beech grove at the foot of a bare hill. The labyrinth was located at the other end of the clearing. The centre of the clearing was occupied by a big table-like dark rock with a polished flat top. In the foreground a spring was arising in a deep fountain feeding its clear waters to the creek of the gulch.
"Oh, Bastian, what a peaceful friendly place it is. I like it here. It's not a place to be scared off!...What did you tell me earlier? Did you want to scare me?"
"No! The elders told me so! It's a mysterious place. Everyone says it's a haunted place! They told us dozens of the dark legends about this place!"
"Really, or are you putting me on?"
"I swear to god, no! Do you see the old tree in the centre of the labyrinth of stones and shrubbery? This old crooked elm tree is older than the village, older than the country. The tree is growing here since the dawn of the time. People call it Yggdrasil, the world tree."
"Oh come on, a tree may live 500 years, maybe a 1000 years, but I have never heard of tree as old as the world! You are kidding!"
"No, I do not! It's not the tree alone it's the Three Grey Women, the Wyrd Sisters. The three Norns are sitting underneath the roots of the tree weaving the threads of destiny. Didn't Aliah tell you of the Wyrd Sisters, caring for the world tree, the Yggdrasil, by watering it with the water of the nearby well?"
"Sure she did. She frightened me with this story! Is that wellspring over there the Urdborn? We just drank its water! It is refreshing! So what is that scary about the place?"
"Be careful! Do not provoke the Norns! People say in the dark nights of the new moon the oldest Norn Uro is crouching in branches of Yggdrasil and lurks for lovers. She brings luck to the loyal and doom for the infidel."
Since times not remembered the Big Wheel was the destination of pilgrims coming from far away. It was used for fortune telling. A pilgrim seeking advice had to follow a traditional ceremony. At full moon he had to enter the main entrance of the labyrinth and start dancing with closed eyes. He had to spin faster and faster till his head started swimming. Then the Wyrd Sisters would guide him either into one of the three paths leading into the labyrinth itself and to the tree or to the one out of it. If the Big Wheel spit the pilgrim out, he had to hurry home to prevent disaster. If he stumbled into the middle path leading a short way only to the World Tree, he could hope for good health for the rest of his live. The lucky one was guided by the Sisters into one of the other two paths. The path to the left was running in a single turn around the outer edge of the labyrinth and then into the labyrinth up to the tree. The pilgrim had to feel his way in reverse along the whole course till he touched the Yggdrasil. It was seen as a forecast of good luck and good health, if he succeeded. The third path was the longest. It was winding in nine loops through the labyrinth with a sharp turn at the end of every loop. The pilgrim could expect a lucky life from there on and the fulfillment of all his wishes if he succeeded in finding his way to the tree with closed eyes despite the sharp turns.
But the Big Wheel was only one of the mysteries of this place. The second one was the huge dark-grey stone in front of the Big Wheel. The rock was of a strange kind, a variety of stone not found in the region. Folks called the rock Altar not only because of its table like shape and its smooth and polished top but for a rumour only told to others in secret. According to this word in old times virgins were sacrificed by wizards to avert disaster from the country. Still nowadays desperate folks came there in secret to sacrifice doves or chickens in order to obtain help from the Norns. The third mystery was the wellspring flowing out of a deep, dark fountain. It was called Urdborn. Its cool water was believed to have healing power. People carried it home to store it for emergencies and a remedy in severe diseases. Old hags whispered to each other that the well water had rejuvenating power even.
Since times unknown the Big Wheel, the Altar and the Urdborn had its place in the hearts of the villagers. The place with the three mysterious objects were abhorred by the clergy men because the clearing was not only a site of mysteries but also the place for the joyful celebration of the midsummer night and, even more important, the place for the ceremony of the rite of passage for the girls and boys of the village. The church hated these pagan traditions. Clergy men tried to execrate the place and to annihilate it for a long time, but without success. About 50 years ago a parish priest piled up logs around the Yggdrasil tree for a pyre and incinerated it. However the Norns took revenge and punished him. Out of the blue dark clouds evolved in the crown of the Yggdrasil, lightings and thunderbolts filled the air, rain came down in torrents and extinguished the flames. The priest fled the site of his defeat. But the Wyrd Sisters were merciless and killed him by a fierce bolt. The next morning only his charred burned bones were found at the foot of the Altar.
The Ruwen and Sebastian advanced to the Big Wheel cautiously. The labyrinth was confined by low hazel bushes, small elders and blackberries. Its entrance was nearly overgrown by dog roses. The big thorny bush was in full bloom and covered with pink flowers. Bastian broke through the thorns carelessly dragging along a reluctant Ruwen.
"Are you afraid the Norns are waiting for you? Do you think they like fresh boy meat for dinner? I was here last year and I am still alive!"
"Don't make fun of the Norns! Aliah told me they are powerful ghosts and sometimes very resentful. They don't like to be disturbed. Please, be reverential because we may need their sympathy." Closing his eyes Ruwen did a quick prayer asking the Norns forgiveness for intruding into their realm.
The three sandy paths leading from the entrance of the labyrinth to the tree in its center were confined by boulders and small shrubs. The short path in the middle went straight to old Elm tree. The path to the right was swinging at the edge of the Wheel in single right turn back to the entrance and from there to the tree. It was much shorter than the path to the left, which was meandering in nine loops through the labyrinth till it approached the Yggdrasil tree. At the midsummer night ceremony the winner of the game of chances, the aspirant of the honour to be the midsummer night prince, had to take the way to the right, while his challenger had to take the left one.
At first both, Bastian and Ruwen, walked the shorter way, counting about two hundred steps till they reached the tree, than the longer one, counting more than one thousand steps.
Bastian recited, "Take the right path and go in reverse to find your luck!"
"Bastian, that's not an easy task in the dark of the night. You have to be careful not to trip over. If you flounder you have lost. At the feast of initiation you will loose the honour of the midsummer night prince to your challenger."
"I will outrun him, despite I have to walk in reverse and he can run the whole distance straight ahead, because he has to take the left course and that is more than six times longer and has many sharp turns."
"I challenge you! Let's start!" and Ruwen counted, "One, two and three, Go!!!!!"
Running the track along in reverse was more difficult than Bastian had expected. He was pretty slow, but having the longer legs he approached the tree already while Ruwen had covered about two thirds of the distance only.
"I will win the run against every challenger!"
"Are you dreaming? You have to draw the Sun-Stone first in the game of chances to become the aspirant for the honour of midsummer night prince! You will need a lot of god fortune, because you will have six competitors in the game of chance!"
"I know, but I am the darling of fortune! Remember I got you seven years ago and now I will get the Sun-Stone! I have to get it!"
Still out of breath Bastian commanded, "Lets try again, Ruwen, I have to know the track by heart; I have to know to race the track even in total darkness."
They raced the tracks two times more. Bastian got faster and faster, but so did Ruwen. In every race Bastian was the first to reach the goal, "Nobody will beat me, everyone can challenge me!"
The boys left the labyrinth exhausted and soaked with sweat. On their way out a thorn scratched Bastian's left cheek and the deep cut started bleeding heavily.
"That's the revenge of the Norns because we disturbed their midday sleep!"
Bastian's face went pale. He bowed to the tree three times and murmured "Please forgive me noble Norns, I didn't intend to disturb your rest!"
Bastian was tired from the tryouts in the morning and exhausted from the three races through the maze. At the Altar he caressed its polished surface, "It's so smooth! I never touched a rock as smooth as this one before. It's hot from the sun. Do you think the Norns will mind if I take a nap on top of Altar stone?" He didn't wait for Ruwen to answer and curled up on the smooth surface.
Ruwen went to the wellspring, immersed his head in the cool water and started drinking like someone dying with thirst. Coming back he joined Bastian on top of the Altar.
The croaking of ravens broke Bastian's deep sleep and he awoke with a start. It was close to sundown and a cool, humid draft coming from the gulch filled the clearing. He looked around. No raven were there, neither in the branches of Yggdrasil, nor in the trees surrounding the clearing. He shook Ruwen out of his dreams, "Hey, Little Bro wake up. Did you hear the raven croaking also?"
Ruwen shuddered and then shook his head, "No, I was deep in sleep. No croaking disturbed the peaceful silence."
"But the ravens were calling on us!"
"You were dreaming, Bastian, surely. No black birds are around! Look, the sun is almost down; we have to hurry! It's getting scary; Uro will lurk for infidel lovers soon."
"Why are you afraid of Uro little Bro? I am loyal to you, I will be loyal to you forever! This visit to the Big Wheel will bring us good luck. I am sure about it, because I will love you for ever!"
"I am loyal to you Bastian too! ... It's getting dark, please hold my hand now!"
The midsummer night celebration with the rite of passage ceremony was the most important event of the village. The festivities began in the evening of the day of St. John the Baptist in mid-June and lasted till the break of dawn the following morning. The main event was the mystical game of chance for the youngsters taking part at the initiation. The winner became the Midsummer Night Prince. He was to be the ruler of all the festivities during the next twelve month. This honour made him the most popular youngster of the village and the dream boy of all the girls. But these pleasures and advantages were balanced by the burden to take over the responsibility for the safety of the village.
The preparations for game of chance began on the Sunday before St. John's day. The maidens, still preadolescent girls, had to prepare the lots for the game. This year six virgins and seven lads had to pass the initiation and therefore thirteen lots were necessary. At dawn the maidens went down to the river and collected thirteen slim pebbles, six light coloured for the girls and seven dark coloured for the lads. The light and dark pebbles were paired according their size. The first pair was marked with a moon, the second with a star, the third with the sign for the earth, the fourth with the one for water, the fifth with the one for wind and the sixth with the one for fire. One dark pebble was set aside and adorned with a golden sun. This pebble was the Sun-Stone. At St. John's day the six light coloured pebble were placed in a white whisker basket and the seven dark ones in a dark basket from which each of the contestants had to select a pebble with blindfolded eyes. The boy who was enough to draw the Sun-Stone was the winner of the first part of the mystic game for the honour of the Midsummer Night Prince.
While the maidens prepared the lots the candidates had practised their duties and obligation of adults all morning and half of the afternoon under the supervision of the elders. As a farewell to boyhood and to celebrate the end of the instruction period the seven boys had planned a game of seek and hide. The tradition was that the end the game was to be celebrated on a small island in the river with a heavy beer bash.
In the morning Ruwen and Bastian had agreed to meet during the hide and seek game in secret at their special swimming spot. Bastian eluded the other of his peers and arrived at their favourite hiding place while Ruwen was still upriver diving for clams in the hope to recover a big shiny pearl he could use to cure pains of the heart. After a short swim, Bastian was dozing on the river bank in the shade of dense willow shrubs. At sixteen he was strong like a young bear, but slim and lithe. The blond hairs of his scalp were bleached by the sun. He had hardly any body hair with exception of the blond trail running down from his navel to the reddish bush on his pubes.
Ruwen, lithe and supple like a foal, climbed out of the river, snuck up to Bastian and crouched over his sleeping friend. The cold water dripping from Ruwen's black hairs ripped Bastian out of his dreams. "Do you think I will be the next prince? I really want to. I just dreamed I am the chosen one!"
"Your chances are one in seven as I told you before. Even if you are the winner of the first part of the chance game you have to be successful two more times! Are you prepared for the tests? Do not be too confident, you need more than luck, you have to gain the approval of the Norns!"
"I can't prepare for the second round, but I have practised for the race through the labyrinth. I have trained walking in reverse with closed eyes every day since last Sunday. I did practice in the pitch-dark barn even. I can do it. But how can I get the approval of the Norns?"
Ruwen was smiling. Bastian was two years older than he, but still more of a child. Looking in his still dreaming eyes he warned him, "You must pay respect to the Norns! Ask them for help wholeheartedly! Being the prince is a big honour, Big Boy, you have to take the new responsibilities serious. There will be no more playing around in the night with me, you have always to be on guard."
"I am prepared to take the responsibilities, but don't forget the fun that's waiting. The girls are already hot for me. As the prince I will have chances with every girl!"
"Sure you have! But are you sure about girls? Do you really long for girls?" Ruwen glanced down to Bastian's crotch and his already hard prick, "What do you want girls for, at all?" and he started humping his blood brother. Their pricks touched, they started grinding, at first slow but then more and more feverishly. Bastian's eyes blue eyes focused on Ruwen's dark-brown ones. The boys smiled at each other, their eyes darkened, closed and then both spunked up at the same time.
Ruwen giggled "Dear Bastian, we shouldn't call each other blood brothers; a more fitting word would be spunk brothers, because we exchanged our blood only once!"
A short time later, loud voices called out, "Bastian, where are you? Where are you hiding? Don't you want to join our beer bash?"
"Oh damn, I just forgot about the others!" The two boys jumped into the river to wash away the semen, swiftly.
"Look Bastian, even the fishes like our spunk, they just nibble it from my belly!"
I would like to express a special thank to Paul and Bill for editing the writings of a non native English writer.
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Copyright Notice - Copyright © June 2007
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