Excerpt from: "The Heart of the Stone"
"The spirits have revealed the pathway, Pahana." Sani said.
"Yes they have," Theodor agreed. "But what does it mean?"
"The People," Sani explained, "have four sacred mountains. These define our religious borders. The flaming sky finger confirmed the previous signs. The wind has spoken. The fire has spoken. The sky has spoken. All they speak is the same. They tell me to share with you the story of Ni'hookaa 'Asdz, the Holy Woman.
"The Holy Woman's hikwsi resides in special stone that lives not far from here. Ni'hookaa 'Asdz was found in an arroyo among giant rocks. Next to her stood an eagle that seemed to be watching over the child. No one knew how long the child had been there. No one knew her parents or what had happened to them. Therefore, the sanis-the women-adopted her into their clan, the Bear Clan of which I am also a part.
"The child was barely more than an infant. She was very small and tiny. All the People were amazed that she had even survived long enough to be discovered. The women of the clan took her to the elders. They sought guidance in naming her. Once she had been named her spirit would be of the Bear Clan.
"The elders spoke with the spirits. They meditated with sweat baths and interpreted the sand paintings. Finally they had the name. They held a ceremony for the child and she became Yuhzheekwahu of the Bear Clan."
"What does the name Yuhzheekwahu mean, Sani?" asked Theodor.
"It means Little Eagle. While it is true that Yuhzheekwahu never grew very tall, her heart was that of a giant and her hikwsi strong. As she grew into adulthood all the People knew she had special gifts.
"As the years progressed she grew. Her power also grew. It is said that a mochni once came to her with news of an approaching storm. She warned the Clan and all prepared for floods. The storm arrived the very next day without the advent of the normal signs. Without her warning many of the Clan would have suffered.
Many would have been lost."
Theodor asked, "Sani, what is a mochni?"
The elder answered, "A talking bird. Birds treated her like a sister. They often talked with her."
He continued with his narrative. "Yuhzheekwahu became of marriage age, but she shunned the idea of accepting a mate. She explained to the elders, and later the Clan, that her powers forbid her to take on the duties of a wife. Neither could she be a mother to children. Yes, the Clan was her life, but so also were the birds and the sacred stones. To Yuhzheekwahu birds were more than friends, they were brothers and sisters and as much family as any member of the Hopi Tewa.
"As you can imagine many young men were disappointed, for it is said that she was as beautiful as a rare desert spring flower."
"I can imagine all the men would want such a beautiful and powerful woman," Theodor agreed.
"One day," Sani went on, "a group of crying women came to Yuhzheekwahu. A boy had fallen ill. The elder's medicine could do nothing. Would she take a look at him? Perhaps her spirits could help.
"Of course Yuhzheekwahu agreed. She followed the women to the hogan of the sick boy. Kneeling by him she saw the circumstance was grave. The boy did not breath; neither did his heart beat. He felt very cold.
"The women of the Clan wailed. All the men were grim. An elder who knew all the ways of medicine declared that soon the boy's hikwsi would depart.
"Yuhzheekwahu left the boy. She stood before the People. She entreated the women to cease wailing. She reminded the People that at least four days must pass before the boy's hikwsi would depart. The boy was in the twilight sleep and might still be saved.
"All the Clan watched as she sought out a large rock and then stood upon it. She called out to the sky. A circling hawk responded to her call. He landed on her shoulder and the two spoke at length. Several minutes later the hawk took flight. It briefly disappeared into the haze of the sky only to return with an eagle the size of a small hogan.
"To be truthful, the People were terrified of this bird, for it truly was a monster. None had ever seen the likes of it. But the giant eagle treated Yuhzheekwahu with respect, gentleness, and even love. At this the People took heart.
"She stepped down from the rock and told the People to bring the boy to her. Several of the men fetched him and laid him at her feet. All the while the eagle watched. Not one thing escaped his attention.
"The eagle and Yuhzheekwahu had a long conversation which ended with the bird taking the sick boy in its talons and flying away with him. This so stunned the women that they began to wail again. She soothed their fears and told them that the Hozhoo would drive out the bad. The boy would be returned at sunset.
"For the rest of the day the elders took sweat baths, chanted and spoke to the hikwsi spirits that might have been in clouds that passed over the land. Hours passed and finally sunset arrived. The desert reddened from the fire of the setting sun and the sky took on a glowing golden color painted with orange flames.
"Yuhzheekwahu returned to stand by the stone.
"From the painted sky the giant eagle swooped. Beating its huge wings it hovered just above the ground and gently lowered the boy.
"The People went to the rock upon which the eagle now perched. They thanked the eagle and praised Yuhzheekwahu. She bid them return the boy to the hogan. That they did. The eagle flapped its wings jumping into the air. Far above the People it circled several times calling down to them and then flew off disappearing into the darkening sky.
"The boy awoke in his mother's arms to her great joy. He related to her a strange dream that had visited him, a dream in which he flew."
"And so he had," Theodor stated wondering if the myth might somehow be true.
"Most of the People were convinced that she had brought the boy back to life. They believed him dead, you see, his hikwsi only waiting out the four days to fly to the Otherworld. The elders proclaimed that Yuhzheekwahu must have a new name-a name that fit her character and not her physical stature. They held a naming ceremony and agreed upon Ni'hookaa 'Asdz, the Holy Woman. This name she accepted.
"So that is the story of Ni'hookaa 'Asdz. In her long life she helped many people, performed what white people would call miracles and always sought justice. She loved the People, the birds and the sacred stones."
"When did all this happen, Sani?"
"She lived in the last century. She died some years ago, almost forty years now. I think her hikwsi left her in the year of 1888."
"Sani, you said she loved the stones. Why did she love them and what stones did she love?"
"Yes, she loved the stones, Pahana. Many times she spoke of them. You must understand all the People revere the sacred stones. Ni'hookaa 'Asdz revered them as well. But the stone she spoke of so often was her own special stone. She called the stone her heart. She asserted it gave her the powers she wielded. She claimed a great many things about her heart stone. She told the People that the miracles we saw her perform did not come from inside her, but from inside the stone. It was the stone that warned of the flood and the stone that allowed her to speak with the birds as if they too were the People. Perhaps most importantly she insisted that it was the stone, not the eagle, that protected her in the wilderness when she was just an infant."
"Sani," Theodor said, "I have gathered stones from almost every land in the world. Never have I come across such a stone as you describe. If it really exists it is a stone of miracles, a stone of wonder."
"Pahana, it is all that and more," the elder said earnestly. "The stone she spoke of had great power. It has greater power now because it holds her heart."
"Then it holds much good," Theodor said slowly, wishing he could see the stone.
Sani frowned. "Pahana, please let me explain something to you. I have told you our religion Hozhoo-meaning beauty-demands balance. Hozhoo holds together the People like a tight weave in a Navajo rug. The People think of this faith like a stone embedded into their hearts, minds and souls. It protects them.
"Iina, which means life, is full of badness. Life itself is neutral. Life just is. But life can be filled with the forces of evil. Hozhoo, a powerful force for good, offsets that and is a positive force.
"Ni'hookaa 'Asdz understood this very well. That she went further and claimed her heart was in the stone instead of the stone being in her heart is what surprised and amazed the People. What she claimed was that the power of Hozhoo resided not just in her heart, but that her heart-including her essence and hikwsi-lay in Hozhoo and within the stone itself.
"She had the powers of Hozhoo, Pahana. The powers to claim it, wield it, direct it and apply it in any manner she chose. She did great good with the power. Yet the power can also be used to inflict great harm, destruction, even death when used as a merciless instrument of judgment. This she alluded to at times, but never used."
Theodor finally realized what the elder was inferring. Both fear and awe welled up within him. "You are telling me, Sani, that this power resides in her heart stone even now? That all that power waits to be accessed?"
The elder nodded. "Yes, Pahana. Truly your new name fits you. Few white men would grasp so quickly what I have shared with you. Ni'hookaa 'Asdz's hikwsi and her power reside in the stone. The heart of the stone is she. Most hikwsi flee the body for the Otherworld. The hikwsi surround us always, but they can rarely intercede or interact with us on our level. This is not so for Ni'hookaa 'Asdz. She waits. She has left and yet not left. She can interact in this world if there is a need and a cause.
"Do you understand?"
Theodor felt lightheaded. The concept, if really true, boggled the mind. He simply responded, "Yes, I understand, Sani."
The fire had gone out. The sky to the east was lightening. With a sharp grunt Sani rose to his feet. "We shall go now. The hour is late and we have a long walk ahead of us. We do not want your good wife to worry."
Theodor smiled. "I'm sure she won't worry, Sani. She knows I am in your hands."
Sani grunted smiling at the compliment. He bent and rolled up the mat and scattered the ashes of the dead fire with the toe of his boot.
As the two picked their way across the brightening landscape Sani said, "Today will be a day of storms. These old bones of mine tell me that. But tomorrow come to the hogans. Together we will go to the stone with the heart. I will show you to Ni'hookaa 'Asdz and her resting place. This is what the spirits have guided me to do. This is what they spoke to me of throughout the night. There you will take a portion of the stone. You will take it with you back East. Pahana, I do not know why the spirits desire this; I only know that they do.
"Tomorrow the heart of the stone will be yours."