We do not know where we are...or exactly where we are heading. It need not matter. We will find out soon enough and presently have other things to concern ourselves with, like the moon. We find that, even though we have been out here in the cool October sky for only a short time now, the mountains are no longer back lit by the twilight of the setting sun and the tall shadows that were being cast down into the deep canyons have been replaced with the steady glow from the light of the rising moon. We follow the pull of the moon, towards a somehow familiar cluster of stars until we come to a fire-lit clearing in the woods. Even from up here, we can almost make out the fluid movements of the medicine man as he struts around the fire. After methodically gliding down in a spiraling fashion, we perch ourselves on a sturdy tree branch and steady our eyes for a closer look at the one who summons us. The wild-eyed shaman is adorned with not much more than copper arm bands, a beaded necklace across his bare chest, a strap of leather stitchings across his loins, and a few randomly placed feathers. He is shaking several rattles, with two or three in each hand, and his dance is a hypnotic, trance-induced choreograph that overshadows his barely recognizable, barely audible, but rhythmic chants.
We only now notice that he has a small fur-skinned pouch wrapped around his waist. Every now and then, the medicine man reaches in, pinches some powder, and throws it on the fire, temporarily feeding it into a brilliant conflagration. But these are just humorous curiosities compared to the monstrosity that covers the wrinkled, old face of the red man. At first glance, it might be mistaken for an animal's head, something that formerly belonged to a large wolf or a small bear. But make no mistake, we know exactly what it is. This ghoulish-looking instrument of death is hideously contorted out of proportion. With it's multicolored streaks and wart-like bumps, this is no ordinary, wood-carved mask; this is a calabash, a dried-out goblin's head. Not a pumpkin, not a squash, not a turnip, but a gourd, a gourd full of the presence of kindred spirits, six of them to be exact, all individually weaker than us, but strength comes in numbers. The shaman, he has stopped his rattle and hum while pulling the mask up to rest on the top of his head like a hat. He looks as crazy as a horse, with chest heaving and nostrils flaring below the peering eyes of a man possessed. He detects our presence, and is staring right at us, right through us. Quick, we must leave this instant, and take to flight once again. We must do our bidding.
We are taking that surge of power and putting it to use. In time, we will be catching the warm air currents from the lake, helping to push us up over the mountain ranges. We will silently stream back down, through the fog, away from the distant yelps of the coyote, and towards the dotted lights from the fires, lanterns, and flickering candles of the village below. Upon our swift arrival, we know what we must do. We shudder at the thought of it, taking no pleasure in the knowledge of the unfortunate fate that will befall these unlucky, disenchanted, and unguarded inhabitants. But, once there, and upon closer inspection, we realize that the newcomers have learned well of the ways, that those dotted lights are indeed candles, but they have been strategically placed inside of hollowed-out pumpkins, illuminating their notched-out, spooky faces, as well as the groupings of dried gourds that hang over their solid wooden doorways and smoking stone chimneys. We are, of course, not only horrified at this discovery, but greatly distraught over the speed in which we are instantly banished from the presently protected perimeter of this small hamlet. We must, against our will, and in due time, return to that which we came, where our master is going to punish us severely. It need not matter. We still have the rest of the night, which is yet young. We still have other things to concern ourselves with, like the moon...like you.
Squash in History
Archaeological evidence suggests that squash may have been first cultivated in Mesoamerica some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. These plants also date far back into prehistorical times in China and Africa. The gourd family of plants have been cultivated for thousands of years in the Mississippi basin and throughout the Americas. Squash is native to North and South America and, along with pumpkins, belongs to the same family as gourds. Gourds have been prized throughout history by many diverse cultures for practical uses and ceremonial rituals, being put to use as sculptured art, crafts, vessels, and sacred objects. Due to the wide variety of shapes and sizes, dried gourds can be used as spoons, cups, canteens, and bowls. They were also often used to make musical instruments such as rattles and drums.
The Native American Indians of the eastern woodlands referred to corn, beans, and squash as the three sisters and would plant them together because the corn provides a climbing stalk for the beans; the beans provide nitrogen to the soil, which nourishes the corn; and the wide-spreading squash leaves prevent weeds, deter predators, and provide shade for the corn' s shallow root system. These same Indians showed the early European settlers the art of growing these staples, most likely saving them from certain starvation. The Native American Indians believed that gourds were instrumental in the communication between the visible and invisible worlds. Native American Indian medicine men and African witch doctors would use gourds for the purpose of conjuring and warding off spirits, both good and evil. Many cultures today still use gourds as good luck charms throughout the year, but especially on Halloween.
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