Sacred Stalker

Sacred Stalker  


Several decades ago I became aware that I had a stalker. I would glance over my shoulder. Then feel a distinct presence that persisted in following me. White Eagle Woman, my shaman mentor, made it clear I was mistaken. This was no stalker. It was a woman from the 18th century. A medicine woman from the American Southwest. She was trying to bring powerful medicine gifts to me in the 21st century. She had a name – Trailing Sky Six Feathers.  How did this come about?

            When I was a young professor at Carleton University, I split my time between Ottawa, Canada, and the Hebrides in Scotland. I was trying to create an academic career and at the same time save a failing marriage. I was not doing a good job with either. I had a boat in the Hebrides, An Dhoran - a twenty six foot clinker built vessel, to enter the dangerous surrounding sea with tourists on board. One disastrous journey still scars my mind. It was from Eriskay to the north back to my home on the Island of Barra. The voyage across the stretch of sea separating Eriskay from Barra was uneventful. I started to navigate down the east coast of Barra and slammed in to an unanticipated storm and dense fog. It quickly morphed into gale force winds. It was impossible to return to Eriskay. There was no place to shelter on the east coast of Barra.

            I knew the fierce sea conditions in the Minch, the stretch of sea that separates the islands from the mainland of Scotland, so I stayed close to the east coast of the island. The force of the storm was much more powerful than my twenty-five horsepower engine. Gale force winds swept the ocean swells to break over the prow of my boat. Sharp spray from the sea struck my face like pellets from a shotgun. I shielded my face with one arm to better see the huge waves coming right at the boat. My teenage son, Iain, used the boat hook to fend off the following dinghy from smashing into the stern of the boat.  I felt myself entering a terrible, cold silence while braced at the wheel. There was no mind there, only an intuitive awareness of danger in this moment, then danger in the next moment. Navigation was just far enough away from the inshore spurs of rock jutting out like razors. The no-mind mariner at the wheel stood quietly muttering the 23rd Psalm, “I shall not want.”

            I turned An Dhoran through a narrow gap in an offshore rock spur. I caught a swell as it crested through the gap, spinning the wheel hard to port to avoid the ragged edge of another rock ledge. Then quickly to starboard to find a more sheltered stretch of sea. I did not have that knowledge. I did not have that skill. It was beyond my capabilities. My mind did not operate, yet I had a seamless connection to a furious sea. A powerful instinctive knowledge took over as I felt an ethereal female guiding me through.   

            The frightened tourists sat inside the cabin for weight at the front end of the boat as the sea smashed into the creaking clinker boards. This extra ballast saved the timbers of our vessel from being split open. Something else had their hands on the wheel. The slow progress down the coastline of Barra continued under a mantle of desperate prayers. Later we limped slowly into the sheltered harbour of Castlebay. The mother of my children and then wife was there to gather Iain and take him home. The phone call that we were rounding the tip of Barra brought her to the dock at Castlebay harbour with blankets for my son and a fierce glare at me. We were not on good terms. The passengers disembarked with great relief.

            I moored An Dhoran at her berth in the bay next to the Castle. The wind was dropping and the fog began to clear. I rowed to shore in the dinghy, then with ropes pulled it back to its mooring place. It sat there gently bobbing across from the Post Office and the small boat pier. I walked up the hill to the Castlebay Bar. Roddy, the barman, had already heard about the journey. News travels fast on the island. I placed two ten pound notes on the counter, the sum total of my earnings from a day of insanity on the sea.

            “Roddy, this will cover me tonight.”

            Roddy’s large hand held out a glass tumbler, which he filled with his best whisky.

            “We’ll not be taking your money my friend. Everyone is relieved you are back safely from Eriskay.”

            A long row of full whisky glasses appeared on the wooden bar I was wearily leaning against. My hands shook as I took the first glass of whisky from Roddy’s huge fist. My mind was frozen. The cold silence told me it was not I who brought the boat home safely. At closing time I walked to my home, overlooking the bay. I could see the Castle and the islands to the south shrouded by the soft light from the quarter moon. It was calm and peaceful, nothing like the earlier hours on the sea. Sitting on the steps of my house, I went over in my mind this dangerous day. My reflections were savage, yielding ugly truths long buried.

            I thought of the line of whiskies at the bar, a celebration of returning from the furious sea. There was nothing to celebrate. A rebuke was needed for my recklessness in endangering the lives of others, including my first born son. I could take no credit for bringing An Dhoran home. I thought of the tumultuous sea as a piercing dirty grey, the color of dying – just waiting for me. I was not in the right place internally and did not belong here. I had obscured this true confession with blind recklessness. The shrouds fell away and I could see just what I had allowed myself to become.

            I was no heroic captain at the wheel, just stupid, reckless and displaced. I had to put an end to my madness on the sea. This was not my domain in life. This beautiful island in the Hebrides was not where I was to be. The stressful drain on time and energy travelling back and forth between Canada and the Isle of Barra was debilitating. It left me with zero life-force energy for the work I was destined to touch. I was merely surviving amidst the suffering of being totally misplaced. So down I went into the graceless oblivion that alcohol and depression permits.

            I stood up slowly and stepped into my house. Still in the grip of that awful, chilling silence, I stretched out on the large sofa in the kitchen. My border collie Bruce crept over and rested his chin on my chest to provide comfort. I knew I had to change the course of my life and emerge from the swamp I had created. This deadly sea voyage was the signal to embark on a deep internal spiritual journey. They were not my hands on the wheel.

            On my return to Canada after this brutal summer, I met White Eagle Woman at an elders gathering. Her air of quiet authority immediately struck me. She looked into me deeply and saw that I needed help. She had been instructed by her ancestors to train me and it began straight away with an eight day vision quest, prelude to a thirty year period of training and healing under her guidance. This allowed the mosaic of the past to reveal itself. She identified Trailing Sky Six Feathers for me and revealed the guardian role held by her. White Eagle Woman also taught me how to create a medicine wheel in my mind. I was always to start by bringing into my mind the ancient shaman from the East, then the South, West and North in succession, finally to bring in the ancient shaman from the Centre. She told me to see this as a map in my mind. I was instructed to call forth the animal guides I had personally experienced, again starting from the East. I had experienced many animal guides and told her so.

            White Eagle Woman retorted with some exasperation:

            “Choose the most powerful ones, dammit!”

With that cryptic encouragement, I chose mountain lion in the East, moose in the South, elk in the West and medicine bear in the North, with dolphin and whale below and the great eagles above. The space at the centre of the mental medicine wheel was the conduit for me to dialog with Trailing Sky Six Feathers – but only when connection to the sacred mystery was intact.  

When I died in her arms in 1777 she vowed to find me in the future. She refused to give up on how dense I was in present time. Through her insistent guidance, my karma was reversed. The internal battles ceased. I learned to navigate past and present life experiences over four centuries. The medicine gifts required that I nurture skills to use them wisely. A clear mosaic of experiences stretching back to 1777 was in my mind.

Once the Vision Quest with White Eagle Woman was complete, I carefully built the medicine wheel in my mind and spoke to Trailing Sky about the sea journey. “Trailing Sky, was it you that brought my boat safely home?” I already knew the answer.

“You were there on all the other dangerous voyages – were you not Trailing Sky?” I said softly to her, affirming her guardian presence.

            She responded after a long pause. “I had to keep you alive, your son too, for he receives the Torch after your passing. I kept you alive when you almost lost your right arm in a foolish fight in Vancouver. I also kept you alive when you were dying in India.”

Flashing through my mind were all the moments when death had faced me in this lifetime. She had always been there whenever my life was at risk and brought me through to safety. I took our dialog to another level,

“When I die, will you be there? What will happen to you?”

            Her voice was soft and precise. “When you die, I will be the last portion of your consciousness to dissolve. Before that moment of dissolution I will guide both of us as one integrated mind into the next adventure.”

            I was stunned into a long silence and refrained from asking about the next adventure. Trailing Sky Six Feathers is not an illusion, a projection I am attached to. She constitutes all that is crystal clear and wise within me - the ultimate Muse. I stayed very quiet until it was late in the night. I knew she was listening in to my thoughts. Just before midnight she quietly said to me,

“You have transformed all that you brought in with you and suffered from in this life. The person who stumbled blindly through the first part of your life is not the Ian walking through the second part of life. In India, Arizona, France, the Canadian wilderness and around the world you went to extraordinary lengths to deal with karma. You changed course and now have freedom and alignment. There were so many severe experiences, but you responded by moving in a spiritual direction. You touched universal threads that allowed me to keep my promise from 1777. And we are both grateful for that.”

            I could feel her smile expand along with my own. I placed my two hands together with great reverence and offered a deep bow of gratitude to Trailing Sky Six Feathers.


Ian Prattis

A Poet, Global Traveler, Founder of Friends for Peace, Guru in India, Zen teacher and Spiritual Warrior for planetary care, peace and social justice. He mostly stays local to help turn the tide in his home city so that good things begin to happen spontaneously.  He is an award-winning author of eighteen books. His poetry, memoirs, fiction, articles, blogs and podcasts appear in a wide range of venues. Redemption and Our World is Burning both got Gold as literary awards. Failsafe got a Silver. Trailing Sky Six Feathers got the 2015 Quill Award. This story is the second one to appear in Ariel Chart. His fiction has been nominated by this publication for a Best of the Net 2019 Award.

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