Tingling Bells

Sami touched his own face with fear, and shouted, “Guru Baba! What has happened to me?”

His cheeks were now hairy, his eyebrows met in the middle, and his teeth were sharp. Even his fingernails were curved and pointed. He scratched his own skin and shouted again, “What has happened to me?”

Guru Baba was also different. He was sharp and hairy too.

One night each year the citizens of Lucerne shape-shifted and became Hounds of God. Known commonly as werewolves, they were thought to be evil and feared.

In truth there was nothing to fear. The spring moon caused this transformation, bringing people back into tune with nature. It reminded them of their reliance upon the holy land.

“Look at the cherry trees,” said Guru Baba. “Look how they bow down. It is also their night of humility. It shows the great debt they carry to Mother Earth, which can never be repaid.”

Sami was panicking. “But why is it happening? Is this why you brought me here – to change me into a monster?”

Guru Baba reached out with a furry hand, and Sami drew back his claws. “It’s precisely the opposite of that, Sami. We do this to avoid becoming monsters. We reconnect with nature. We become whole and true.”

Sami was shouting without meaning to; he couldn’t control his thoughts. “Then why all the robes and mumbo-jumbo? You tell people to repeat mantras, to meditate, to pray. Why do they need all that? What good does that do?”

He wanted to stay far away from Guru Baba, but dark shapes emerging from the forest caused him to draw closer to the sage. Guru Baba put his arm around Sami and said, “It gives you peace of mind. Tonight is what gives you peace of heart.”

The full moon bathed the field in brightness. All around them dark beings advanced, heading towards the circle of cherry trees. The Headman of the village, the seventh generation of a pioneer family mixed with native blood, came towards Guru Baba. He bowed and said, “Master of the Holy Ceremony, shall we begin?”

Guru Baba said, “Yes, let us begin.”

The dark beings adjusted items on their bodies and came forward together. Their tingling bells frightened evil spirits away. Their clashing sticks announced the fight between good and evil.

Guru Baba crowned Sami with a wreath woven of cherry branches. Sami’s body then seemed to move of its own accord. He weaved in and out of the thousand dark beings converging, and led them to a tall fir tree. They decorated the tree by hanging bread soaked in beer from its low branches, and poured more beer on its roots. They lit and stamped out small fires around it. They passed around a bowl of herb liquor, all taking sips. They sang bits of nursery rhymes together, and then Guru Baba produced a shotgun from beneath his robes.

Sami’s heart fell. So this was it.

Guru Baba smiled as he shot the gun in the air to wake up the tree for the coming season. He was greatly honoured that Lucerne’s citizens had asked him to oversee their yearly fertility ritual. Yes, he was a famous holy man, but he was also quite new in town.

They tied bright ribbons around the tree and danced in rotation.

The ribbons all wrapped around the trunk, creating a colourful, spiralling pattern.

The code of life was cracked for another season.

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