Bear Woman came to me in dreams last night. She brought many of her Company with her. They stretched behind her in a vast column of stooped shoulders and lined faces, too numerous to see. But three others stood beside her as they stood before me.
Tall and straight, with brown skin ridged as the bark of a tree, Cedar stood behind Bear Woman’s shoulder. Grandmother stood beside both of them. Stooped and tiny, she had long silver hair. Her face was puffy and seamed. And there was another. I saw her only from the edges of my vision, her skin so dark, I thought her at first a shadow. Her eyes were the brightest thing in her face and they flashed red and yellow — hunger and cunning. She was naked, but the blackness of her skin obscured her nakedness. This fourth one was hunched and small — smaller even than Grandmother. Though her body was soft and round, her limbs were thin as branches. When she moved, she was swift and nimble — startling for the burden of her years. I knew her name, but I also knew I was not meant to speak it.
Of all the Company, only Bear Woman spoke with a voice from her lips. The others – Grandmother, Cedar, and the skittering dark – they whispered and sang songs with their bodies and minds. They sang of their natures, their burdens, and the gifts that they carried. I caught only pieces, and even these have faded, as it must be.
Bear Woman’s voice was clear and booming. Loud and gruff, she was also kind. She leaned on her staff, a token hanging from a strip of leather at her neck, her big body shapeless beneath a shift of plain cloth neither blue nor green.
I knew they were true beings when they walked into my dream — real and separate from me. I looked up from my work and asked, “What are you doing here? Your path is not my path. Your people do not come to me.”
Bear Woman replied, “Are you not a Messenger?”
I answered, “I am.”
She nodded. I bowed my head. Bear Woman said, “So listen now, and remember, and speak this upon waking.”
And she gave me a message for the Star-singer’s daughter, the child of the one who took the Moon as a name. And I cannot speak that here, for the message was not for any ears but hers, but this I may speak, and I am compelled to share. It is the Song of the Grandmothers. It is not their only song, but it is the song they sang on this day:
We are as old as the hills and as young the trees
We walk between and we go where we please.
We carry the wisdom of earth and sky, how to live and how to die.
Our shoulders are stooped
Yet our strength has not failed.
Some call us Grandmothers, but that is not all:
Some carry children. Some carry songs.
We walk beside you when you cannot see.
And we will be waiting at the end of this journey.
This happened last night. Take it for story, or myth, or dream.
I am but a messenger.