Picking the Bones

It was a Friday night in June, under a moonless night when my older brother got into a very bad accident. I was almost nine years old (seven weeks before my birthday), when my mom scooped me up in the middle of the night and dropped me off at my grandmother’s house so that she could go to the hospital. I have discussed this memory with my mom as I was sure that I must have had the flu as I had obviously been hallucinating, but she assured me that this was the only night I could be remembering and that I did not have a fever. What happened to me that night was purely spontaneous and not caused by any illness, and while stress was a factor (although she had not yet told me about my brother) my reaction was still very curious if my hallucinations were brought on merely from stress alone.

I remember arriving at my grandmother’s house in my pajamas in the middle of the night and being put to bed in the living room in a Murphy Bed. A couple of the family portraits in the living room started talking to me. It was very scary, and I tried to ignore them but they would not shut up. Suddenly my mother and brother were on a seesaw on the coffee table, and they joined in the conversation. Ignoring them didn’t work and I couldn’t sleep out of fear. Despite this, I got out of bed and slowly started walking towards my grandmother’s bedroom. I am not sure which was worse, the ghost conversations in the living room or the prolonged, twin-sighted journey through the hallway. Normal vision and normal reality over-lapped with trance vision so that I saw both a dirt path and the hallway at the same time. They occupied the same space.

The dirt path was before me, outlined by bright white pebbles that seemed to reflect the glow of the stars in the clear night sky overhead. There was no moon, only a distant fire up ahead. I followed the path hesitantly; if I wanted to get to my grandmother I had to follow the path as there was no other way. There was a man ahead by the fire. He was frightening and calming at the same time. He was darker complected and naked except for a groin covering. His hair was short and he was silent in the darkness. I walked slowly forward and had with me my favorite dress-up purse. As I moved closer I noticed that the path I was following ended and flowed into a large circle ringed with the same white stones, and within the circle was a pile of old, whitened bones.

By the time I had moved down the path to see the circle I was in my grandmother’s room. She was asleep and did not notice me. The circle was half “over” the bed, the empty side, so to get into the bed I had to go into the circle. I hesitated at the edge of the circle when I noticed a quiet chanting coming from the man. He was saying something to me which I have never been able to recall and at the same time was chanting, “You must pick the bones, pick the bones, you must pick through the bones.” I remember entering the circle and carefully looking through the pile of bones. I selected some and placed them in my purse. I eventually reached the bed and climbed in. I remember the feel of the cool sheets as my legs slid under the covers. I clapped my eyes shut tight and did not look again at the man or the circle.

This dream, vision, hallucination, or whatever it was has always scared me to think of it. Aside from my husband I have never told anyone the full account. Just forming the words use to be impossible so that I physically couldn’t tell anyone. I have no idea what to think about it. Looking back at it now is a lot easier but I still get a knot in my stomach thinking about it. I don’t even know anymore if it is fear or awe that I now feel. The symbolism is amazing to me; the shaman, the circle, a dark moon night (in the vision and in reality), I don’t even know what the bone thing is about as there is just too many possibilities. It always brings to mind the casting of lots, to “throw the bones” only in reverse because I was not divining with the bones. I was collecting them.

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