THE SHAMAN AND THE SWAMP
THE SHAMAN AND THE SWAMP
by S. Aesop
[First published in Left Wing Bulletin, April 1957, Vol. 1 #2, published by the Left Wing Caucus of the Young Socialist League. The Caucus opposed Max Shachtman’s plan to liquidate his organization and it’s youth group into Cold War Social Democracy]
Once upon a daydream, not too long ago, in a mighty nation, not too far away, there lived two groups of people, very far apart.
One was called the Redmen, no one quite knew why; the others were called the Others, because they were. The Redmen were very few but there were lots and lots of Others. This was not always the case, it was said, and the tribal tablets told of a time when lots (but never lots and lots) of Others were Redmen. This was long ago.
The Redmen were a quarrelsome lot, few as they were, and did not live together. They lived in separate tribes, each being the True Redmen tribe, and when Redmen from two tribes met they sometimes argued most noisily. They only agreed, all of them, that one day, the Great Power would fix it so everyone would be a Redman. And they, or most of them, tried to help the Great Power from time to time, but never did too well.
Nevertheless, in between quarreling, and changing tribes, the Redmen thought hard about the Great Power and performed many rituals and made strong incantations to bring its day closer. Each tribe had its own ritual and sometimes several– for though the tribes were small there were many views and oftimes a tribe would be divided into clans each with its own ritual.
Now one day it came about that all the Redmen began to quarrel about a new idea. This idea was that all Redmen should join together and make one bigger small tribe instead of several smaller small tribes.
It would seem that this idea came together because the biggest tribe of Redmen — which was not really a Redman tribe but only just said it was — because this tribe’s Mighty Medicine Man had died and the new Shaman could no longer hide the badness of his ritual. It was a very very bad ritual indeed and real Redmen began to leave this tribe.
Now ithappened that each of the little tribes (except for one that lived on ahigh plateau, and another that lived in a swamp) wanted these Redmen to come live with them, or best yet, as was stated, for all Redmen to come live together and form one bigger small tribe.
One of these little tribes was very excited. Its strongest clan was run by a sort of Redmen who was called Mighty Shaman. He was headman because he had made his own ritual, could make awsome incantations, and mainly because out of the many tribes he had been in he had made this one.
Mighty Shaman’s tribe wassmall and old but it lived right next to a younger and stronger tribe. This younger tribe bowed down to Mighty Shaman and used his ritual and made his nephew, Little Shaman, headman because Little Shaman knew the ritual real well and could make almost as much noise as Mighty Shaman.
The Redmen in Little Shaman’s tribe were even more excited about tribal unity and talked about it all the time.
But Mighty Shaman had a strange idea of his own. In his wanderings he had once lived with the tribe in the swamp and he always regretted leaving it. He had heard that another tribe (of very pale Redmen to be sure) was coming back to live in the swamp andmake it even better for swamp dwellers.
Now, it should not be thought that the swamp was not a nice safe place for a Redman to live.It was.In the swarmp a Redman could ooze down into the warm mire up to his neck and almost no one know he was a Redman if he did not tell them.
Besides, in the swamp a Redman was safe from the Other’s. The Others (or some of them) were sometimes very mean to the Redmen and not let them hunt or fish in certain places and even worse. But not in the swamp. In the swamp the Others did not do bad things to Redmen and if the swamp tribe behaved well (which they were very good at doing) and kissed the feet of the Others and took parts of the Religion of the Others into the tribal ritual (which they did) why then they were allowed to hunt and fish all over.
Well, Mighty Shaman decided he was lonesome for the swamp and called together his Pow-wow council. Some of the witch doctors on the Pow -wow Council thought the slime was too deep in the swamp but they were hooted down by the elders who kept thinking of how warm and safe and comfortable it would be.
So it happened that Mighty Shaman called in LittleShaman and told him to prepare the younger tribe to march into the swamp. Little Shaman went back to his tribe and incanted long and loud. The other leaders of his clan finally gave in because he allowed them to think that the real reason for going into the swamp was to pump out all of the mud and build a fine strong tribe which would gain many Others.
Some of Little Shaman’s tribal brothers rebelled, however, and formed a new clan. They pointed into the swamp at the unhappy younger swamp dwellers, and also that they did not want to give up their ritual for that of the swamp. They called for a new bigger tribe of all the Redmen, including the unhappy swamp dwellers, on firm dry land and with a good ritual.
Mighty Shaman and Little Shaman and their lesser headmen became very unhappy because of this. They sent out the story that the new young clan was not loyal to the ritual and was made up of scouts and spies from an enemy tribe.
This was a big untruth but it scared many of the undecided members of Little Shaman’s tribe and some of them stopped thinking rebellious thoughts and came again to sit placidly at the feet of Mighty Shaman.
They noticed, however, that Mighty Shaman’s feet gave off a strange odor and were covered with clay and slime, due to his explorations in the swamp.
Many of them just could not stand the odor and they went to the new clan and made it strong.
Finally the Shamanites could not stand dry land any longer and they gathered up their followers and, after begging the permission of the muddiest swamp dwellers, they snuck into the swamp to live.
They found it so pleasant that most of thern, slipped all the way down in the muck and buried themselves so deeply that after a very short while no one, Redman or Other, ever heard from them again.