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Chief Diot had asked before his death that a ritual be performed to protect his burial mound from the Skinwalkers. This was the ritual that was being performed before my eyes, today, deep in the swamp. As the last rays of sunlight passed through the trees, signaling the coming night, my tribe gathered around the mound and whispered a chant that would open a portal to the spirit world and release the wraiths that would add protection to the soul of Chief Diot. If a Skinwalker were to gather the power of the Chief then his soul would be lost, unable to find its way back to the spirit world where it now rested. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end as I chanted along with the others. Being a female, I faded into the background, but my voice was still heard by the spirit world. My heartbeat pounded out a frantic rhythm inside my chest.

The winds began to blow with gale force now that the ritual chant had begun. The heavy moss swayed back and forth. Water sloshed around the base of the trees in small waves. Fog rolled in, from deep in the swamp, making it impossible to see the mound any longer. A cold chill swept through the circle raising goose flesh on my arms. The long, dark hair of both men and women was braided, but it too was shifting with the wind. Neither gender wore upper garments. The men wore breeches that hung to the knee and the women, like me, wore wrap around skirts made from deer skins and fabric. We were primitive, simple people and only thought of family and survival, not of displaying wealth.

Though all around them the world was in chaos, we were rooted in place with our eyes closed tight against the winds. We waited. The winds slowly calmed as the fog rolled away. Two bright orbs appeared over the burial mound of the Chief. They twisted to form hollow shapes that were human-like. Our spiritual leader of the tribe stepped forward and placed an offering before them at the base of the mound. It was a small, but detailed cypress wood carving in the likeness of the Chief. The Houmas Indians were renowned for their woodcarving skills and also for palmetto basket weaving. Thus, a large basket of vegetables was place there as well.

The wraiths, now visible to the Indians, bowed and accepted the homage. Before our eyes the statue disappeared along with the hollow form of the wraiths. I sucked in a deep cleansing breath to ground myself. The winds had all but died to a gentle breeze and the swamp seemed to return to normal. My body shook from the things I’d witnessed. Several moments passed before my heartbeat finally returned to normal.

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