[This story is an improved version from mini cassette recordings of Mekkar’s actual voice in 1990 while hiking and walking as a University student; Then, it was converted to a Windows Media Audio File and transcribed in 2011. Mekkar’s spoken English skills are nowhere near as polished as Saavo’s are.]
Ansetti proceeding to tell Mekkar, “Now that I have taken you under my wing, there are a couple of other important things to mention. First, the wolves will be back because the dead animals will attract them. Usually they are not that extremely aggressive when there are so many of us around.” The trek chief imparted further insight to Mekkar, “They usually wait to pursue individual animals that wander off, get lost, or are separated from the main herd. The reason for the aggressive action was probably starvation on their part. They seemed to me they have not eaten for quite some time. Thus, the pack became more desperate than usual.”
He continued on explaining to the young boy about the event, “The horde knew the risks were high, but sadly carried out their operation fairly effectively against us. We, on the other hand, did not do our jobs as well as I had hoped. Also, the wolves took the chance of a frontal assault because they felt emboldened by the extra help they received. The odds suggested a more favorable outcome on their part, so they acted upon it.” It was revealed to Mekkar that wolves are smarter creatures than they are given credit for. They normally attempt to pick the best conditions for them, while at the same time a bad predicament for you as the guardians of the herd, to conduct a raid. In other words, very favorable situations for them to storm, overpower, and extract an easy feast.
“The majority of all in the group seems to believe those same wolves will be back again.” Ansetti told the youngest member on this trek. He mentioned this while they were in the sauna tent. It was setup so that the herders could relax from the recent activity. Plus, the leadership could take time to think more clearly and process the plan for the rest of the journey. Mekkar thinks it is ironic that one goes into a restrictive hot area to relax or cool down. Yet, this is a normal daily ritual for his tribe at home or away on a journey. It was only setup for a short while, and then they packed everything up and got ready to go on their way.
Mekkar was confused by the decision to temporarily rest there. He thought to himself we have just been attacked and soon afterward told that the raiders are probably coming back for another round. Why not get out of here and not waste any time in doing so. Responding with irrational thought is not the native way within Mekkar’s tribe. The common method is relax, take your time, do things right, and minimize mistakes. Well, at least, not make the same mistakes as before. This is totally the opposite mindset and very different from the hurry, hurry and rush everywhere lifestyle of the average person in other more modern societies.
After the aggressive incident, the herd leaders collectively made the decision to stop and assess, Ansetti lead a more extensive investigation of the collateral damage done. On the other hand, Mekkar was focused solely on when the pack would return. Still Mekkar was a kid and engrossed by his narrow experience and point of view. Many of the adults understood that younger ones, especially ones such as Mekkar, are antsy in certain circumstances. It was normal to have ants in their pants and want to escape the scene as quickly as possible when encountering danger. Their vast experience, as compared to Mekkar, involved seeing the big picture with more factors involved. This is the way the trek leader Ansetti represented the veteran trekkers view. Young Mekkar didn’t completely agree with him, but was unable to fully understand why. Mekkar’s mind panicked with thoughts of this is ridiculous, why are we waiting around?
The boy’s fear of the wolf pack’s return grew as time passed. Concerns flooded his youthful intellect. What if they came while they were stopped right now and with a greater number of wolves? In the end, Mekkar kept his lips sealed and did not voice the racing chatter within him. He had to trust that Ansetti and the other leaders had done this for many winters and many summers. A time period that included quite a few full moons and no moons and they knew better of what to expect than a first timer.
When the group finally set off, back on the trail, Mekkar was more relieved than anything. He felt it was good that the raiders did not reappear again in that particular area. But, how could the young boy have predicted a no return engagement, due to the state of mind he was in? The group column shuffled through the night mile after mile. The weather was clear outside and the lack of cloud cover contributed to the brisk cold air. Mekkar fancied the notion that a cloudy sky would have held in some heat to possibly help speed up movement on the ground. Ansetti continued to lead the herders and the flock. Being the smart, wise, and experienced commander that he was, he appeared to accept input from many sources without making rash decisions. The chief even listened to suggestions on occasion made by Mekkar, even though Ansetti realized Mekkar had a kid’s limited knowledge. Ansetti was an effective captain without having to be very vocal about it. There were some other rare time times when a point needed to be made and he could be forceful in that manner also, when needed.
He was one of the individuals with the most seasoning on the trek, but Ansetti was not the oldest or the most experienced tribesman on this journey. Not even close. Still, he was uncommon in his wisdom, very wise and consistently level-headed even in the face of danger. The trek skipper seldom got riled up. Mekkar considered that Ansetti’s past angered reaction to the earlier loss of animals was very out of character for him.
The adolescent admired these qualities in the overseer of the trek. Mekkar saw the he was unlike Ansetti and also had a different personality compared to a few of the other leaders. Mekkar was not like the very mellow Juhani in his personality, as well. It meant that the boy was developing himself in a unique way and not completely copying someone else. Mekkar felt that he was distinctive from all others, that he was special. The growing boy was convinced that he had features, no one else had. Of course, this was reinforced by his frequent discussions with the tribal spiritual guide, Aslak. The problem was that it might go to Mekkar’s head and could give him a complex as he headed toward puberty and later adulthood. To keep the ego in check others around the boy, as well as himself, believed he was still very unaware of many of those special traits. It was only a matter of time before those features would be discovered within him and the subsequent outward rapid growth development. Whether he realized it or not, there were certain expectations of Mekkar fashioned by others around him. Possibly due to the fact that the youngster was a quick learner and had already shown himself to be very resourceful. Unknown to all, except maybe Aslak, there was still more to come.
Anyway, the clan pushed on and continued along the route until they reached another small town. As they got closer Mekkar took a good look at the people there. He was of the opinion; the townspeople here also dress in the same type clothing with similar markings like those in the last town. His little mind churned with more questions than answers. What is so special about this place? Why are we stopping so soon? Let’s go further away from where the earlier assault happened. At first, Mekkar didn’t notice until he looked at the other herders in his group. Their faces and less spirited movements revealed widespread fatigue. It was pointed out to the young one the reasons why they needed to stop here and set up camp. A distance just far enough away from danger.
Mekkar listened in on the discussion regarding the chosen area’s benefits such as a better protective layout and more available people close by to assist them, if necessary. Mekkar began to believe that the decision to stop was not decided by Ansetti alone. Instead, by the head committee of the trek which included Aslak’s input. It is true, as in any work environment, politics play a part in determinations regarding managing reindeer, supplies, and personnel during a trek. This was not a dictatorship, but more like a representative republic with consensus being the goal so all will buy in to make the journey less troublesome. This place was selected to assemble camp to take advantage of the terrain with maximum defensive purposes in mind. The hope was to avoid another attack, but if they encountered one they were could be better withstand it with fewer losses. Other positives were brought up by Antti and others regarding the subject about how organized the nearby people were. It was pointed out the town had some hooved creatures of their own and the herders were adept at driving predators away. Mekkar thought, at least visibility would not be an issue here. The camp was organized in such a way to use the increased open area to spot an enemy coming from a greater distance away.
The air was chilly and crisp. They pitched camp about 1 kilometer (0.621 miles) outside of the town. Mekkar saw other tribes and trekkers leading their reindeer herds there also. He figured it must be some type of hub or meeting point of quite a few trekking routes. They began to set up the tents. Some of those in the party commented how this was odd since it was still in the middle of the day to camp. One band from the herd began an inventory of supplies that had run low and confirmed a restocking was in order.
There was another small group, led by Juhani, that went back to cover their tracks to harder for the wolves to follow them. He had a few tricks up his sleeve to distract any potential predators. Sprinkling of blood or food in the snow was used to lead the wolves off the pathway. There are many disguises and materials one can use to prevent getting lost in the middle of nowhere or used for anti-detection purposes. Good use of sights and physical points to mark spots, paths, and locations can be the difference between life and death in this environment. While at the same time, not completely destroying your fragile surroundings as you might need them in the future. This is what Juhani was great at. He and Antti were the best scouts in their group. Both of them had carried out these types of tasks as part of military operations. Mekkar was convinced that Antti and Juhani could survive almost anywhere, against anyone as they had done this so often previously. Only in the field experience develops and adapts these survival skills as needed in each situation.
So, after the camp was in place, Mekkar sat around soaking up the stories in the middle of the camp from Ansetti, Antti, Juhani, and the other veterans. Juhani had almost as much experienced even though he wasn’t near the same age as some of the others in the group. Juhani received his wealth of experience by getting an early start and journeying on many treks even with other nearby tribes, not just his own. This time Mekkar didn’t hang around as long as usually does but went to lie down and rest in the sauna tent instead. Trouble was Mekkar didn’t like coffee, which is considered a staple in his culture, and even detested the aroma of it. Thus, he tolerated it but never immersed himself into the accompanying scene that went along with coffee. To this day, you will almost never see him in any environment where people just sit around and drink the stuff like in your local. That is, unless he has to be there for another reason. As he grew older Mekkar preferred his alcohol straight up on the rocks rather than as a supplement to be added to another liquid. Everyone else in the area seemed to always add a shot of booze to their coffee every time it was consumed. To Mekkar, it appeared as though the whole region had their morning shot of liquor to their caffeine beverage for a daily pick-me-up. It gave Mekkar the impression that there was never an alcohol impaired driving violation given before noon because the entire police force had the same routine also.
Ansetti’s tent was another spot in the camp that resembled a happening gathering place that revolved around the pick-me-up drink, especially among the leadership group. The boy wondered if the veteran herders ever slept. If that was the case, he wanted to have that ability for himself. Ansetti’s temporary residence, as the trek leader, was the most elaborate one besides the sauna. It stood out with drawings of many reindeers and other auxiliary and appropriate symbols directly woven into the fabric of the deer hides that covered the outer layer of his tent. There was even had a wide strip around near the bottom of the top one third to signify, okay, he is the boss.
The easily transported shelters used toughly treated and formed winter hides. There were additional personal designs that marked each individual tepee also. Since, Ansetti was the leader of the trek he also had the largest quarters because he would need to entertain others. There, or in the sauna, was the place to discuss a specific strategy or change trek tactics if need be. In desperate conditions, it was required to make major changes to the whole plan. One must adapt and prepare to meet all of the needs of the trekkers and herd to the benefit of all.
Aslak had a different role, than Ansetti, as the spiritual leader. According to public knowledge, outsiders, and non natives these mediators and their practices no longer exist officially. In the current day, there are pretender greedy wannabe neo-pagan shamans that just want to make quick money from unsuspecting tourists. However, those fake individuals have no real power because they are not the real deal.
It is said that this role and belief system died out long ago. Mainly, it was kept hidden and secret below the surface due to persecution, religious witch trails, and gruesome murders. These actions were brought into the region by new “masters” and their sense of justice carried out upon individuals who conducted these shamanistic activities in the old native ways. The foreigners were supported by torturous corrupt authorities along with religious priests too. The native rituals and methods were condemned as what was seen as pagan traditions and a backward people. Aslak told Mekkar he thought the outsiders saw shamans as a possible threat and competitor to the power of the dominant Christianized culture. He went on to comment to the boy that the intruders desired to wipe out all resistance to the forming of a nation-state. Thus, the newcomers respond with forced assimilation of all native peoples to eliminate all that is contrary and make the people easier to control or dominate. Similar to past history and the present time, a common theme is to divide and conquer all that are different.
Aslak had emblems and items such as drums, altars, related utensils, wizardry, magician type stuff, as well as other designs, drawings, and symbols as prominent features on his tepee skins. It was easily distinguished from all the others to identify him and his role. Only he had true extraordinary power as the mediator between the physical and spiritual realms. Both of their quarters were decisively different from the rest of the herder tents. Most of the teepees had more basic images and figures along other less elaborate ancient drawings.
Ansetti and Aslak were both very wise and it was not in their personality to go beyond their official leadership duties and lord it over anyone else. Industrious and led by example, but definitely not control freaks. They sought other opinions and advice among the herd leadership crew. Savvy in their intelligence to know they did not always have all of the answers. Ansetti was chosen as the leader of this trek because of his vast experience in herding reindeer. The final decisions rested with the chief, but Ansetti usually had a committee of individuals there involved in the process. He greatly respected his peer’s judgment and alternative perspectives, along with Aslak’s input. Before coming to a particular key decision the shaman would be consulted beforehand to look into the future. He could look where no one else had that ability in their tribe. Everyone else relied on the physical world experience which involved trends, predictions, possible outcomes, and current technology. Aslak could perform regular herder tasks as well. He also previously helped perform as a doctor to oversee the birth of Mekkar on an earlier journey. That delivery happened out in the snow. He is the source, where the boy gets part of his full name. It also explains the advisory relationship of Aslak to the boy, where Mekkar could ask him about any subject and if possible went to him first for answers.
Some suspect that Mekkar might have gained a few special powers as a result of the encounters with Aslak or as a factor related to his name. If so, they were are fairly dormant, unexercised, or the boy was not very aware of any unique capabilities within him. No one in the tribe was in the category of Aslak with abilities that appeared to be outside of this realm. Talents that could only be learned through practical experience with specific insights and unreal mental deductions the shaman would share freely with the leaders. Aslak would attempt to teach others to recognize certain things that he could see very clearly. It took other people much training to recognize even a small portion of items or similar situations that could arise. This is where Aslak was very valuable and he was a healer as well.
For example, if one of the wolves directly attacked and injured Juhani, Mekkar, or another herder earlier on the trek that would have been a big deal. Normally the most vulnerable would be one of the individuals far in the rear rounding up stragglers. That is the preferred place packs of wolves usually target their attack. Antagar, his apprentice, would direct the injured person to be cured by Aslak’s special powers, whatever that may entail. Aslak was the main medicine man and a constant presence. Despite being truly mysterious, Aslak had an aura of mysticism about him and was still a mellow person, very laid back. Yet, nobody can completely figure out the many facets of the shaman. The spiritual leader sees what others only think about in their conscious mind. The insights and revelations are incredible. The understanding and perception regarding the topics the medicine man speaks about is hard to fathom or comprehend for most. Aslak also gave the impression that he travelled in a different sphere while his physical body was still in the same place. Mekkar describes this trance-like state as fairly spooky and eerie at times and would attempt to avoid Aslak at those particular occasions.
A local slogan says that many opinions and common statements spewed by people are like voices. They are everywhere and everyone has one. The fact is they are usually full of ignorance. Anyone can talk a big game and go on about various things, but unless an individual experiences it or physically goes to that place they have no idea what they are speaking about. It is a matter of having a full knowledge of some aspect. This is the kind of background that the shaman brings to the table with a background in more than one dimension. The medium can never be easily dismissed with regard to any situation the group could face.
Mekkar noticed a couple of things and he had to ask Aslak for answers. They had a discussion. The young boy directed a few comments toward Aslak and remarked that the children here in this small town were not like the kids they saw at another stop in their journey. They are just not the same and don’t seem to play as much either even though it is still the same region. Mekkar asks, “Why the great differences?” The interaction between the two included an education about many contrasting locations in the arctic area.