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by Liz Medina
There was once a little girl born on a faraway island kingdom, in a small hut, all by herself. No one could tell her who her parents were. In fact, no one in the tribe knew how she got there, and the medicine man told her it was very bad: unless she found her lost parents, she would have no lineage, no past, and therefore no future.
She was still very young when she left on her journey. The tribe gave her a canoe, provisions and food. The medicine man gave her a mirror and an incantation. He said, on the 40th night over the Great Water, a comet will cross the sky. You must find it in the mirror, and as long as you keep it in the mirror, the boat will follow its course to the land of the Ancestors. There you will be shown your past, your lineage, and you will receive the map to your destiny.
For forty nights she endured terrible trials – storms frightened and disoriented her, but taught her to keep the prow steady and hold to her course; great sharks made the water churn and tried to upset her canoe, but with courage, clear sight and knowing, she fought them off with blows from her paddle (that the gods turned into a lightning rod to stun the monsters); and the ghosts of people who had drowned shrouded her in sorrow, making her want to give up and turn back, accept that she was no one and had no destiny. But though many times she despaired and wept, still she persevered and became a skilled navigator. With no human to speak to, she learned the language of the stars.
Then one night, strange and wonderful lights played over the waves and phosphorescent fish flew beside her canoe, singing: “Rejoice Mariña, for you are joy, you fly like us above the great and bottomless deep; your understanding is like these unearthly lights dancing above the water. You have no home but the ocean is your cradle and all living creatures your brothers and sisters.”
On the forty-first night, a marvelous comet streaked across the sky with unimaginable brilliance and beauty. Mariña took out her mirror, caught the star in it, and her canoe immediately flew on its course.
Dawn broke and she seemed to have run aground in Heaven. All around her were Beings in glowing robes, smiling and kind. They told Mariña who her Mother and Father were: Earth and Sky. “Your destiny is to return to your tribe and visit many more tribes, encourage each one to tell its story to the children and the youth, and help others like you, born not knowing their lineage, where they came from, and that they have a destiny to discover.”
She returned to her tribe and the old medicine man welcomed her and said, “Now you are a medicine woman. Our ancestors have returned, as was prophesied, thanks to how you converted your disgrace, which was ours, into a blessing.”
Mariña looked in her mirror and saw that she had become a beautiful old woman.
About the author:
Liz Medina (b. Kamuning, Quezon City, Philippines 1954) is a Spanish English translator and interpreter who lives and works in Santiago, Chile since 1983.