“Kokopelli the Wanderer”
A wonderful new book for children and adults alike! All will delight in this beautifully written tale filled with humor and magic, with exciting adventures of surviving in the desert wilderness, and the joy, challenges, and triumph of finding one's true self. Sixteen original paintings bring vividly to life the unique characters and rich colors of the Southwestern desert landscape. (See below for a review and a sample chapter.)
KOKOPELLI THE WANDERER is the uplifting story of a unique, little boy born with a magical destiny. Kokopelli's feathery antennae terrify his tribal village, and his parents are forced to abandon him soon after birth. It is then that he is discovered and adopted by the Queen of the Ants where, for many years, he lives happily in the hustling, bustling ant kingdom.
Over time, however, as his differences become more apparent, Kokopelli realizes that he must leave the only home he has ever known to embark upon an epic and frightening journey to the perilous World Above. Upon emerging, he finds himself in the wilds of the desert where he begins to unravel the shrouded mystery of who he is - and where he came from.
Brimming with vivid descriptions of life in an ant colony and the wonders of the desert wilderness, this poetically written story of adventure and redemption is a joy for young readers and adults alike.
This hardcover book costs $25.00 plus any local taxes and shipping costs. Please allow between 10-18 days for the book to arrive.
Review by Terry Rollins - Tar Heel Journal, September 2006, Volume 13
Kokopelli is the mythical, flute-playing deity of the Desert Southwest. Often depicted on petroglyphs, he is one of the most recognized figures of Native American art and folklore. Part fertility god, part Pied Piper, Kokopelli's legend is one of mystery. Author Ayal Hurst now sheds light onto that mystery.
In her new book, Hurst presents her interpretation of this mysterious troubadour's story. Although born to a loving, enlightened couple, Kokopelli's unusual features immediately cause fear and rejection from the tribe. Left alone in the desert, the infant Kokopelli is saved and adopted by a most unlikely mother. He remains safely with her for twelve years, before venturing out on a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Through peril and adventure, joy and sorrow, Kokopelli discovers his life's purpose and place. Hurst masterfully blends facts and legend to create a well-written, warm and enchanting tale. Her extensive knowledge of Southwestern flora, fauna, geology, and climatology fills the pages and enhances the story.
Kokopelli the Wanderer is a story that both young adult and adult readers will appreciate. It presents concepts and ideas that we storytellers, in particular, can appreciate. "In some ways, the flute seemed to play him. He learned to get out of the way of what he thought the song should be, for often it seemed that the song was already present, waiting to be birthed, before he played it. At those times, he simply surrendered to its whispered messages, listening deeply, letting the story flow through him."
This is a hardcover book, complete with sixteen color plates by the author, that I highly recommend. It will make a wonderful addition to any library's collection, and is an excellent purchase for readers who enjoy stories of the Desert Southwest, mythology, folklore, and spirit.
"Kokopelli the Wanderer", Chapter 5
Life continued much as it had for many seasons, one day following another. Nothing disturbed the benign and beloved world Kokopelli knew. On a fine summer morning in his eighth year, he had awoken as usual, ready to help the community as needed. Walking through the colony, however, he soon sensed that something was amiss. The usual hustle and bustle of many ants going about their business was completely absent. There was a foreboding stillness in the air. This was an unparalleled event, unheard of in Kokopelli's experience. It bewildered and deeply confused him. Ants were never still. They were constantly on the go. Yet, on this day, the people were unmoving, intently focused, listening. Everyone seemed profoundly apprehensive. What they were waiting for, Kokopelli could not begin to comprehend. The colony seemed held in a state of urgent suspension.
"What is happening? What is it? Something is not right! The air feels... different!" Kokopelli whispered fearfully to Artain, when he found her standing in a corridor near the entranceway to the colony. "Why are there no sounds from the World Above, Artain?"
"Quiet, my little friend. We must listen!" replied Artain seriously. For a few moments, side by side, Kokopelli and Artain strained to discern any vibration emanating from the World Above.
Kokopelli had no visual images of what the World Above looked like, as Artain did, for he had never been above ground since he had been brought to the burrow as a tiny baby. The Queen had not allowed it. She warned him that in the World Above there were many dangers for ant people, and especially for tiny boys no bigger than the size of an ant. He knew, of course, that food came from there, and at times he could sense the movements of the creatures in the World Above. He could hear their voices as they called out in the night, and he could feel the rumblings in the earth as they went about their life far above the ceiling of his known world. But today, all was deeply still.
"What is it?" he demanded again. Something terrible was about to happen. He just knew it. He could feel it hovering: a disturbed presence seemed to fill the air around him. It felt as if the life force was being sucked from his lungs, and without knowing why, he found that he had placed his hand upon his heart.
"Go back inside, deeper into the passageways, Kokopelli!" Artain said to him, urgently touching her antennae to his and pushing him backwards toward the dim interior of the caverns.
"But, Artain... why... .?" Kokopelli began to protest with a distraught flourish of his antennae when suddenly a thunderous sound could be heard echoing down the tunnels. A moment later, an enraged horde of snarling, seething red ants exploded inside the colony walls, rapaciously swarming and stinging their way through the corridors of his peaceful home. They were smaller than the ants of his colony, but they were brutal, boiling and spewing furiously into his world... red slaver ants as far as the eye could see, thousands upon thousands of them, marching relentlessly with a savage intent to plunder, to kill, and enslave, smashing and ripping their way into the heart of the People's domain. It was impossible! Unbelievable! A defilement! A perverse sacrilege of the all the love and tranquility that had infused every agreeable day of Kokopelli's young life.
"We are under attack! It is WAR, Kokopelli! Go back!" Artain shouted.
"But, but... I want to help!" Kokopelli cried. "I am afraid, Artain! I am afraid for you! What can I do? What will happen to us?"
"Do not worry, Kokopelli," Artain told him, gently stroking his antennae to calm him, but firmly pushing him back. "You must leave the corridor. Quickly! We will take care of this! Go back now! It will be all right. We will keep you safe! It is our duty to fight. We know what to do. We were made for this!"
She left him then, hastily moving with a determined countenance toward the front entrance of the colony. With the rest of the army she would somehow face this seemingly endless horde of bestiality, a massive and savage sea of red ants bent insanely on destruction. Kokopelli stood, stunned, as he watched the merciless swarm of invaders bludgeon their way into his home, leaving behind them a violent, ruthless path of sorrow.
For a few precarious moments he was paralyzed. His heart was pounding with such panic he thought it might burst as he stared aghast at the horrific scene unfolding before him. It seemed too macabre, too sinister to be real. Then he heard sounds he had never heard before. The sounds of war. His benumbed mind reasserted itself, startled. The danger was here, undeniable, and remaining still had lost him critical moments, the difference perhaps, between survival and death. Sick at heart, he obeyed Artain. Frantically turning, he raced down the corridors, deep into the surroundings he loved, not knowing what awaited him. Would life ever be the same? What was happening behind him? Somewhat hysterically, Kokopelli wondered if he would die, slashed to pieces by deranged red ants, mandibles slavering, their eyes glinting, lusting for his blood as they overwhelmed him and bore him down in a murderous throng. Unlike the other ants, he had an active imagination, and at this moment, unfortunately for him, it was out of control, careening wildly and taking him places he did not want to go. But he could not help it. He wondered if he would become enslaved, or see Artain and the Queen Mother again. He could NOT imagine that his life might be, in a few vicious, raw moments, desperately lost, forever changed from the pleasant, day-to-day things he knew and loved so well.
As he ran, urgently seeking refuge, fragmentary memories streamed painfully through his mind: the times in the nursery, bearing precious eggs in his hands; the intimate talks with the Queen Mother as she told him stories, explaining what human beings were and describing to him what life was like above the ground. How he longed to see that world before he died! He pictured the hustle and bustle of the food gatherers, the sorting of the many seeds and nuts into piles, and the hunters returning triumphant, with plenty for all. How could that ever end? It was how life was, and always would be. It was the unfailing order of things - so he had thought, until today. Now, the dreadful madness, the venom he had seen lurking malignantly in thousands upon thousands of insane eyes could destroy it.
In a world gone mad, with unwonted chaos and horror surrounding him, Kokopelli grasped with all his might at the one thing that was certain, unalterable, and ultimately confirming. He knew that his colony mates would give their lives to keep him, and the family that was his, safe. The thought that what they had was worth fighting for was comforting, although it was not reassuring.
With these images tumbling desperately through his mind, Kokopelli scurried deeper and deeper into the colony. The depth of his panic made it difficult to breathe. His heartbeat was erratic, his chest heaved wretchedly, and his breath was erupting in short, painful gasps. A ragged stitch in his side had developed and tormented him from running so far, for so long. Worst of all, the terror he felt never left him -- it was an ever present thing, haunting his footsteps as he ran.
Collapsing at last, unable to go further, he sank down upon the ground and found that he had taken refuge in the nursery. Huddling against the dry, earthen wall for what seemed an eternity, he waited anxiously, letting the army ants do the job for which they had been born. Kokopelli was agonized. Was he a coward? Here he was, hiding away deep in the ant fortress -- wasn't there something he could do? Anything? The answer was always the same. He was not an army ant. He was only an eight year old boy. He had no claws, no mandibles, no sharp jaws with which to fight. And so... he waited. He waited until it seemed he could bear it no longer.
When the ferocious sounds of battle abated, when the turmoil of smashing and rending could be heard no longer, and the horror of jaws ripping and tearing had finally diminished, Kokopelli tentatively crept forward, moving through this corridor and that, trying to understand the ghastly scene before him. The passageways were littered with thousands of ant bodies, both red and black. Pieces of ants had been torn away and thrown everywhere, like discarded seed husks. The floor of the burrow was wet and sticky with fluids. It was a terrible sight, ruinous. The smells permeating the chambers reeked of death and decay. Revealed before him was an atrocious vision that would haunt his dreams for months and years to come. The red ants had penetrated deeply into the interior passageways in an attempt to get to the Queen and the nursery. Many lives... ants he had known from larvae to adult... had been sacrificed to insure the continuance of the colony.
"Artain! Artain!!" he cried hoarsely, touching antennae to this ant and that as he hurried through the carnage. "Where are you?" Through corridor after corridor he raced, seeking her. "Oh, let Artain be all right!" his heart cried out. "Just let her be all right!"
"I am here," softly moaned a weary voice, as a tired, mutilated antennae finally reached out to touch his. "I am here, Kokopelli." Slowly Artain crawled to his side, painfully disengaging herself from the gruesome body parts heaped obscenely around her. One antennae was badly torn and hung limp and useless, and there were open, seeping wounds in her middle plating that leaked as she crawled. But Artain, his friend, was alive. Tears came to Kokopelli's eyes as he gently touched her one, undamaged antennae.
"What is this salty liquid on your face, little brother?" inquired Artain faintly, stroking Kokopelli's face with her front legs.
"I do not know!", sobbed Kokopelli. "I do not know! But you are hurt. You are t-t-torn", he wailed frantically.
"Be at peace", said Artain. "All is well. I will live to fight another day and tell battle stories far into the night. It is well, little brother."
There were many stories to tell of that day, and Kokopelli learned of loyalty and of loss. Although he never saw an ant cry, he knew that their love for their community ran deep and full. The colony was safe, but great was the devastation. The builder ants set to work to restore the walls that had caved in during the battle. New eggs had to be laid immediately to replace the countless who had died in battle. The food ants dashed off, hurrying to bring the Queen the special food that would allow her to lay the thousands of eggs the colony would need to survive.
"Quick! Quick!! To work! To work! Preserve the People!", they all shouted, scurrying to touch their antennae to one another. "We must gather food! Food! Hurry! Hurry!"
The corridors had to be cleansed, and the ants who had died returned to the earth. Passageways had to be mended. The Queen was busy for many days laying her eggs, and the nursery ants were busy tending to the new larvae. Kokopelli was busy as well, helping here and there, and at the end of that day, and for many grim days afterwards, he was very tired indeed.
Eventually, Kokopelli's world returned to its orderly pattern once more -- but he never forgot what happened when one colony brought bitter warfare to another. He never forgot the hideous sights and sounds when others tried to take what was not theirs to take. Never could he forget the sight of Artain limping to his side, the reek of the passageways, or the body parts of friends and family strewn with disregard for life across his path. For a while, nightmares once again invaded his sleep as relentlessly as the red ants had invaded his home.
Inevitably, time went on. Wounds healed, physically and emotionally. Kokopelli's dreams returned to normal, becoming filled with the slow, sorting of grain and the other familiar, daily functions he experienced in the dimly lit, dusky passageways of his home. His friend Artain grew old and died, and Kokopelli continued to live as he always had, deep beneath the earth, in the stalwart, steadfast colony of the Ant Queen.
Copyright © Ayal Hurst 2006
Copyright permission needed if making copies
Ayal Hurst is a poet, artist, and holistic healer. For 12 years she was the co-director and co-founder of Silver Water Retreat, a center for personal growth and earth awareness in the mountains of North Carolina. Currently, Ayal lives in South Carolina with her husband Hawk, but plans to spend much of the year traveling and having new adventures. She loves to share the wonders of language, the beauties of nature, and the great mysteries of life.
Ayal also runs the web site Clearing the Way, which answers questions of personal healing from people all over the world. Ayal has offered healing and counseling services to individuals and groups for over 24 years. She is well versed in the many options the alternative healing world has to offer, as well as in various meditation practices.
Ayal is deeply in tune with her Highest Guidance and uses her unique intuitive ability to ascertain benefical information for healing, including which healing method would be most helpful for a particular situation or for a particular individual.
"Blessings and best wishes for health & wholeness,"