Photography by J. Mita Studios

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Birthing Cave

    Second time in the cave at Bolton Notch State Park in Bolton, CT. It goes farther back than I thought. The passage is squirrel sized but it is THERE!!! I know it goes far deeper into the soft marble. This is a young cave. In the time of Wunnee of the Podunks, I believe the cave was smaller. The water is enlarging the soft marble walls. Caves on the other side of this ridge will eventually connect, if they haven't already.

    I believe this was a birthing cave. It has seen joy and it has seen death. The women came during storms. They came during deep snow. I can sense the pain and the blood. It is here in the dirt. Buried under layers of leaf mold. It was a rock floor. Now it is dirt.

    I dig down with a shovel shaped rock and the coating of dirt is only perhaps 2 1/2 inches. The cave was carefully prepared for the next birth. There was always a basket with a fur blanket inside. There was always firewood and flint. There were always birch pots. There was always dried corn, beans and squash. There was always a deer bladder to haul water from the nearby brook. Piled deeper inside were soft tanned blankets to lay on the floor.

    The entry was not as steep 400 years ago. It was a much gentler slope, one that a squaw in labor could climb. I sit on one of the flat, slanted rocks near the entry of the cave. It was the perfect tilt and size for a woman to sit on to give birth. I am certain that is why it was called Squaw Cave. I wish I knew the Podunk name of the cave.

    I can see it perfectly. She comes up the slope, heavy with a child. She know by the moon cycle her time is very near. Soon the New Moon will be in the sky. Now it is the third quarter of the moon. It is the dark time up to midnight, then the moon finally rises to be seen. It is the time when most babies are born.
    The cave is the womb of the earth. It is the underworld, where her ancestors came from and where they go in the end. To bring forth a child from the underground is sacred. The rock is strong and safe.

    As she stands at the entry, it is shaped like a woman's vulva. The dark place beyond is like the birth canal. She returns to the womb to bring forth life from her womb. It is a mirror. She gives her offering of the umbilical cord from the last birth in the cave, presents it to the four directions, then drops it into on of the many small openings at the mouth of the cave.

    The waiting is hard. She does not know when the time will be. Perhaps by sunset of that day, or maybe in 3 sunrises.
    There is plenty of food to eat if she needs to, but she is not hungry. She has been fasting for 2 days. She notices that dirt has collected on the stone floor. She finds a sweet grass broom on the side of the cave and sweeps away the dirt and leaves. She rests on the birthing stone, spreads open her legs and slides down. Yes, it is the right place to be.

    She feels the first pain, and knows the new warrior will be coming soon. There are several deerskin blankets on a rock shelf. She places them on the floor below the birthing stone and once again sits on the rock.
    The sun sinks lower. The cave grows darker. The pains are much closer, the distance between two dragonflies. She brings out a piece of birthroot and chews on it. The sharp taste that smells like bear fat in the mouth eases some of her pain.

    Darkness comes. She begins singing lullabies and songs of triumph, songs of her tribe, songs of great deeds. At last a pool of water comes out of her. Her need to push is overwhelming but she needs to wait. The dark sky has only starlight to show the outside landscape.

    At last she feels the new body nearing the exit of her womb. She squats on the rock with her feet on the rock floor. She pushes once, twice, three times and the baby slides out. She eases him onto the blankets, and as the afterbirth comes out she carefully catches it, gives thanks, then eats it for better milk and joy of the birth, and for preparing her body for food again. With a sharp deer hoof knife, she cuts the cord between her and the baby. He takes his first breath and she knows he will be strong and grow straight and tall.

    As she wraps him in a blanket, the moon breaks through the dark sky. It lights the path down to the brook. She cradles him in her arms, and goes to the water and dips him several times in the cold night water. He struggles, but she knows it will prepare him to be healthy and strong.

    She goes back to the cave, places him in the waiting basket that lies in an alcove across from the birthing stone. She lights a fire, gives thanks for the birth, sings a prayer song to the cave, then lays down next to the fire in full view of the new life nestled under the protective low wall, and finds sleep.