Two groups of Zuni and Anasazi Native American fetishes (the former modern, the latter antique), leather purse, cloth bag, fetish bowls, compasses.
"There is a question I'd like to ask you Chief Silver Eagle."
The man I was talking to bore a striking resemblance to Indian actor Will Sampson, who became famous for his role in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but was actually the sorcerer - or medicine man, as the white man calls him - of a small tribe of Zuni Indians in southern New Mexico. His Zuni name was Kia-Kia-Li We-Ma-We - or something like that.
He was the guest of honour at our special meeting at the Museum of Cursed Antiquities in Minneapolis.
"It is said that Indians are reputed to have an extremely acute sense of direction. Is that just a myth, or do they indeed have a secret that we don't know about? After all, many armies from around the world have used them as trackers and scouts."
Silver Eagle smiled mischievously.
"Actually, we never mention the ones who get lost. It's the others who create the legend... No, just kidding. In fact, every village has its story and every hunter has his fetishes."
Whereupon he removed from his pocket a small leather purse whose contents he emptied onto a small rug on the table. There was an ear of corn, an American half dollar coin and four curious fetishes representing an animal skull, a frog, a bison and a fox.
"You can tell I'm a famous Indian because my name is printed on my country's coins", he told me with a smile, pointing at the American eagle on the half dollar.
He placed the coin in the middle of the rug and told us that it represented a village.
"Every village has a song which acts as a kind of roadmap. A bit like the songlines of the Australian aborigines. Remember the story that I'm about to tell you and you will never get lost again, but never forget to feed corn to your fetishes," he said, putting the ear of corn back into the purse.
"North of the village are the fire mountains, home to the dangerous mountain lions known as pumas. For this reason we are cautious about hunting in those parts. We'll represent the north with this ivory amulet in the shape of a puma skull."
Silver Eagle placed the fetish in front of him, on the far side of the silver coin.
"South of the village, there is a lake teeming with fish. This lake provides us with water, food and pleasure, because we often go there to swim and canoe. For us, the frog amulet will symbolise the lake and the south."
He placed the frog in line with the skull and coin, but on the near side of the coin.
"'The fox fetish represents the forest where the fox lives; it is to the east. We'll place the bison in the west, for it symbolises the place where we find the herds that feed and clothe our families."
Silver Eagle placed the last two fetishes to the right and left
of the coin respectively. "And that is how we always know
which way is north" he concluded.
"That's true", the Indian replied, "but these fetishes only become 'active' if we really need them. Here, try the experiment yourself. Remember the story and just place the four fetishes around the coin instinctively."
Katlyn did as instructed. Once the amulets had been positioned, Silver Eagle asked Mary Tomich (the Curator of the Museum of Cursed Antiquities) to lend him a compass. To her surprise, the four fetishes were perfectly positioned according to the four points of the compass.
Later that evening, while examining the fetishes, I got the shock of my life: half of the corn had been eaten!