Bewildering Stories

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Dr. S. M’Kinti, “Profiles of Four People Living with Anti-Geria:
Fourth Profile,”
Journal of Anti-Geric Studies, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2003

by Thomas R.

The first two profiles appeared in issue 78.
The third profile appeared in issue 81.

The Third and Fourth profiles shall be an example in contrast. I began with the youngest patient I have studied. I will end with the oldest patient recorded. A woman with a long, strange story spanning much of the New World’s — or, as she calls it, the Old World’s — history.

Knows the Stars: She is the oldest known person with the condition. Nevertheless we can date her birth with some accuracy thanks to her long-standing interest in the stars. This is rather unusual, and is impossible for many people millennia younger with her condition. In any event she was born in 3845 B.C. Her aging slowed to 0.8% normal around her “sixteenth summer.” This makes her appear to be a woman in her early 60’s. Where she was born is less clear, as she lived as a wandering mystic, but the Pacific Northwest of North America seems the most likely place.

Her beginnings seem to have been greatly significant to her. In her twenties she had a rather unusual, for the age, “epiphany” while stargazing. She states, “I was with my mother gathering mountain herbs when the sky cleared and I saw more stars than I’d ever seen before. I knew then that I was of the stars, as all people were, and that my only devotion could be to them.” That is when she took her name which she has kept with surprising consistency. It also led her to become a kind of wandering mystic. By the time Columbus came, she had visited lands from Alaska to northern Chile. She also could read Mayan and understand the Incan quipu accounting system by that point.

Nevertheless in her early days her observation relied solely on her memory and eyes. She did not live among the Maya until the fourth century and thus was illiterate until then; but before that she had made discoveries on her own. Using her own good memory, aided by songs she made up and mementos, she learned to predict eclipses and the appearance of Halley’s comet. In fairness, her predictions concerning Halley’s tended to be rather off, but still remarkable considering her methods. She was at turns respected and reviled among many American Indian peoples. Reviled because she disparaged the Mayans for human sacrifice and came to support peaceful resistance against Incan rule. These tendencies landed her in trouble under the Spanish as well.

When the Spanish came, she lived with the Mapuche in Chile. They resisted the Incas and would fight with the Spanish, then the Chileans, until 1886. Although generally preferring non-violence, she had some sympathy for their efforts to avoid Spanish rule. Also, as an astronomer, Chile served her interests well. Despite her hostility to the Spaniards she would occasionally talk about astronomy with visiting Jesuits. She decided for all their faults she wanted to learn more about Western astronomy. This and her despair of the situation for the Mapuche led her to leave Chile. Therefore, in the 1820, she went to study in London.

She only spent a decade in the U.K., but for her it would be one of the oddest periods of her life. It would be the only time she lived in the Eastern Hemisphere. It would also be a strange time for her as, at that point, an American Indian woman studying astronomy in Britain was seen as an oddity. At times this served her purposes. Professors wished to tutor her as they found the idea amusing. Some wanted to prove “even a savage woman can learn by my method.” She attended some Anglican services out of curiosity, but had the view of a very different kind of Indian about them: she said something similar to Gandhi, to the effect that “I am impressed by Christ, but I’m less pleased by Christians.” She was largely just biding time. Once she learned all she could about modern astronomy in the U.K., she returned to the Americas.

In the Americas she again returned to being a kind of wandering astronomer. Her theories were sadly too wild to be taken seriously. Some of them were just plain wrong. She stated that on large enough masses time ran backwards and that stars were eternal. However, some of her theories were correct. Her ideas on the Earth-Moon theory are in line with what we know now, and she may well have been the first to think hydrogen was “the primeval element from which other elements all came somehow.” For the nineteenth century, that was fairly impressive. Still, these things only caused scorn. As an astronomer she gained limited acceptance for discovering “Squaw’s Comet,” a name she bitterly resented.

However her lectures did draw some interest as they also had a political slant. She would talk in favor of abolitionism, alcohol prohibition, and American Indian Rights. This caused her more interest and controversy. As no tribe existing really claimed her, many called her a fraud. Especially tribes that depended on slavery. One dramatic incident changed that so will be described in some detail.

She was speaking in the South in a slaveholding Indian nation which she would prefer not to have specified. Most of the speech had been about her, again wrong, idea that stars could not be born or die. However, toward the end, one of the more obnoxious old men and prominent slave owners taunted her as a phony Indian. To everyone’s shock she responded to him in a long-extinct language that only a few of the elders even vaguely recognized. As he was in fact one of the men who recognized it, he was suitably impressed and, she states, terrified. She states that “at that point he raved I was not a woman, but an ancient being returned. Kind of more true than he would’ve imagined.” In any event he later manumitted his slaves and discouraged anyone in his family from drinking alcohol again.

Still, as a whole, the response she tended to get disappointed her. By the end of the nineteenth century she returned to the Pacific Northwest she came from. The most ambitious thing she might have done there was give navigation advice to the Nez Perce in their efforts to get to Canada. The most successful might be her helping to set up several observatories in the West.

At present she teaches astronomy at the University of Washington, Seattle. She uses the name Anna Stargazer. Like most names she has used, this involves the name she took, and which she still uses on the Indian dance circuit.

A closing note should be mentioned on the fact that she has a uncommonly strong connection to her beginnings. For most of us our original life seems long dead or is sometimes purposely forgotten. However, Knows the Stars believes strongly that the souls of those she knew are all around us.

Her connection is greatest to her mother Sky Dancer. Sky Dancer was a shaman who loved her daughter very dearly and inspired many of her views or interests. She even traveled with her daughter in the first decades as a wanderer. Knows the Stars claims they traveled together until her mother died at the age of 147. That life span seems rather implausible, but there is a chance it is accurate as her mother may have had a mild form of anti-geria herself. The fact that Knows the Stars is sterile, as children of anti-gerics tend to be, seems to point to the possibility.

In any event, she still talks to her mother a great deal, believing that she is literally dancing in the sky at present, and considers her to be a profound influence on her life to this day. Several of the observatories she founded were named, or partly named, “Sky Dancer” in her mother’s honor.

Otherwise she is very much not what modern people would see as religious. She thinks the influence of spirits is purely emotional and inspirational, disapproving of the idea of miracles. She believes there is an impersonal force in the Universe, but does not believe in a personal God. She even has a rather strong anti-clerical streak, that she admits is somewhat unfair, caused by her experiences with Mayan and Spanish priests.

Copyright © 2004 by Thomas R.

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