Recently it was announced that the remains of a nine-year-old boy were found in South Africa. He is almost two million years old. Nearby, more fossils around the same period were also found, this time a female approximately 30 years old. The boy is being called “Sediba,” which means “source,” and he stands somewhere on the road between ape and human.

Don't I know you from someplace?

Professor Lee Berger of South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand who made the find in 2008 with his son Matthew, said: ‘These fossils give us an extraordinarily detailed look into a new chapter of human evolution and provide a window into a critical period when hominids made the committed change from dependency on life in the trees to life on the ground.’ Quite a journey.

Who were these people? Were they mother and son who on the same day fell into the hole that would entomb them for nearly 2 million years? What were they like? Did they have a language and tell stories? Did they have songs? Did they believe in a power greater than themselves? So many questions and very little answers. I love history. I suppose I could write a short story of the last days of this 30 year old and the 9 year old. What is ironic, is that the scientists 9 year old son found the fossil of the 9 year old. What is it like to look into the eye sockets of the skull and try and see the 2 million year old soul of the child?

From the sketchy history of the people who lived in and around South Africa at the time, we can surmise that they were wanderers looking for a better life just over the next rise. Our souls are wanderers also. Sometimes they can be restless. For want of a better reason than to have no reason at all, I looked up the word “peregrine” since the old Irish monks called themselves “peregrinari” in other words, those “having a tendency to wander.” Since I am not an anthropologist I’m only guessing here, that deep inside us there is a longing for answers and purpose to our lives and we will seek them out wherever the spirit moves. We too become “peregrinari.” Our journey time is very short, compared with recorded history and the journey sometimes is made more palatable when we bring along a companion, someone who supports us and whom we can support. The “aha” moment comes when we are able to come to the point of realization of why we are here. This invokes being open to the possibilities and dangers involved. The two people who were found in that pit in South Africa probably already knew the dangers of the journey and were willing to go for it. In death they were joined forever until a child uncovered them.

The title of the piece today comes from a quote by St. Columba (Columcille), the peripatetic Irish saint who journeyed from place to place trying to establish centers of learning and prayer. The poem from which the line “My Druid is Christ, the Son of God” is ascribed to St Columba (d. AD597), who sang this song as he walked, it was thought to be a protection to anyone who sang it on a journey. Perhaps in a future series of web logs I will look into the lives of Columba (patron Saint of Derry in Northern Ireland) as well as Brendan the Navigator. They journeyed and wandered looking over the horizon with one eye, while keeping the other on the present. They made the journey with companions like our 2 million year-old ancestors in South Africa. I guess the more we know about our past we will have a better idea where we are going changing behaviors that keep us frozen and may keep us from reaching for the horizon.

I leave you with the great poem attributed to Patrick called the Lorica or, St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same,

The Three in One, and One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever,

By power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;

His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb;

His riding up he heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom:

I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power

Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet “Well done” in judgement hour;

The service of the seraphim;
Confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,

The patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
All good deeds done unto the Lord,

And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,

The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,

Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,

His ear to hearken to my need;
The wisdom of my God to teach,

His hand to guide, his shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,

His heavenly host to be my guard.

[Against the demon snares of sin,

The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,

The hostile men that mar my course;
Of few or many, far or nigh,

In every place, and in all hours
Against their fierce hostility,

I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,

Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles

Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,

Against the death-wound and the burning
The choking wave and poisoned shaft,

Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.]

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,

The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,

The Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,

Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,

Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

–Translated by Cecil Frances Alexander

And so it goes….