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Secrets of the Talking Jaguar

Memoirs from the Living Heart of a Mayan Village
Paperback Book
August, 1999
$18.00 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

Martín Prechtel, of Swiss father and Huron mother, drawn by his dreams, settled into the lakeside Mayan village of Santiago Atitlán from the time he was 20 until he was 33. There this young musician and painter apprenticed to Chiviliu Tacaxoy, a powerful, ancient shaman, and in time became a village chief and a famous shaman in his own right. Now he teaches around North America, often with Robert Bly, and this book is his story: a true tale filled with enchantment, danger, rich cultural descriptions, shamanic rivalry, passion, and a love affair with Guatemala.

Delicious, melancholy, lovely, full of flowers, mystery, laughter, and an extraordinary amount of suffering: if Guatemala were a woman, not a man alive wouldn’t be lovesick for her.

Prechtel has documented the first insider’s view of the Mayan spiritual and philosophical universe, as well as of the complex, joyous culture of contemporary Mayan village life, now vanishing. Sights, sounds, scents, colours, magical personalities; 800-year-old rituals juxtaposed with quintessential small-town gossip and passions. What is amazing is how Prechtel makes this world come alive and relevant to us. The book reads like a novel.

In his foreword to Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Robert Bly writes, “It’s a precious thing, this book. I’ve never known another like it. It’s a great encyclopedia of beauty.... If we can be quiet, this book will be a bucket that drops down toward the water of our indigenous soul. All the words that Martín writes here amount to a meditation on this soul as a natural force. Whether we are Swiss or Mayan or American, the indigenous soul, threatened all over the globe, still lives inside each of us. We can rejoice in its abundance, its ingenuity, its determination not only to exist but also to continue giving its gifts, if we will turn and meet it.”

For my own children, for your children, and for all that is indigenous in this world, I resorted to this writing, knowing full well how little could really be transmitted on paper—but what’s to lose if we stand to lose it all? So, as the Tzutujil people say: “Please receive a little aroma of the Original Flowering Earth.” This book-writing became something to remember about where we came from, what I did, and what was done. This way, perhaps, we can all continue this precarious adventure of life in the spirit of those village days. I hope something ancient and indigenous may reawaken inside the modern reader, who may catch a whiff or a glimmer of his or her own ancestral indigenous soul, or a memory of her ancient Celtic ancestral roundhouse, or Dravidian river people, or Polynesian canoe raid. Perhaps the soul could remember a little of its origination, when its people still belonged to the spirit of a place. Possibly my own story will give your stories courage enough to blossom.

Publisher’s Description: 

the author told of his 14 years as a shaman in an ancient Mayan village. This stand-alone sequel examines the complexity of the Mayan religious and social universe in the midst of the Guatemalan civil war of the 1970s. Ultimately the thousand-year-old traditional rites of the Maya were outlawed and like many others, he was forced to flee the country.

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