Twenty-five years ago, a young musician and painter named Martin Prechtel wandered through the brilliant landscapes of Mexico and Guatemala. Arriving at Santiago Atitlan, a Tzutujil Mayan village on the breathtaking shores of Lake Atitlan, Prechtel met Nicolas Chiviliu Tacaxoy--perhaps the most famous shaman in Tzutujil history--who believed Prechtel was the new student he had asked the gods to provide. For the next thirteen years, Prechtel studied the ancient Tzutujil culture and became a village chief and a famous shaman in his own right. In Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Prechtel brings to vivid life the sights, sounds, scents, and colors of Santiago Atitlan: its magical personalities, its beauty, its material poverty and spiritual richness, its eight-hundred-year-old rituals juxtaposed with quintessential small-town gossip. The story of his education is a tale filled with enchantment, danger, passion, and hope.
A Classic Novel: A Journey to the Navel of the Earth
By email@example.com - July 24, 2000
Let me begin with: WOW, what a book. Prechtel and Bly's collaboration on this wonderful insight into the soul of the Mayan people is so much more useful than an anthropological study of the Maya. Prechtel's perspective is that of an insider and reading this book is like reading primary source material. I doubt there is a comparable work available (at least not among the books and articles I have read). From Prechtel's mentor Chiv to his vivid descriptions of Mayan folklore, there is a thread binding the observations in this book that made the reading of it a real and emotional experience. I lived in Guatemala for 2 years as a child and for me reading this book was also a reminder of myself. Far from a dry, rigid, academic piece, The Secrets of the Talking Jaguar is for everyone with an interest in Guatemala, the Maya, justice and spirituality. Thank you Martin Prechtel.
Amazing cultural and religious insights of Atitlan
By Judith Pasco (firstname.lastname@example.org) - October 17, 1999
Having traveled to Guatemala 5 times, and having lectured on the devastating civil war that caused untold economic hardship, destruction of cultural identity and hundreds of thousands of dead and disappeared, I read Martin Prechtel's book with interest. I have visited Santiago Atitlan 3 times, once with students, and felt I had a small grasp of the religious practices. But I was wrong. Prechtel's account of his life with the shaman and the spiritual hierarchy of the village is an incredible revelation. The Maya tendency to keep their important beliefs secret, was much deeper and more significant to their culture than I could have guessed. Reading this book is a fascinating and up to now unavailable look at a culture that sees itself as an integral, unseparable part of nature and the universe. The connectedness experienced by the atitecos is something that we in our materialistic, compartmentalized culture have lost, or perhaps never have had. Prechtel offers us the chance... read more
a superbly written work
By David Abram - December 22, 1999
I'm astonished that this book is not better known. Perhaps it's 'cause the title makes it sound like yet another addition to the awful genre of new-age pop shamanism garbage. But nothing could be further from the case! This is easily the finest work written on Meso-American shamanic practice -- and surely the most significant work on the topic since Mr. Castaneda's earliest books. But The Talking Jaguar is a thousand times more grounded, detailed and genuine than Castaneda's problematic work, since it is written from a position deeply within the particular tradition that it is translating for us. Perhaps most remarkable is the luminous eloquence of Prechtel's language -- the book is written in a style that carries something of the flavor of the indigenous oral tradition, a style worthy of the reverence accorded by most oral peoples to the beauty of living language. That so many experiences and insights rooted in indigenous, participatory, oral modes of awareness managed to... read more
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