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Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: Memoirs from the Living Heart of a Mayan Village Paperback – 11 Jan 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 283 pages
  • Publisher: Jeremy P Tarcher; New Ed edition (11 Jan. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874779707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874779707
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 231,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

A shaman and leader of the men's movement offers a glimpse into the complex culture of contemporary Mayan village life and spirituality.

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First Sentence
Two furry little heads bounced and turned to survey the tumult of old basaltic walls and village huts rushing by, as they jostled along, safe on Machayal's fast-walking back. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback
In this exquisitely written book, Martin Prechtel describes his rather suprising journey to becoming a shaman in a traditional Guatemalan village. It's suprising because he doesn't set out to become a shaman; he leaves North America because it's no longer working for him and he needs to go somewhere else, anywhere else..... and he winds up in an extraordinary Mayan village, full of wonderful characters. Not least of these characters is his teacher, Nicolas Chiviliu Tacoxoy ("Chiv"), whom he first meets after he has been in the village for three days: "..... I felt someone grab my collarbone muscles so hard I went to my knees. A voice behind my head chuckled and croaked right into my left ear:.......... "How come you came late, Curley?"...... ". At this time Chiv is in his eighties, and he doesn't mean "why are you three days late?", he means "why are you two years late?". Martin, for his part recognises Chiv as the same man who had appeared in eleven magical dreams the previous year. They go straight away to perform a gruelling all-night ceremony, and it never really stop from then on. The book describes Martin Prechtel's training, his initiation (when he nearly dies) and his work as a shaman. He gives a clear outline of a shaman's work and why this is necessary to the whole community. He also tells some good stories, such as Chiv's apparent death, followed by rigor mortis and sprightly revival. Some of the ceremonial descriptions are fascinating, some are gripping and some are hilarious. He lovingly describes how he, as a twenty year old has to learn as much as everyone else in the village, as they all accept that they forgot all they knew soon after birth and have to re-member.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book, so relevant to where we are now in the modern west, ie. LOST in a materialistic and technological labyrinth, completely alienated from the magic in nature that our ancestors would have lived and breathed. What a precious jewel of a book this is. Written with deep feeling and love, humour and great honesty.
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By Doodlebug on 5 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this real life story of transformation and challenge. So much of it is painful to read when considering the damage done to indigenous peoples across the world. Damage that continues to this day. It seems tragic that so much of the skills and knowledge has been swept away in an angry, greedy tide that never creates, only consumes and destroys. I would hope to meet with Martin Prechtel one day... either in this world or the other worlds of the Shaman.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 47 reviews
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
A Classic Novel: A Journey to the Navel of the Earth 24 July 2000
By parc@gravelroads.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Amazing cultural and religious insights of Atitlan 17 Oct. 1999
By Judith Pasco (pasco@olypen.com) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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 to glimpse the underpinnings of the Maya belief system. His writing, that once in while seems overly flowerly, sets the scene to guide us into this magical world. His fascination with his own learning there does not lead him to idealize these indigenous people. There are sharp doses of reality in this book; of diseases and death, and hunger and feuds. To gain an amazing perspective into the lives of a fascinating people, I highly recommend Secrets of the Talking Jaguar.
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
a superbly written work 22 Dec. 1999
By David Abram - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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 be translated onto the written page, without losing their ancestral wildness, is something of a wonder. It's a landmark text, a kind of talisman filled with clues for those working on behalf of the wild, more-than-human earth. Don't miss it.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
READ THIS BOOK...REGARDLESS OF SKIN COLOR 11 Oct. 1998
By barena@cclear.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A previous reviewer called this "a rip-off of Indian culture" after seeing the author in person at a book signing and later "researching" his background. . . . . Please, do not judge a book by its cover or a shaman by his skin. At least read the book's intro by Robert Bly and what he says about "Secrets of the Talking Jaguar."
SHAMANS: "The Mayans call shamans "spirit-lawyers," that is, men or women who go to the spirits and try to argue them into giving a benefit of some sort to human beings. Mayan tradition does not teach that the Gods want people to be sinless or perfect, but to believe that the Gods love beauty, eloquence, fine clothes, great music, fine poems, bravery, high animal spirits, and gratitude."
TONGUES LIKE PUPPIES: "At conferences I've seen men and women weep when Martin Prechtel talks of the complex and rich village life of the Maya. The listeners realize how much more open their lives in youth would have been if their beauty had been honored as the young ones are honored in Santiago Atitlan, and if they'd had a chance to be kissed by the invisible faces "'with tongues like puppies.'" They also weep when they realize how men and women, though they speak separate languages, can fly together like the two wings of a bird."
INDIGENOUS SOUL " . . . 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 Martin 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."
Bly says it all. You will experience a "Journey to the Heart of the Indigenous Soul" no matter what your ethnic background or skin color. The indigenous soul is within all of us. Read this book and decide for yourself. -- Bill Arena
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
a wonderfully written work 28 Dec. 1999
By David Abram - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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 embedded 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 be translated onto the written page, without losing their ancestral wildness, is something of a wonder. It's a landmark text, a kind of talisman filled with clues for those working on behalf of the wild, more-than-human earth. Don't miss it.
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