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Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: Unmasking the Mysterious World of the Living Maya [Hardcover]

Martin Prechtel
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Mar 1999

Martín Prechtel's astonishing and highly acclaimed first book is a powerful and vivid account of his life with the Mayan community in Guatemala.

"It's a precious thing, this book. I've never known another like it. It's a great encyclopedia of beauty…it is a treasure house of language, in service to life."
ROBERT BLY, author of Iron John

Martín Prechtel, who grew up on a pueblo Indian reservation in New Mexico, wandered as a young man through the brilliant landscapes of Mexico and Guatemala. Drawn in his dreams to the traditional Mayan community of Santiago Atitlán, he carved out a life for himself among the villagers. Though an outsider himself, Prechtel was adopted as an apprentice by a powerful, ancient shaman named Nicolas Chiviliu Tacaxoy. He married a Mayan woman and became a village chief and famous shaman in his own right, entrusted with the rich legacy of Atitlán's ancient Mayan heritage and its deepest cultural traditions.

In Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Prechtel brings to vivid life the sights, sounds, scents, and colour of the village: its magical personalities; its beauty, its material poverty and spiritual wealth; its eight-hundred-year old rituals juxtaposed with quintessential small-town gossip and passions. In a tale filled with enchantment, danger, rich cultural descriptions, shamanic rivalry and hope, Prechtel takes us into the heart of both untamed nature and intimate community life. His spellbinding narrative compellingly explores the complexity and joy of contemporary Mayan village life – a culture that is fast disappearing in the wake of modernization. Full of compassion, humour and wisdom, his unforgettable account reads like the most gripping adventure novel. Yet every word is true.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Element Books (4 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862045011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862045019
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Secrets of the Talking Jaguar will be equally fascinating for anthropologists and New Age seekers. This intensely readable book is the autobiographical account of a young sharman in the Tzutujil Mayan village of Santiago Atitlán in Guatemala. Born in New Mexico, Martín Prechtel arrived in his twenties in Atitlán, where he was immediately apprenticed to the aged shaman Nicolas Chiviliu Tacoxoy.

"I don't know why people in modern life want to be shamans," Prechtel writes. "There's nothing romantic about it. We just go around capturing monsters, resweetening the earth and making people's memories taste good again."

The Tzutujil language reveals how this was a world astonishingly different from Western culture. "The Tzutujil don't have a real word for "door", but they do have a good word for "doorway" ... Doorways were for letting things in or letting them out, not for keeping things in or keeping things out like doors did."

Prechtel's teacher Chiv is the real heart of this book, "the last great bastion of traditional Tzutujil culture holding back the tyranny of 20th-century civilisation". After he died, aged 97, Guatemala fell apart. For his own safety, Martín Prechtel learned in Atitlán is not all lost; he now practices and lectures on shamanism in the USA. --David V. Barrett


"The picture Prechtel creates of idyllic Indian life … is so beautifully drawn that his delight in their culture becomes contagious, as does his grief when civil war creates havoc in their village." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars funny, strange, deeply true 24 July 2000
Whether this account is for real or not is up to you to judge, but it is one of the best written books i've ever read. The book is funny, strange, whimsical and utterly astonishing. I raved about it when it came out, still rave about it now. Prechtel writes with astonishing evocative power of the absurdity and wonder of life. His adventures are wonderful.
Especially good is the bit you do not expect - his meandering journey to Guatemala before he met his teacher, which will have you laughing at the complete fantastical impossibility of so many coincidences. And a truly heart-stopping description of a tapir in the jungle.
There is not a hint of that self important over-reverent attitude to shamanism found in books like Castenada's. It is a glorious, compelling flight of colour, and though it may not change lives, it certainly brightens them up. This is a must read. Buy it and smile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars deepest beauty and thanks 3 Feb 2004
By A Customer
Martin Prechtel is a true teacher and healer - through his example, wisdom, heart carried through his storytelling he touched my core. I read this book years ago now ... but it lives on in my dreams and actions today ... in fact I'm going to re-read it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars amazing 2 Sep 2013
By m
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
i have never read a book written in this style. Martin describes everything using such exquisite vocabulary. There is no other book like this on shamanism. Def worth reading!!!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 16 Jan 2000
A fascinating insight into an alternative way of thinking and of our world.
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