This is the lions den
I hope you knew that before you came in
This is where the angels and the devils fight
And their choosing up sides tonight
Well, I am the son of the wild, wild west
And I know that earth is black
So I was sailing my prairie schooner one day
when I fell off the edge of the map
And my, oh my to my surprise I landed on foreign soil
I was another planet, another world
And it was populated by boys and girls, come on
The Rainmakers, Snakedance
I recently ran across an old interview: Derrick Jensen, interviewing Martin Pretchel. I borrowed and read Secrets of the talking Jaguar a few years back and I was blown away by Martin’s story. I still need to read more – in fact, I would like to read and own them all, but that is a project for another day.
What caught my attention in the article was the connection with recent discussions we have had here about Time, Land and indigenity. Derrick asks him to explain “the other world” in mayan spirituality and Martin says:
If this world were a tree, then the other world would be the roots — the part of the plant we can’t see, but that puts the sap into the tree’s veins. The other world feeds this tangible world — the world that can feel pain, that can eat and drink, that can fail; the world that goes around in cycles; the world where we die. The other world is what makes this world work. And the way we help the other world continue is by feeding it with our beauty.
All human beings come from the other world, but we forget it a few months after we’re born. This amnesia occurs because we are dazzled by the beauty and physicality of this world. We spend the rest of our lives putting back together our memories of the other world, enough to serve the greater good and to teach the new amnesiacs — the children — how to remember. Often, this lesson is taught during the initiation into adulthood.
Although it is subtle, this really struck me in the way that it made the same sort of connections that Abrams made concerning time. The hidden parts of the land beneath our feet is the past… it is where we come from (and, inevitably we will return to it, thus becoming a part of the past ourselves). It is that which we owe our very lives to , and it is only in feeding the land, honoring those who have gone before and the source, of which they have once again become a part, that the whole remains healthy and vibrant.
Likewise, Martin later makes the point that we only become indigenous when we have given of our blood to the land on which we live. For him, it was the death of his son – his blood returned to the soil. Baring that, it is a generational process. Only by having a shared history, a shared past with our place, and by engaging that place in our lives do we become a part of it. (For the mayans, there is much emphasis on grieving – by grieving we release the spirits of our dead, else they become ghosts and chase us through life, unable to rest, to becoming one with the other, with the source.)
From a strictly archaeological perspective – the (mythological) objective viewpoint – I see that many of the mythological ideas of the mayans show traces of their own civilizational past. The metaphors (and non-metaphorical beliefs) draw significantly on language and ideas common to civilized peoples, but with amendments to satisfy functionality and sustainability. While I, personally, prefer a simpler approach to post civ spirituality, for those looking for a way forward, the Mayan belief set may well provide some insight into how that is accomplished. How one might re-frame the civilized worldview into a post apocalyptic sustainable vision.