An interview with Martin
Where is the poetry in the modern men's mythopoetic
movement? Where is the mystical tribal language
that will melt away the ice of logic and initiate
our souls? Where is the life-giving water that
flows down the mountain deeply nurturing our
thirsty hearts and minds? Where is the tribal elder
walking along the path describing the sacred
landscape to our young men and women? What ancient
story will he tell? Will we listen? Can we see his
facial expressions, hear his tone of voice, and
feel his strong emotion as we follow along? What
secrets of nature's beauty might we discover hidden
within the sounds and without the words as we build
our ritual home? Shall we allow these ancient rites
to transform us and connect us with the universal
greater whole? Are we now ready to hear the songs
of a shaman's ecstatic heart?
Martin Prechtel is such a man who makes road
maps to the human soul. He is the author of Secrets
of the Talking Jaguar, Long Life, Honey in the
Heart, The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun:
Ecstasy and Time, plus his newest book The Toe Bone
and the Tooth - the highly anticipated third volume
in the narrative trilogy of his autobiographical
Robert Bly refers to Prechtel's work as "a
treasure house of language in service to life."
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run
with the Wolves, declares "the Mayan gods, who hold
eloquence above all else, must surely be pleased
with his soul, who, in this lifetime, is named
Prechtel's own life story takes him from his
native New Mexico upbringing as a half-blood Native
American from a Pueblo Indian reservation to the
village of Santiago Atitlan where he eventually
served the Tzutujil Mayan population as a full
village member, becoming a principal in the body of
village leaders responsible for instructing the
young people in the meaning of their ancient
The author comes alive during his seminars with
poetry and songs. Even by telephone it was a truly
magical experience to share in his personal warmth
and charismatic personality. Although Prechtel is a
prolific writer, his native tradition and
preference, is to communicate through speech.
"The spoken story becomes the way people know
how to live inside a certain landscape," he began.
"It takes the landscape to contain story - that
mythology that has all the details of the
dismemberment and rememberment - the words utilized
are of such force that it causes the young people
to grasp at the things they do not comprehend."
It's an initiatory process that takes years for
people to "get closer to beauty."
"They go through a personal transformation that
takes them out of the sibling nonsense and into
community accountability," he continued. "So words
can be utilized to link them up to something
enormous, a ritual feeding of what is Holy in
If done correctly, the "Holy in Nature" can be
fed by the way we walk, speak, or even gesture, he
"Holy is not something in church, but it's in
the natural universe," Prechtel said, "and it's fed
by our delicious words."
A master of innovative language, Prechtel works
to promote the vitality hidden in language.
"The words, themselves, as magical as they are,
become the poetry for the young person with which
they wrestle death," he explained. "Before the
young man or young woman in initiation goes down
into the underworld to retrieve their own souls
from the romantic feelings - those feelings that
steal the imagination by stealing their heart so
they feel hollow - before that the old people will
take them in and put them through all this language
Prechtel described the power of poetic language
as the greatest weapon against death.
"Death wrestles you, but not with machine guns
or bombs or sarcasm," he said, "and you then fight
back with poetry; you beguile death; but you can't
kill it. Death loves words so much it will make a
deal with you. It says 'I'll give you back your
soul if on a regular basis if you send messages to
For Prechtel, translating the oral tradition
into the written word is a very difficult task.
Maintaining "the quality so it inspires a modern
human being" is "nearly impossible," he adds.
We all have the capacity to touch something more
spiritual in ourselves "like spiritual DNA lying in
memory," he said, but quickly added "it's not in us
as much as we are in it."
Modern views consider humans the center of the
universe instead of part of the universe, Prechtel
"As long as we're working for the benefit of the
human, we're working with a narrow vision," he
noted. "We need to keep the Holy before and after
the human. Only then can humans become a very large
beautiful thing speaking human to human. The real
initiations are those that cause us to become
something that feeds life beyond ourselves. It's
not self involvement or self enlightenment. It's
something beyond yourself for the universe."
Prechtel, who is also a gifted visual artist,
said grief is the source of his creative
"To make war is an inability with grief," he
said. "Shame and depression are an inability with
grief. Grief is the source of art. The only source
of art. Violence is an inability with grief."
What does a shaman have to say about coping with
modern violence and this time of war?
"You love what you love more than you love your
hate," he advised. "If what you love is the divine,
story, culture, children, then instead of blowing a
whistle, you'll strive to keep the seeds
For those who love to write, keeping "the seeds
alive" can be a means of spiritual survival in
turbulent times. Prechtel exhorts writers to stick
with metaphors rather than a "literalist" approach
to the creative process.
"Holy understands metaphor," he explained.
"Metaphor is images without the verb 'to be.' When
you do not have a verb 'to be' you can't talk
unless you use metaphor."
The author said modern speech is abbreviated to
stream line communication for technology or for
business purposes An example of our truncated
language is the fact that some 42,000 words in
Shakespeare's plays are not in common usage today.
Among "tribal people in the bush" a more ornate and
beautiful language can be found.
Prechtel said he teaches seminars to bring back
the gifts of language and "feed something beyond
"Take the time to feed holy every day," he
urged. "Find a way to write a poem to your
'Invisible Soul.' Take the most beautiful part of
you that you've never met and welcome it home like
a sweetheart. Then go out into the street and look
for the most invisible member of society. Anybody.
Somebody on the street corner. Somebody in a diner.
Give them that poetry as a gift - a gift for them.
The courage it takes for a small individual to give
to another person creates so much admiration in the
soul. It becomes an integral part of the poet's
soul. Plus, the invisible people aren't invisible
any more. Little tiny people doing little tiny
things in little tiny neighborhoods ... that's when
the unblessed are blessed ... and that's when we
will start to have a culture." Contact Martin
© 2005 Reid Baer
* * *
The fame you earn has a different taste from the
fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria
Reid Baer, an
award-winning playwright for A Lyons
Tale is also a newspaper journalist, a poet
with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide,
and a novelist with his first book released this
month entitled Kill
The Story. Baer has been
a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and
currently edits The New Warrior Journal for
The ManKind Project www.mkp.org
He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife
Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.
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