Conflicting Essays in scholarship which have been the most engaging research job I have ever done. I have also added, over the years, queries about our "dated" geology with their "computerized" confirmations together with climate changes denied since 1963. The Ten-O'clock News have been telling us to change our clocks for DSL and back again BUT no one as noticed it has been changed, more than a few years ago, from March 31 and October 31, to a week or so earlier or even a week or so later.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Shaman Authority Staff

Shamans, Curanderas and Bone Setters

What is a Maya Shaman?

     The best definition of a Shaman, I found far to the north in the Arctic Circle, with a group of Eskimos who called themselves Ihaumiuts, now a lost civilization. 

     It was written in 1968 by Farley Mowat, long before Linda Schele taught her first class how to read the Maya glyphs at the University of Texas at Austin, or Dennis Tedlock and his wife, Barbara, decided to become Day Keepers. 

     The definition of the shaman in the Arctic was a revelation after reading so much nonsense about those oddly powerful people in tribal societies.

      Farley Mowat, in 1965 wrote a book about the time he spent with the Ihaumiuts of  the northern lands of ice and snow. He went into the Arctic as a young boy with his uncle and decided to return to the Barren Lands, a very isolated part of the area. He met with two trappers there and began his "internship" with them.

     By the time he left, he was appalled that the native population had been systematically decimated with the free aid of welfare services; by hard working missionaries, and the few entrepreneurs who thought they could make a living off the natives by employing them with different Arctic resources.

  When '"knowledgeable people" took the Ihaumiuts completely away from their sustaining diet of deer meat and the fats necessary for their ability to live in the Barrens.  The first "industry" introduced to the natives was the need for white fox pelts.  Hunting the deer, their main food staple became secondary. Later, the fishing industry employed these people in the seaside towns until other resources became more lucrattive, By the time the Ihaumiuts returned to their lands they had lost much of their ability to hunt.

     The fats that enabled them to survive the harsh weather of the land were depleted with their more modern foods, like fish, and other commodities. Illness struck the Ihaumiuts until only one woman remained who was considered fertile. After her death,  the whole culture disappeared off the face of the earth.
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The Shamans of the North

     The Shamans of the Ihaumiuts were described in plain, honest terms, together with some of the horror stories of welfare communities who tried to help these people with modern housing and commodities with little or no understanding of their needs. Missionaries told "civilized people" of the 1940's wild tales of "devil worship" and other horror stories based on a lack of understanding of the cultural mores  necessary for the people's survival.

   Shamans, whose main role is to create a cooperative atmosphere, were the primitive psychologists, who conducted ceremonies for the dead, [i.e. deaths, of a child, wife or mother; celebrated the birth of a child], created an atmosphere of public confessions [not of sins, but of broken taboos] when bad times struck the tribes; acted as local physicians [as Curanderas]; or as those who dealt with broken bones [as Bone Setters.] 

Jawbone Staff of
Authoity for Shaman

     They also know the basic components of nearby medicinal plants and were never asked to plead with the gods about lack of animals along the hunting trails, or any other special favors. The Eskimos believed that both humans and animals have free will. Hence, their gods do not tolerate "whining messages" from humans. Their survival was dependent, not upon gods of the weather or the land, but upon the ability of the natives to use all the resources of the land to the best of their ability.

      One of the standard pieces of equipment for shamans, world-wide is a "Bull-Roarer" a piece of notched wood that when swung overhead roars like a tortured animal, similar to a bull. Their jobs are basically the same. And, on the side, they also can prove their power with a bit of magic, aided by shuffling, dancing and/or drumming, when needed.

     A symbol of their position in a tribe is sometimes demonstrated by a staff, [such as the one illustrated here], a magnetic stone; a magic bone; a special tone of a single drum, or of many drums during group dancing  or a solitary shuffling dance of the shaman him/herself.

     Shaman take note of the weather and will advise if a proposed journey that week or day, would be successful. They are wise about such conditions by noting the clouds, the dampness in the air, and a myriad of small details people may miss due to an emergency of some sort.

     However, "a power-hungry shaman" is seldom appreciated since their main role in any community is to help and aid the people under their care. There is a story of a curandera who lived in the desert near several mineral springs  It was an old Indian remedy that helped people for many years. She learned to help many who came for such assistance. 

     But as it was, an entrepreneur heard about the springs and was cured of his ailment. At first, he would talk to his friends and send them to the springs. She had gotten busy; and she was running short on time and energy. The entrepreneur suggested she turn the area into a spa with proper housing, and such luxuries like proper beds and private bathrooms.

     Everything went according to plan until opening day. when the future owners decided to light a fire in the new fireplace. The room was suddenly filled not only with smoke but also with enough ash that necessitated a complete restoration of the building.

     It had not been just old ash expelled from an old fireplace since it was a completely new chimney.  The result was, the person who had helped so many people at the waters of the springs, eventually lost all her clients and even the land where the mineral waters were located. The business end of the proposed health spa was utterly destroyed. Hookum? or the Universe did not approve of such business arrangements.
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                                 The Maya Version of Shamans

     Shamans are found in many cultures around the world. It was in the dictionary section of I. U. Knorozou's 1963 book, Writing Indian Maya, which contained a word: "Pacal." The name of the now popular ruler of Palenque was translated at that time as "a medicine store." A translation that has been totally ignored ever since.

     But it was an early book before Linda Schele showed us how to read the glyphs and long before the Maya Shamans began to demonstrate their rituals to the public during planned tours of scholars; those souls who were just vaguely interested in Mesoamerica; or just those people who didn't care as long as they were going somewhere. Even after I had visited Palenque twice, I never heard anything said about a "medicine store." 

     Neverltheless, there were apparently Shamans who were called the priests of Ay May at the Temple of the Inscriptions. I believe that this temple, just recently discovered some thirty or forty years ago is the one referred to as the place of the Oracles in José Castillo-Tortre's book of 1955 called: Por la Señal de Hunab Ku: Reflejos de la Vida de los Antiguos Mayas.

     The Temple of the Inscriptions appears to have been the temple of oracles since it contained a tube from the burial room of Pacal to the top of the stairs [hidden under a huge stone slab.] Oracles have to come from somewhere sacred. It cannot just be a priestly incantation, the speaking tube from the tomb, fit the bill perfectly.

The Ay May priests who were in charge of the Temple, proclaimed prophecies through their miraculous Oracle, doled out medicines and in general helped the people through some very tough times when the harvests were poor. Apparently, the seasons were out of synch just before Pacal appeared on the Maya stage of rulers. 

Was Pacal a ruler, or was he just a stranger without any Maya ancesters who came into the land in ships with the men portrayed on the wall of Temple XIX. Was it he who helped the Maya to adjust their calendar system to agree once again with the seasons;  and who may have trained the Ay May priests in a new role; that of physicians like those in the other world across the seas.

But, Oh my, do not breath a word about such connections from over the sea. The Maya WERE isolated, and everyone KNOWS that they were primitive people that suddenly learned everything from the Conquistadores and their schools. Hm.m.m.m. . . . .Really?
Mowat, Farely, (1968, 7th printing 1971) People of the Deer. Pyramid Books, NewYork: Pyramid Communications, Inc.

Castillo-Torre, José (1955)  Por la Señal de Hunab Ku:  Reflejos de la Vida de los Antiguos Mayas. Mexico DF, Mexico: Libreria de Manuel Porrúa, SA.

Knorozou, |. V. (1963) Writing Indian Maya / Uzdatelbctvo Akademia Hayk, CCCP [Edition Nzdatelbctvo Akademia Hayk, CCCP.}