By Dolores J. Nurss

Volume III: Responsibility

Chapter 43




In my dream the Don appeared as a little old Yaqui man, impishly grinning.  But of course I had to turn him into a Mountainfolk man for the novel—though it didn’t take that much change.

I still feel a little ticked off at the well-off spiritual tourists who shamed me out of taking the socks from the hospitality-bureau (and here you see the dream where I first learned about this excellent piece of furniture.)  This probably reflected the difference between the spiritual-tourist take on the Yaqui tribe, and my desire to find my tribe in order to warm my foundation, my roots.  At that point I had not yet had any contact with any Yaquis “in the culture”.  Most Yaquis fleeing Porfirio Diaz went to Tucson or Guadalupe, Arizona; my family went to San Diego and promptly lost touch with their roots.

At this point, in my youth, I read up on as many of Carlos Castaneda’s books as I could find, trying to learn my maternal culture.  I think somehow that my unconscious mind picked up on the fact that these contained the misinterpretations of a spiritual tourist, and that to follow them too closely would deny me the true hospitality of my tribe.

Instinctively, I did not try peyote or mushrooms or anything like that, though I felt conflicted about my refusal—it just didn’t feel right to my soul, personally, to use them.  Much later I learned that these were never Yaqui things in the first place, though some have borrowed them from time to time, to break through thick skulls.  Don Juan had been an herbalist of mixed descent, Yaqui enough to suffer persecution, but he drew his herblore from many tribes as a good herbalist should, and in escaping the death camps of the Yucatan he did pass through tribes that used such things.

And then came Castaneda, a morbidly curious young student, in the days of the drug revolution, disinterested in any herbs save the mind-altering ones, but also a generous fellow, who often brought groceries for his informant.  Juan Matus wanted to please him, and so he drew from the lore of the Tohono O’odham and the Huichol—minus the ritual context of those tribes, perfected over generations, which would have made for a much safer experience.

But the real Yaqui altered state, from which we learn the truth, is dreaming.  Drugs, beyond the well-defined cultural contexts of those raised to their limited use, are for those who have forgotten how to dream, or how to put faith in dreams, or who, by hard circumstances imposed upon them, have had their dreams taken away.  I have not suffered those calamities, nor have most Yaquis.  Even for those people who have, ingesting hallucinogens, without tribal guidance, is like driving ninety miles an hour towards wisdom in a twenty mile an hour zone.  You might actually get there.  You might crash and burn.  Much safer, if at all possible, is to reclaim your dreams.

As for the flying stunt, this dream belongs with a lifelong recurring pattern of mine, from preschool age to present, a template varying all the time in the details but conforming in the basic script: In the midst of the dream I remember that I used to dream about flying.  I wonder if it really was a dream, or whether I can fly in waking life, and I’d let people talk me into thinking it just a dream.  I experiment, and discover that yes, indeed, I can!  Thrilled, I fly within sight of others, hoping that they will notice, sometimes just a few inches off the ground, sometimes swooping and soaring.  When they do, they either shame me openly for showing off, or politely ignore my gaffe, or I become embarrassed all by myself.  Dejectedly, I sink back to my feet and don’t fly anymore.  I’ve had some dreams recently that broke this pattern, confirming my right to fly, but I still get some of the original kind.  Anyway, this was one of those dreams.

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