Sunday, November 2, 2008
Shamans Make the News
I was surprised to see a video clip of Peruvian shamans on the CNN home page yesterday, as shamans so infrequently make mainstream news. (I suppose this falls into what is generally known as the News-of-the-Weird category). I'm directing you to watch it at Wonkette: the DC Gossip, where it is today's top story. One comment reads "We are all Joe the Shaman." (And another: "Um, I’m not really old enuff to have voted in a lot of presidential elections - are they ALL this weird???")
The Peruvian shamans are predicting Obama's victory, and I have to admit that I took a lot of pleasure in watching the video, especially in a very fierce section involving a skull and a photo of (poor old) John McCain. (As Wonkette puts it, "These dudes really do not like John McCain.")
This got me thinking about shamanism in general, with its links to poetics. Both shamans and poets are interested in the spirit world, or the world beyond the visible world: from William Butler Yeats to Robert Duncan to Allen Ginsberg, poetry is the "medium" for spirited communication transposing common sense perceptions of space and time.
Jerome Rothenberg ("Jerome the Poet") and Pierre Joris are the editors of the two-volume collection Poems for the Millennium (University of California Press), extraordinary books linking ethnopoetics (such as that of the Peruvian shamans) with 18th century Romanticism, Dada, Futurism, the Beat poets, and more. Highly recommended, for those of us who are interested in language and its capacity to move and remove spirits, beyond good and evil. (We take our shamans, like our poets, pretty seriously, it turns out. As Whitman might be saying today, "Great are the Peruvian Shamans! May their chanting be heard all across the land.")
Rothenberg's book Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania was one of the first books of poetry I discovered, thanks to my friend Nor Hall, back when she was fresh out of History of Consciousness graduate studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It is now 40 years old, and was celebrated over here at Penn Sound, where you can hear audio clips.
Here, from the Seattle Times, is what the Peruvian shamans have to say about the election:
"Obama is growing stronger, I've seen that he has the spiritual support of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy to protect him," said Juan Osco, president of the Apus-Inka healers association. "He's going to win." Mary Gomez, a healer from the city of Chiclayo, said she has seen that Obama "will win and he will change history. ... He is going to help all the Latinos living in the United States."