News of the deaths of at least 14 Peruvian Shaman reached me via the web twenty months after the crisis began. It is a loss so profound I really can’t wrap my head or heart all the way around it.
Surviving indigenous shaman, especially those occupying relatively unchanged ecosystems, represent a nexus of spiritual, cultural and environmental knowledge that is irreplaceable. When such a person is killed, a volume of living wisdom that has taken thousands of years to develop is lost, and with it the heart of a community. Recently this happened 14 times over, at least.
Its been suggested by some that the killings were perpetrated by a local mayor who belongs to a radical religious Christian sect that advocates if not the killing of, at least the persecution of shaman. They believe that shaman are possessed by demons and must be converted to Christianity in the very least.
This is, of course, nothing new. Many of us Westerners lost our own shamanic wisdom to this same murderous ignorance. Sometimes the losses came through outright witch-hunts/inquisitions, other times through generational economic persuasion – drawing our agrarian ancestors off their lands where local spiritual traditions originally evolved and into the cities beneath the watchful eyes of the church.
The goal in such instances is always the same: to separate us from our own innate ability to discover the spiritual dimension of life, especially as it empowers us to survive and thrive as individuals and communities. One can only imagine (not yet knowing the facts) the darker justifications for the murders in Peru. Is it land acquisition? Is it religious hegemony? Is it to create or continue a subservient class? The back-room machinations, as with the tactics, are likely nothing new.
These murders are probably a part of the arc of a boomerang thats been circling the globe for centuries. Once it swept through Europe and the Celtic Isles, then through Asia and North America. We send our religion out into the world with fervent hope, forgetting that our greed travels like a parasite with even our holiest of messages. The harvest of our brightest prayers is sometimes bitter.
There is a gesture I perform when I dance on our land. Kneeling on the ground I lay my hands flat and chant: “my heart in the Earth, the Earth in me…”, again and again until I can feel my own pulse beneath the ground. This reminds me that everything I am and can be is born of this earth, its a way of making sure I see things the way they really are.
The pulse I feel echos the greater pulse that connects us all. The internet helped me feel that this week. The Earth will help us all to feel that connection more and more in the years to come. When an indigenous community is removed to make way for progress, we lose invaluable forests to fight global warming, unleash heretofore unknown diseases while at the same time destroying the pharmacological wonderlands that can cure them. The Earth is not silent in these deaths, we’re just hard of hearing.
How can a community mourn the loss of so many healers? How can a people stand up after being knocked down so hard? I can only set my feet a little deeper in the soil here and wonder what those people might be feeling. I also wonder at the darkness and light of us, and dream of the harvests that await us.
To take action – please follow the information provided by the Foundation For Shamanic Studies on their blog: http://shamanism.org/news/2011/10/07/peruvian-shamans-murdered-please-act-now/