Ijex Morogoyehe, the Jaguar shaman
Photo courtesy M. Plotkin


Mark Plotkin, Ph.D.
Excerpt from Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice
Viking Penguin Books, N.Y., 1993. p1-2.

I had followed the old shaman through the jungle for three days and, over the course of our trek, we had developed an enigmatic relationship. The medicine man obviously resented my desire to learn the secrets of the forest plants that he knew and used for healing purposes. Still, he seemed pleased that I had come from so far away -- he called me the pananakiri ("the alien") -- to acquire the botanical wisdom that the children of his tribe had no interest in learning.

I did not yet speak his language; an Indian from a neighboring tribe served as our translator. At the end of the third day, the old shaman turned to the other Indian and said, "Tell the pananakiri that I have taught him all that I am going to teach him. Tomorrow I am going hunting." I had no objections; there were other shamans in the village with whom I wished to work, and I returned to my hut with the medicinal plants I had collected.

That night, I had a terrifying dream. An enormous jaguar strode into my hut and stared deeply into my eyes, as if trying to divine my thoughts. Powerful muscles tensed in its back as it arched its body to spring.

So vivid was the apparition that I awoke with a scream. I sat upright in my hammock, trembling, my body soaked in a cold sweat. Carefully, I looked around the hut: I saw nothing -- no footprints on the dirt floor, nothing disturbed or overturned, nothing to indicate the presence of an unwanted visitor. The only sound was the rustling of palm fronds as a gentle breeze blew through the village.

The next morning, just after sunrise, the young Indian who had served as our translator came to my hut. "Shall we go into the forest and look for more plants?" he asked. "Before we do," I said, "find the old shaman and tell him that last night I saw the jaguar." I gave no details, and the Indian left. He returned a few minutes later. "Did you tell him?" I asked. "Yes." "What did he say?" I asked. "He broke into a big smile and said, 'That was me!"

Ethnobotany Index | Back to Article

Return to the Resource Center

Search | Home