Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Four Magics of Julio

I have never heard curanderos remark on or call out the four Magics, except for my late teacher Julio Llerena (Jerena), and his students, of course. Which doesn't mean they don't, only that I'm not aware of it.
At the start of every ayahuasca ceremony, Julio, while making his arcana, the protective shell around those participating in the ceremony, he always called out to Red Magic, Green Magic, White Magic and Black Magic to help protect and guide us. Over the years I came to understand that the Red Magic was the blood force that flows in all warm blooded creatures; that the Green Magic was the magic of the rivers and seas and all the firmament; that the White Magic was the magic of the sun and stars, the light of the universe, both the one we know and the other universes we can only occasionally glimpse. Black Magic is the profound magic of the molting core of our our planet earth and of all planets and stars and moons and even the whole universe, the grounding force at the center of everything.
I understood the concept rationally: if you could be aligned with Green Magic, then you could travel in an instant through the firmament to wherever you want to go. You could understand plants and seas, how they grow, how they feel, how they think. With White Magic as an ally, there is no universe you cannot traverse, nothing you cannot penetrate where light will go. With Black Magic, you can get to the very heart of things, the deepest, lightless places where people hide, and the centers of all things. With Red Magic you can travel through the life force of things, the life-delivering blood of things, and you can heal the ill.
Julio and I never talked a great deal. He didn't understand my Spanish and I didn't understand his. Except on occasion, when he thought something was important. Suddenly, in those moments, he spoke in a way that let me understand every word, every nuance. He also, suddenly and for a few minutes at a time, understood my Spanish wonderfully.
I spent a lot of time with him over the course of 25 years. There were a million things I could have asked him. And had I ever thought I was traveling a path that would lead me to become a curandero, I probably would have. But as I didn't see myself that way, regardless of how often I drank the medicine ayahuasca with him, I didn't. Of course now that he's gone I wish I had.
On the other hand, I also think Julio knew what he was doing when he didn't understand my Spanish. Learning from his words might have complicated things, while learning from experience, while leaving me frequently in the dark for long periods, allowed me to be receptive to what happened, rather than what I was expecting to happen.
I learned that lesson very early on: During my first ayahuasca experience, for a few moments I associated with a bird, flying high over the earth, and wound up diving down down, impossibly fast, into a stream to pluck a fish and in the same moment change direction to soar upwards. It might have been a dream until the bird bit the fish in two and swallowed it and I nearly choked trying to get it down my throat.
That experience was with a curandero named Alphonse. The following year I met Julio and drank with him and his late apprentice Salis Navarro. The whole evening I waited for that bird to come to take me soaring again; she never did. And at the end of the ceremony I felt--though some wonderful things happened during it--disappointed.
It was then that my jungle teacher, the naturalist Moises Torres Vienna, came up with the now-famous line: "Ayahuasca gives you what you need, not what you want."
I almost never again set out with something locked in my mind during ceremony. Because I knew I'd lost much of what Julio and Salis had done that night, waiting for something else that never happened.
I did, over the years, get the chance to glimpse the four Magics. And I spent a great deal of time, probably three years, working with Red Magic as it tried to heal me with regard to relationships, particularly my failed marriage and broken family. During that time I was also shown, by the medicine, how to do a little healing, and how negative energy can be transformed into something positive. They were all great lessons and I've written about them more extensively elsewhere, so I won't go into them here.
Now the other day, a fellow wrote me a letter, saying he wanted to do a 30-day dieta and could I put him in touch with a particular curandero who might do it for him. A dieta is a time when an apprentice goes off by themselves in the jungle to reflect on things. It is a time of strict limits on food intake, on interaction with other humans, on sex. It is also a time of intense drinking of ayahuasca; often three or four times a week. The solitude, the time spent in the jungle alone, the medicine, is meant to bring a person into personal awareness of the spirits of the plants whose extracts they are drinking. Not everyone comes out of a dieta a novice curandero, but nearly everyone who has done one comes out a better person for it.
The fellow who wrote me followed up with a question about the Magics. He asked if the curandero I might steer him toward would be able to teach him those Magics during his dieta.
I wrote back a long and probably confusing letter. I explained that Julio never said he was going to show me Red Magic, that that came about through the spirit of the medicine. I explained my limited conversation with Julio and that I may never have even told him about those years being healed and taught about Red Magic, though on more than one occasion during that time, Julio would mention Red Magic after the ceremony, just to let me know he had seen what I was going through, to let me know he saw what I saw.
The only thing Julio ever really said about the Magics that I can remember was that he warned against falling in love with one or the other. He saw the trap in that; where a student can get greedy for the power of one, which would throw him out of balance. It's the sort of trap that can lead one to become a sorcerer--in the Peruvian meaning of the word--rather than a healer. For Julio, healing people on the river where he lived was the calling of Ayahuasca; being someone who had the power to lure money, women and other selfish desires to themselves was the path of the sorcerer.
So, I wrote the fellow, "can the Magics be taught? I don't know. But then I was not a typical student. If I had been smarter, I might have asked Julio a lot more questions. But I didn't. It was only near the end that he began telling me things. He knew he was getting old and would soon die, so he asked two of his helpers to be my helpers, without telling me of course, and so when I met the first I was scared to death. He was upset with me for that. At the end he wanted me to learn. He asked me to take a virote--a negative energy dart sent by someone who wanted to hurt him--out of his leg once, and several out of him just days before he died. He wanted me to know I could do it and he let himself be the test patient.
"He could have taught me so much more, but that wasn't really his thing. He wanted me to let the medicine teach me, to have me become friends with the plants themselves, so that I could learn from them, rather than from what he said.
"I guess the point of this rambling response is that even if he had told me about the Magics, it would still have been up to me to drink or not drink when that flower leaned over me and said: 'Drink this', and let her nectar fall into my mouth.
"So he could of readied me for that and other things, but would I have been able to take that leap when the time came? Or would he just have cluttered me up in waiting for something to happen, in which case I might have missed what was really actually happening.
"So if you do your dieta asking someone to teach you the Magics, it might be possible that you'll miss what's being offered because you've got your eye somewhere else.
"If Julio had told me about the Red Magic and that a flower might one day come and offer me nectar that would change my life, would I have accepted the Red Magic if instead it came in the form of stinging red ants? Or in someone cutting themselves and asking me to drink the blood? Probably not. I would have been waiting for that flower--and maybe that would have never come."
I do wish I had not spoiled the chance to talk with Julio more about some of these things. But I also cherish the idea that he knew everything I was experiencing and only thought to comment or explain things when he thought I wasn't already capable of grasping them.


Hummingbird said...

This is so right on. What you manifest if before you.


Hummingbird said...

... typo... sorry... read that as...

What you manifest is before you.

Thanks for the good article and the insights.