Some time back I wrote a few vignettes of my days as a Brujo’s apprentice. Some of you reading this may remember them. It is a somewhat true tale, though much my recollections of those days were spent in a psychotic haze, a sort of PTSD fueled by street drugs and bad ideas. It can’t be a true tale, because people need to be protected and, of course, the daze brought on by psychedelic compounds doesn’t lend itself to strict timelines. I lived in a timeless void of vignettes then.
It oddly mirrors Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan”, though my mentor wasn’t quite as accomplished or noble as Castaneda’s. Ben was more of a huckster and a drunk than he was a spiritual man, a medicine man more than a Brujo, but there were times when I shared uncomfortable visions with him of the many native-indian sprites and deities. And Ben read me with an unnerving accuracy.
Most of spiritual entities that surrounded me were hardly benign, and Jews and Christians might rightly see them as out and out demonic. They had all the attributes of demons. If the sorcerer wasn’t accomplished, the demon could and did turn on him. It is not an exercise for the dilatant, nor the careless. I was nearly destroyed, and an inner voice not intervened at the very last moment, I certainly would have been.
Winter had come to the high New Mexico mountains, and I had returned to the kiva/hogan in Ranchos de Taos. I sensed that the end was near, and it wasn’t going to be a pretty one. I walked with the gaze of a dead man, and many of my friends did not recognize me when I went into town. Not that I wanted to be recognized. I was isolated in my mind and life, and was merely going through the motions of a living person.
Oddly enough, though, one evening I washed up and went to town, and with my few remaining dollars, bought a beer at the La Cocina, a restaurant and local watering hole in Taos. Several months earlier while visiting a nearby commune and consuming a number of peyote buttons, one of the residents looked at me and said, “Do not go to Denver!”.
It didn’t make a lot of sense to me as I had no intention of going anywhere at that moment. But this night, I met a tourist who lived in Denver who offered me a ride, and I agreed. I knew that was a decision to die, and I didn’t want any friends around me when that happened. Denver seemed to be the best place to go.
I knew the shabby parts of town, and knew how to survive there. My intention was to get a ‘flop’ and a nothing job, and wait for death.
I don’t remember much of that ride, other than I spent the arrival night in the hosts home in a residential part of Denver, and arising early that morning to walk into town.
In time, I might chronical the miracle and transformation that occurred during that time, or as much of it as I can recall, but for this morning, all I remember is the walk in the aching morning sunshine to meet my anonymous doom in the inner city. Time briefly appeared on that walk, and I remember the passing landmarks as I plodded down the sidewalks. Oddly, I cannot see people or traffic in that remembrance, though surely there must have been many. But the texture of the asphalt, the cracks in the sidewalk, the mason’s marks in the cement, the crumbling curbstones stand out in sharp relief in my mind.
I often go back to that man in my musings. He is almost incomprehensible to me today. I remember snaps of the ten-year walk back to sanity that started that morning. A minor miracle here, a minor miracle there dots the landscape, each one arriving at a nexus between life and death. Just for my own curiosity, I would like to lay it out in some sort of cohesive way.