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Secrets of the Talking Jaguar

A Mayan Shaman's Journey to the Heart of the Indigenous Soul

by Martín Prechtel
Book reviews and comments from


Martín Prechtel, Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: A Mayan Shaman's Journey to the Heart of the Indigenous Soul (New York, NY: Tarcher/Putnam, 1998). Order on-line

Book cover
Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: A Mayan Shaman's Journey to the Heart of the Indigenous Soul
by Martín Prechtel
Order on-line

Book cover
Long Life, Honey in the Heart: Mayan Initiation, the Flowering of Eloquence ,
by Martín Prechtel.
Order on-line
Book Description
Twenty-five years ago, a young musician and painter named Martn Prechtel wandered through the brilliant landscapes of Mexico and Guatemala. Little did he know he was traveling toward a destiny that would change his life forever. Arriving at a Tzutujil Mayan village on the breathtaking shores of Lake Atitlan, Prechtel was apprenticed to a powerful, ancient shaman, Chiviliu Tacaxoy. Ten years later, he had become a village chief and a famous shaman in his own right. Many books have been written about the ancient Mayans, but this is the first to provide an insider's view of the complex, joyous culture of contemporary Mayan village life, a culture that is fast disappearing in the wake of modernism. In Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Martn Prechtel teaches us that all human beings possess within their souls an indigenous spirit that is natural, subtle, generous, and village-oriented. This spirit of wholeness and connection is never beyond our reach; we have only to move past the trappings of materialism and the modern world to hear that special song that is ours alone to sing. In a tale filled with enchantment, danger, rich cultural descriptions, shamanic rivalry, passion, and hope, Prechtel takes us into the heart of both untamed nature and community life, helping us find the secrets of our own hearts and souls. Ultimately, we learn, the shamans' power lies not in magic but in being fully aware and joyously alive as human beings.

A renowned shaman and leading voice in the men's movement presents the first-ever insider's view of contemporary Mayan life and spirituality. Line drawings.

The publisher, Tarcher/Putnam , October 8, 1998
Praise for "Secrets of the Talking Jaguar"
“The picture (Prechtel) creates of idyllic Indian life…is so beautifully drawn that his delight in their culture becomes contagious, as does his grief when civil war creates havoc in their village.” --Publishers Weekly

“This eloquent and expressive work…is highly recommended.” --Library Journal

“This book reflects Prechtel’s courtship with beauty and increases our awareness of the fragility and exquisiteness of the sources of traditional wisdom on our planet” --Common Boundary

“Told with great honesty, insight, and generosity, Prechtel’s chronicle offers modern readers a privileged and rare glimpse into the complex and spiritually rich life of a contemporary Mayan village.” --Rocky Mountain News

“SECRETS OF THE TALKING JAGUAR offers authentic insight into what it is to be a true member of one of the world’s most ancient cultures.” --New Age

“This lively first-person account…will leave one with the sense that, while individual cultures may be destroyed, the human capacity for restoring our world through spiritual connection remains ever possible.” --NAPRA Review

Customer Comments
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars Number of Reviews: 6 from las vegas, new mexico , July 13, 1999 5 out of 5 stars
Martin's life is of the most extra-ordinary spirited adventu
Martin will be offering a three day retreat entitled One Wing does not fly at the Mineral hill Institute in Las Vegas, New mexico on august 6,7,8- for info call 505-425-5578. email-

Steve Zubo ( from Algonquin, Illinois 60102 , November 22, 1998 5 out of 5 stars
I found something here that I needed.
First, I want to honor the thoughts expressed in Betty Ortiz's review. From her Native American perspective, I can feel the necessity for her to expose what she deems to be shortcomings in the book, and possibly even the author.

As a white male European American, I feel alienated from the world and the culture that I find myself living in. I believe that there was something decided implicitly in the last hundred years of the industrial revolution that assumed that something great or wonderful could be created not with the hand of man connected to the earth and the spirit, but with the hand of man connected to metal and machinery. And one of the requisite implied, and maybe even unstated prices of membership was the act of cutting off the hand of man from the earth and the spirit.

In 1968, I was in Grant Park @ the Democratic National Convention. I was seventeen years old. What I learned there is that there are no real detached observers. I wasn't on this side. I was on that side. The police charge clarified my position. Within two weeks I bought Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited to hear "Ballad of a Thin Man" ..because you know something's happening here / and you don't know what it is / Do you / Mr. Jones. Well that was me. So I started reading.

That was thirty years ago. Some things have changed. Some have not. The main thing that has not changed is the yearning within me for that connection with the earth and the spirit that was somehow traded away some number of generations ago by my ancestors for the supposed benefits of the industrial revolution. & we all lost there. Whites and non whites alike. That seems pretty clear.

So, one of the people I've had contact with in this search is Martin. In terms of characterizing him, I'll defer to Robert Bly's use of the word "authenticity" in his Forward to this book. I believe in the authenticity of Martin's heart, soul, and stories. That matters to me. And I need that. A lot. Now.

So, with the relative paucity of Czechoslovakian shamans in the world today, I find myself open to the message and stories of Mr. Prechtel.

Much like Robert Bly's periodic interworkings with Grimms Fairy Tales, quite surprisingly, I find that I'm not even absolutely dependant on the complete accuracy of this work or it's author. The point to me are the truths illustrated, not necessarily as literally presented. This may be a bit of a stretch but Jesus' parables are not true because they actually happened in physical reality, but because they actually happened in spiritual reality. Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the humblest & bigest ideas of this industrialized time, had a spiritual awakening in the thirties at Townes Hospital in NYC that really has changed the lives and usefulness of otherwise discarded people. Bill asked the Doctor if he thought that it had really happened. The doctor told him that it didn't really matter. It was all that he had, so he'd better hang on to it. It is quite important that he did.

So, this is an important & necessary book to me to read, and have available to be read. It illustrates a spiritual truth, vision, and connection to the earth and the soirit that would otherwise be inaccessable to me. from Arlington, Texas , October 11, 1998 5 out of 5 stars
A previous reviewer called this "a rip-off of Indian culture" after seeing the author in person at a book signing and later "researching" his background. . . . . Please, do not judge a book by its cover or a shaman by his skin. At least read the book's intro by Robert Bly and what he says about "Secrets of the Talking Jaguar."

SHAMANS: "The Mayans call shamans "spirit-lawyers," that is, men or women who go to the spirits and try to argue them into giving a benefit of some sort to human beings. Mayan tradition does not teach that the Gods want people to be sinless or perfect, but to believe that the Gods love beauty, eloquence, fine clothes, great music, fine poems, bravery, high animal spirits, and gratitude."

TONGUES LIKE PUPPIES: "At conferences I've seen men and women weep when Martin Prechtel talks of the complex and rich village life of the Maya. The listeners realize how much more open their lives in youth would have been if their beauty had been honored as the young ones are honored in Santiago Atitlan, and if they'd had a chance to be kissed by the invisible faces "'with tongues like puppies.'" They also weep when they realize how men and women, though they speak separate languages, can fly together like the two wings of a bird."

INDIGENOUS SOUL " . . . If we can be quiet, this book will be a bucket that drops down toward the water of our indigenous soul. All the words that Martin writes here amount to a meditation on this soul as a natural force. Whether we are Swiss or Mayan or American, the indigenous soul, threatened all over the globe, still lives inside each of us. We can rejoice in its abundance, its ingenuity, its determination not only to exist but also to continue giving its gifts, if we will turn and meet it."

Bly says it all. You will experience a "Journey to the Heart of the Indigenous Soul" no matter what your ethnic background or skin color. The indigenous soul is within all of us. Read this book and decide for yourself. -- Bill Arena

A reader from Ohio,USA , September 19, 1998 3 out of 5 stars
Entertaining and informative if you like esoteric stuff
I'm in between the two previous reviews. I don't think this is a ficticious rip-off by the author. It is an account of his experience being trained under a shaman in a mayan village. The material in it is very consistent with the writings of Tom Brown, who wrote Tracker and other books. If you are fascinted by stories of those who have explored esoteric realms, you will love this. It is also a vehicle for the author to get across his views of the insensitivity, corruption and damage done to the native mayan culture by missionaries, business interests, and the government...certainly disturbing and thought provoking material. I finished this book three days after I got it, and would recommend it to anyone fascinted by spiritual adventures.

Tino Plank ( from Sonora, California , September 4, 1998 5 out of 5 stars
A treasured gift from a culture exploited and destroyed by the Western/Modern world. Martin Prechtel blesses and honors us by telling his story and those of his people. As he writes, "Possibly my own story will give your stories courage enough to blossom". This book reminds us of the importance of retrieving and feeding the indigenous soul that lives within each of us.

This is not some fabricated tale or fictionalized story of a spiritual journey. This is an authentic, first-hand account told straight from the author's heart. Those with a true interest in shamanism and spiritual healing will cherish this book. The ancient wisdom contained in its pages are a valuable resource that I will refer to often and share with those around me.


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