The Shamanic Odyssey: Homer, Tolkien, and the Visionary Experience

By Auger, Emily E. | Mythlore, Spring-Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

The Shamanic Odyssey: Homer, Tolkien, and the Visionary Experience


Auger, Emily E., Mythlore


THE SHAMANIC ODYSSEY: HOMER, TOLKIEN, AND THE VISIONARY EXPERIENCE. Robert Tindall with Susana Bustos. Foreword by John Perkins. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2012. 224 pp. including notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 9781594773969 (pbk), 9781594775017 (e-book). $16.95.

Robert Tindall and his wipe Susana, a psychotherapist and researcher, lead groups of people interested in healing traditions on trips into the Amazonian rain forest. Tindall is also the author of The Jaguar that Roams the Mind: An Amazonian Plant Spirit Odyssey (Park Street Press, 2008), a book about his personal exploration of the three basic aspects of Amazonian shamanism: purging disease, the ritual use of psychoactive plants, and teacher plants. The Shamanic Odyssey demonstrates the presence of shamanistic motifs, beliefs, and practices in literary works, specifically Homer's Odyssey and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Smith of Wootton Major. Both The Jaguar that Roams the Mind and The Shamanic Odyssey are published by Inner Traditions Bear & Company, which publishes "books for the mind, body, and spirit"; their Park Street Press imprint is dedicated to "travel, psychology, entheogens, consumer and environmental issues, archeology, women's and men's studies, and fine art."

The first few chapters of The Shamanic Odyssey introduce the sources for the comparative Native American material. In chapter one, readers meet Juan Flores Salazar, the founder of a center for traditional medicine in Peru and specialist in the curative properties of Amazonian plants; David Monongue, a Hopi knowledgeable about the Hopi prophecy of the Eagle and Condor; and Bob Boyll, a roadman of the Native American Church, and his wife Ann Rosencranz. The Eagle and Condor prophecy, which is detailed in the book's Appendix B, tells of a period of chaos followed by a reunification of those who have taken one of the two paths. The path of the Eagle, that of the mind and materialism, is represented by the industrial world. The path of the Condor, that of the spiritual and the heart, is represented by the indigenous world. In chapter two this prophecy is discussed as a homecoming and is linked to the Odyssey by way of the narrative's Greek name Nostos, which means homecoming, and by the association of this homecoming with a return to consciousness or return from the dead (15). Tindall interprets this return or awakening as healing, which is threatened by forgetting, and equates this forgetting with the disharmony that causes illness in the Native universe. Proof that this universe is much more than a fairytale is offered in an account of "Nick's" long battle against the degenerative effects of a venomous snakebite with Boyll's guidance and support, and his eventual cure with the help of Juan Flores's expertise in plant medicine. In chapter three, Tindall brings Homer--the Odyssey is summarized in Appendix A--and Tolkien into the discussion as writers who understood the universe as indigenous peoples do and wove that understanding into their works, some of which are then discussed in chapters four through ten.

Chapter four elaborates on the idea that the universe itself is the source of inspired music, and includes references to the Celts, Christian Celts, Caedmon, Hesiod, Barbara Tedlock, the Amazonian peoples, and Shakespeare's Henry VIII, before coming to the significance of Elvish singing to Frodo (58), and another digression to the Cyclades, then considering the importance of music in the Odyssey (61-65). …

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