Saturday, April 6, 2013

María Sabina, ruega por nosotros...


A formidable Mazatec healer and now folk-saint of Psilocibina, María Sabina is a complex figure. The deception of Wasson to gain access to the saint-children that would for him be an avenue to the Divine, was for her a corruption of their use as purgative medicine. Reading through her chants in Estrada's María Sabina: Her Life and Chants, I am amazed over and over again at the profound wisdom and soul-wrenching, resonating truth in her and her niece's words. In the session of July 1970 in the house Celerino Cerqueda, María Sabina and her niece, María Aurora, go back and forth, offering a flowing stream of prayer in Mazatec and pidgin Spanish, translated by Eloina Estrada de González and into English by Henry Munn. Consider this passage that occurs when María Aurora is aware if anyone is listening they may mistake what they are doing for witchcraft:

María Sabina
The path of the tracks of your hands, 
and the path of the tracks of your feet, says

María Aurora
It's sap and dew, says
If anyone is pursuing us, says
If anyone is in back of us, says
If anyone is criticizing us, says
If anyone is spying on us, says
It's certain, says
It's true, says
We're going to play music, says
We're going to thunder, says
That is the work of Saint Peter beneath the water, says
We're going to shout, says
We're going to whistle, says
Along the path of your hands, along the path of your wrists, says
Along the path of life, the path of well-being, says
There is no problem, says
There is no difficulty, says

María Sabina
We're not trying to do harm to anybody

María Aurora
Clean Christian, says
Well-prepared Christian, says
...
There is no resentment says
There is no difficulty, says
It's a matter of life and well-being, says
With sap and dew, says

María Sabina
The path of the tracks of the hands, the path of the tracks of the heels, 
the path of the tracks of the hands, the path of the tracks of the feet

María Aurora
If anybody wants to hex us, says
If anybody wants to tell lies, says
It will become garbage, it will become dust, says
It will become whirlwind, it will become wind, says
It's certain, says
It's true, says
It's not a matter of evil, says
It's not a matter of doing harm, says
It's only a matter of well-being and life, says
With sap, with dew, says

María Sabina
I am a sap woman, a dew woman, says
I am a fresh woman, a woman of clarity, says
I am a woman of light, a woman of the day, says
I am a woman who looks into the insides of things, says
I am a woman who investigates, says
Holy Father, says
Holy Father, says
I am a Saint Peter woman, says
I am a Saint Paul woman, says
I am a saint woman, says
I am a spirit woman, says
A woman of good words, of good words, good breath and good saliva, says
It's certain, says
It's true, says
That is your clock, says
That is your communion wafer, says
That is your number, says
One and only Father
Father of sap, Father of the dew, says
Father of freshness, Father of clarity, says
Holy Father, says
I am the child of Mary, the child of Saint Joseph, says
I am a child of the Candelaria, says
It is certain, says
It is true, says
...

For María Sabina, "the path of the tracks of the hands, the paths of the tracks of the feet" is what one does, where one goes. Saint Peter and Saint Paul are strongly represented in the chants - Rothenberg informs they are tobacco, the patrons of medicine itself - and the prayers to them are quite beautiful later in the same session:

María Aurora
Like Saint Peter and Saint Paul
They are the ones who have powerful eyes, powerful is their will, 
powerful their faces, powerful their day

The two women together
As he made it, as he designed it, as he found it
As he made it, as he designed it

María Aurora
Saint Peter, Saint Paul
As he appeared in the night, in the darkness, above the great expanse of the waters, 
above the expanse of the divine sea; He came forth Lord, he came forth sacred
Saint Peter, he is the one with powerful eyes, 
powerful is his will, powerful his face, powerful his day
He is the one whose will shines, he is the one who thunders, 
he is the one who sounds forth
Saint Peter, Saint Paul

And they are also called "Our Ustandi beneath the water, Our Ustandi beneath the sea" in the session of July 21-22, 1956 recorded by Wasson. Rothenberg is not helpful enough here. He says it is a name she gives to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, but what does it mean? She says:

I am an Ustandi woman beneath the waters, says
I am an Ustandi woman beneath the sea, says

which clearly parallels the same structure. I find this mystery and foundation of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the pair, as tobacco truly intriguing.

The sap and dew are referring to the saint-children, the flesh of God ("your communion wafer"), what we know as psilocibina. Commonly referred to by the nahuatl name, teonanacatl ("the flesh of the god[s]"), there is a commonly perceived connection between psilocybin and the Holy Sacrament among Mexican indigenous populations. It is a Mazatec belief that Christ, while carrying his cross, walked through the mountains. Where his blood fell, the saint-children arose; through the blood of Christ, we become the Saints, we become as gods. But in the worldview of María Sabina the saint-children were solely for the purpose of purgative healing. 

"..from the moment the foreigners arrived to search for God, the saint children lost their purity. They lost their force; the foreigners spoiled them. From now on they won't be any good. There's no remedy for it." -María Sabina

Although Wasson was looking for a mystic experience that was counter to María Sabina's use of the saint-children, perhaps there was an illness after all. I bow to María Sabina, and I ponder: perhaps we are ill? Other indigenous beliefs speak of illness as deficit: if you are poor, you have an illness of poverty, for example. Is our disconnect from the Divine-as-immanent not symptomatic of illness? But perhaps it is the framing of the question - Wasson deceived by lying, expressing uncertainty about his son's whereabouts. This was enough for him to receive her help with the 'Little-One-Who-Springs-Forth', but a general search for God was not in Sabina's eyes. If he described his desire to find God not as curiosity but as concern that he felt disconnected, off-centre, and out of alignment with the world he lived in - is it recognition of our symptoms rather than idle-curiousity that changes the quest? Perhaps it is that when we have an illness, we seek to be well - whatever the cure is - and we don't go to the healer knowing what our cure is ahead of time. If knowledge of God is the remedy for your illness, this will come, but we must be open to the possibility that there are other things the mushrooms have to show us... Hmmm. It is said "They always give you what you need"....

Psilocybe mexicana
photo taken by Alan Rockefeller.
If the saint-children are now spoiled, I can only imagine their potency under the care and administration of the curandero/as who dedicated their lives to working with them on behalf of healing their community.  Is grace diminished the more it is used? Is the don? Is magic? Is ashé? I know there is no (one) answer - I ask these questions for pondering myself and with others of like-ponderance... 

Sabina was ultimately more than a healer, more than a spirit-worker. Rothenberg names three classes of magicians in Mazatec culture: Sorcerers, who by night are shape-shifters whose works are often malevolent (akin to nagualismo); Curers, who use massage, prepared herbal medicines and spirit invocation; and Wise Ones, who vow no evil and use no potions, but are workers of the saint-children, Psilocybe mexicana.

The assumption of saint, saintess, folk-saint and natural powers - this is the word as pure magic. Citing lineage, citing authority, conjuring your Power, I am simultaneously humbled and lifted-up by her chants. While the mushroom medicine was hers to hold and indeed her focus for these chants, for me, her words speak of an intense relationship with her God in intimate and immanent form; her words are inspiring beyond their original intention and meaning - and for this, I am thankful her words were recorded.

María Sabina
Holy Father
You my Father
And you Mother who art in the house of heaven
You, Christ, my Father
We are going to cure, we are going to cure with herbs
That is what our budding children, our sprouting children are for,
that is the work of our flower with sap, our flower of the dew,
That is the work of the lordly one with the vibrant wings, 
the sacred one with vibrant wings
That is what our hummingbird children are for
That is what our hummingbird is for
That is what the lordly one with the vibrant wings is for
That is what the sacred one with the vibrant wings is for
It is the same as the Mountain of Medicine, the Mountain of Herbs
Fresh herbs
Herbs of clarity
Medicinal herbs
Sacred herbs
I bring with me thirteen doctors beneath the water
I bring with me thirteen doctors beneath the sea
They are children who resound, 
children torn up from the ground,
Holy Father,
You Saint
You Saintess
Ah Jesus Christ
You Saint
Dew woman, says
Fresh woman
Woman of clarity, says
Woman who prays to heaven
Moon woman,
Woman of the day, says
With all the saints, says
With all the saintesses, says
...
With as many saints, as many saintesses as there are
Now we bow ourselves down before you, speaking with humility 
beneath your shadow, speaking with clarity, says
We speak with tenderness, we speak with clarity, says
We speak with humility, we speak with offshoots, says
We speak with freshness, we speak with clarity, says
Fresh are our words, fresh our breath, fresh our saliva
Words are medicine
Medicine is the breath
Clean saliva, well-prepared saliva
Illumination of life, 
Illumination from on high, says
Illumination of the sap
Illumination of the dew
Holy Father
God the Father
God the Holy Spirit
Lord Saint Peter
Lord Saint Paul
....
Mother Patroness
You heart of Jesus
Jesus Christ
I have your staff of support, your staff of the dew
I have your good clean Bishop
I have paper
I have my Book
I am known in the house of Heaven
You know me my Mother,
God, my Father, knows me
Jesus Christ you will always, always reign in the house of heaven
Jesus
Heavenly Mother
I bring your medicinal herbs in my hands,
I always have your sacred herbs in my hands
There is no problem, there is nothing bad in what I have in my hands
It is freshness and clarity
Life and well-being
That is what I ask for, for buds and offshoots, Jesus Christ
Days of life are what I ask you for, Jesus Christ
Mother Patroness
Jesus
My Mother Mary
Jesus
I go along the path of the tracks of your palms, 
I go along the paths of the tracks of your hands
I am going there, I am arriving there
If it is a matter of evil, if it is a matter of anything salted, 
if it is a matter of resentment and rancor
If it is a matter of garbage, if it is a matter of dust, 
if it is a matter of whirlwind, if it is a matter of wind
That is the work of the saint, saint, saint, saint, saint, saint, saints
That is the work of the wain, saintess, saint, saintess, saint, saintess, saint, saint, saintess, saint, saintess...

Maria Sabina, by Rosenfeldtown