One river – the mystery of manna

“Once I tried to explain heaven to a young woman,” she said, smiling, as she poured Shultes a cup of tea. “I said it was as beautiful place, a place where there are no tears. She asked me whether I had been there. I said no. I explained that only the dead know heaven. Then she looked at me with the saddest face. She said she was so sorry for me. And she left almost in tears.”

“How strange,” Shultes said.

“It was only later I realized that most of the Mazatec actually claim to have been to heaven.”

“With the mushrooms?”

“Yes, they believe Jesus speaks through the mushrooms, that their visions are messages from God. What was it you called them?”

“Teonanacatl,” Shultes said. “Some believe it means flesh of the gods”.

In Mazatec the mushrooms have several names. One translates roughly as ‘the little holy ones’.

“Have you ever seen them?”

“No,” she said.

“I once was waiting for an airplane, and I started to sing a hymn.. It was one no Mazatec knew. I had just translated it. Two of the women said, ‘Isn’t it beautiful! How lovely! It’s just like the mushroom.’ I turned and rather piously told them that it wasn’t like the mushroom. That God and Jesus were different. But they wouldn’t listen. Can you imagine what they said?”.

“No,” said Shultes, ready for anything. 

“They said, ‘We mean, wasn’t it gracious for the mushroom to teach you that song.”

Original Articles and Books: 
One River – Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest  pp. 105-106 and OMS
Artwork Fair Use: Leopold
*due to our technological limitations, some appropriate linguistic markings may be absent.  Our apologies!


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