Whenever I could, I would go to the Arizona mountains to spend time with Starry Song, the shaman who sowed the ancestral wisdom of his people throughout the word, in chant or otherwise. I had been there for about a month when he called me for a conversation by a campfire. I was always honored to receive such an invitation, and looked forward it whenever I went for a visit. Our meetings took place at night, under a roof of stars. Most times, when I arrived the shaman was already waiting for me by the campfire. As he once explained, fire is an important elemental that helps old forms to transmute. He motioned with his head for me to sit on a blanket next to him. Starry Song sang a heartfelt song, his two-sided drum to provide the rhythm, in which he gave thanks to the Maker for the opportunity of being there, at that moment, and for the intuitions and inspirations to be granted, and expressed through words. Then he lit his unfailing red stone-bowl pipe. In these small rituals we would share the pipe as a sign of admiration of the wisdom and courage we had one for the other.
That was a small and yet important magical ceremony. Ceremony because it was a meeting of people who had the same purpose and who respect each other; magical because magic is transformation, an essential mechanism of evolution. The binding element is always love, so that there is permission and participation of the enlightened messengers of the invisible spheres.
As soon as the shaman finished the music, I told him that this time the invitation for the conversation took longer than usual, and I was even afraid it wouldn’t occur at all. With his eyes drawn by the flames, Starry Song said: “I was watching you the entire time, and I realized what the thief of magic did to you.” I told him I had not understood, and the shaman led me, step by step, through his refined philosophy. He asked: “Tell me about that recent episode of you wanting to help a beggar in a city close by?” I said I felt like helping him, but some people discouraged me to do so because he had a past story of being a bum. So, I did not help him out. Next, he asked: “You had arranged all the material to build a canoe for rowing and fishing. Why didn’t you carry that project out?” I claimed winter was near, and had heard that in that year it was going to snow, which would prevent me from using the canoe over the next few months.
He gave a long puff on his pipe and remained silent watching the dancing smoke illuminated by the fire. I was waiting for him to pass me the pipe, but he did not do so. Then, he asked more questions: “The last time you were here, you told me about your dream of writing a book. Have you finished it?” I told him I had given up, as I had read an article in the paper about new habits people have, and it mentioned that people are reading less and less, and are more interested in films and music. The shaman just nodded his head, and apparently moved on to another subject: “How about your brother, have you made up with him? Remember that we have discussed that it is no good to go out to save the world while our own home is on fire?” I said I did not, because I had bumped into a relative who told me it would be useless for me to go talk to my brother, and he was adamant in keeping me out of his life.
Starry Song then asked me about my travels: “You were excited about going to Africa and helping to care for those who struggle with starvation, diseases, poverty and the wars that assail that beautiful continent. How was your journey?” I told him I had not given up on spending my vacations there. However, I hadn’t gone yet because a friend who was supposed to come with me decided to postpone, as the conditions last year were more dangerous than usual.” The shaman looked at me for some moments and asked: “So, did you take that trip you dreamed about, walking for days on end as the caravaners in the desert?” I asked if he meant the well-known Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage that starts in the interior of France and ends in the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. The shaman nodded his head showing that that was what he had in mind. I explained I did not go, because a friend of mine whom I was going with had a problem. She could not go, and I was not willing to go alone.
He asked me: “Why do you no longer carry the beautiful smile you used to?” I told him that many people take kindness for foolishness. So I decided to change my attitude to show that I was a serious man.
Starry Song remained a long while without uttering a word. In his eyes that travelled over the star-sprinkled sky the flames of the fire reflected. He slowly inhaled tobacco, a sign that he was deep down in his thoughts. Legend says that you have to wait for the owner of the pipe to offer it to you, so that you smoke together. I imagined that the shaman had forgotten such a meaningful gesture, lost as he was in the world of his imagination. Therefore, I reached my hand out for him to pass me the pipe. He refused and said: “One does not smoke a good pipe with the wrong man.”
According to shamanic tradition, that was a tremendous chiding. I wanted to know the reason for that reaction of his. Starry Song obliged: “Do you realize the thief of magic has stolen your charm?” I said that if he was referring to the answers I had just given, perhaps there was some mistake. I had just exerted my sacred right to choose. He replied with his soft voice: “Yes, our choices define who we are; they reveal the love and wisdom that dwell in the heart of each one of us, they expand or confine individual limits and tell the true story of each person.” He looked deep into my eyes and asked: “What do your recent choices tell about you?”
I immediately understood what he was talking about. I could not say a word. He had touched on something that yelled inside me, bothered me and I insisted on ignoring. The shaman himself explained: “Your choices speak of a man who let the voices of the world make him soft, and who became deaf to the silence that speaks to the heart; who gave up his dreams when the first hardships came about; who selected fear as an advisor.” He made a brief pause and continued: “You have not accomplished anything because you gave up boldness and courage, essential virtues for the Path. You have not learned about love, have lost many chances to outdo yourself in face of the unavoidable hardships that would come up, and have not allowed important transformations within yourself to occur, as you avoided running the risks innate to life. You have wasted many opportunities of giving your best and prevented the enchantment of the Universe from spilling small miracles. You have abandoned yourself at the side of the Path because the thief of magic left you poor of dreams. This is the actual reason you can no longer smile.”
Ashamed and with my eyes teary, I wanted to know what to do. Starry Song said: “The magic is yours, take it back! Cowardice has never improved the fate of anyone, and dreams are the map and compass for the essential encounter with yourself. The existing conditions do not matter; one learns on the road and its value is shown in the search. This will give your personal history enchantment and greatness. Go now. Come back only when you retrieve your magic. Then, I will have the joy and honor of sharing the pipe with you.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.