Archives for category: mythology

In the olden times none of the animals had any feathers or fur or tails
The only animal that had it all was Eagle
Eagle flew high above the buttes
In style
All the other animals were jealous


So the animals tried to shoot Eagle down
But they could not succeed
Because Eagle flew so high up in the sky
Coyote came with his sea otter skin quiver
Full of arrows
He shot all his arrows
And failed
He tried again the next day
And the next
Finally one day
Late in the day
He made a direct hit
Eagle died, plummeted to the ground, and rolled down to the river
Coyote told everyone “ We’ll go get the feathers tomorrow morning. The rich folks get dibs on the best feathers, and the poor folks get the small junky feathers”


Coyote got up super early, and ran down to the river
He thought he would get the best feathers for sure
But when he got to the river, the other animals were already done
They had taken pretty much all of Eagle’s skin, meat, and feathers
All that was left for Coyote
Was an old worn out tail feather
What could Coyote do?
He stuck the feather on his back towards the rear
And got his tail


This is building off the work of the great Russian scientist Nikolai Vavilov who documented the centers of origin of cultivated plants, and their wild relatives.   Each drawing of a geographical area is followed by a key to the plants depicted.  The trinity is composed of the land, plants, women and children.  Thank you earth.  Thank you goddesses of fertility.

























In the olden times there was a nice inuit girl. She was of marrying age but she did not like anybody in the village, nor anybody her folks set her up with.

One day a handsome stranger landed ashore and they fell in love. Boom like that. He was a great fisherman, and brought many fish for the whole family. It was very impressive. Everybody say This is the dude!


There was something strange about his nose though. There was a growth on top of it. And grandma thought he smelled a little too fishy. But grandma kept quiet and wished her grand daughter the best. Heck why be so prejudiced!? Let them young people have some freedom! Off they went, the happily married couple, to go live on their island home.

Once on the island, it did not take long for the wife to figure out that she had been tricked. This guy was not a real man.


Maybe it was the cold fish and squid day after day after day. Or, it was the patch of wet grass they slept on every night at the top of the rocks. The regurgitated throw up was another clue. When he spat stinky oil one day, she knew she had married a fulmar. What?! You have got to be kidding me! I married a sea bird?!

Well, after getting used to the routine, it was not so bad. Food was plentiful and the colony was real festive. Then the fledglings arrived, winters came and went. She learned the language and made friends. She missed the warm fires and human company, but she was too ashamed to go home.

One day her father was out hunting in his skin boat and paddled to the far away island to see his daughter and son-in-law. It had been many years. He missed her and wanted to meet the grandchildren. He was shocked to learn that his daughter was living with a fulmar. He erupted in anger at this deceit. What the heck is going on here!?   You damn liar! So, he hacked the fulmar to death.


He grabbed his daughter and put her in the skin boat. You are comin’ home with me! Right now! And he rowed away into the sea as fast as he could. But the daughter, she was so upset about her husband, and her kids, she began grunting and screaming and cackling. The whole sky filled with fulmars! They came in dive bombing, spitting, stirring up the waves, goin nuts! What are you doing?! You stupid girl! Be quiet! The boat was rockin’ hard back and forth, filling with water and bird guano.

The boat was about to capsize with all the action so pops threw his daughter overboard. She did not know how to swim, and so she clung on to the boat. Father was in a mad panic, grabbed the ax, and cut off all her fingers so that she would let go.


She swirled to the bottom of the sea. Bleeding. Unconscious.   Walrus and sea lion, cod and mackerel – all came by to take a look and say a prayer for her. As she sank deeper and deeper, she transformed herself. Not a human. Not a fulmar. Into the goddess of the sea.


She married a sea scorpion, and befriended an octopus dwarf. She shared gossip with tube worm and clam. She pow wowed with king crab and Ms. eel. The only problem with living at the bottom of the sea, without any fingers, is that it is hard to comb your hair. Luckily, humans send their best and bravest representatives down to sort out the tangles. Pay respects. Apologize for trespasses. And give thanks. This pleases the goddess, and she returns the favor with bountiful schools of sardines, herds of narwhal, and a couple of breeching whales.  sedna.jpeg                                                                                                                                                       The end.



wiri.jpegThe earth is mother.


The sun is the father.


Pup of an agave, eagle’s hatchling, friend of whitetail.  That is what you are.


Greet your cousins wolf and amanita, datura and solandra.  Respect them but do not play with them.


Grandfather fire & grandmother water are cheering you on and rooting for you.  All are family and relatives.




















This is a synopsis of a talk  given on December 10th at the San Francisco Botanical Garden as part of an ongoing series about plants, medicine, and spirituality.

Around town, you see the products of the rainforest everywhere you look.


Rubber tree latex in tires.


Ipe wood, also known as ironwood, in fences and decks:


Pineapples at the grocery store:


New must have health foods:


Products of the petroleum industry – gas, plastics, and jet fuel:


Some of these plants are native to the Amazon rainforest, and have been planted in tropical plantations worldwide from Southeast Asia, Africa, to Hawaii.  Other items like logs and fuel come straight out of the Amazon.

The rainforest is a treasure box of chemicals, many not yet examined or deciphered.  Many plant chemicals have made their way into our culture.  What the Indians use as whole plant extracts, we like to isolate into small and specific compounds.  What the Indians use in ritual and respect, we tend to use in a secular context, or in an abusive manner.


The rain forests are the lungs of our world, why would a culture want to chop out its own breath?


This is my experience with the doctors and hospitals of our culture:  the waiting room with excellent magazines and hand sanitizer;  the cuff of the blood pressure monitor and a kind nurse; the reassuring gaze of a doctor who comes in and out; and a stop at the local pharmacy.  Alternatively, the health care experience as a patient begins with an ambulance ride; then the operating room with the healer doctor shaman of our tribe in scrubs and bright lights; ending in a hospital bed recovering with the help of a big screen TV, IV drip, and a constant beep beep beep.


With the amazing things we can do (growing stem cells, grafting skins, shrink tumors, laser surgeries, and the like), it is easy to put down other medical traditions.  It would be tempting to lump Amazonian traditions with any number of hocus pocus hunter gatherer new age type traditions.  Plus, we are uncomfortable with medicines that address good and evil, or medicines that make the earth and universe dance and sing as if they possess consciousness:


On the other hand, the Amazonian traditions are ancient and practical, having been used over thousands of years to survive in the rainforest environment.  Their medicine men and women are true researchers and healers; the forest is their university.  How would you like it if people came to your university and chopped up all your professors and tore down the school?

I wrote down the various roles of  an Amazonian medicine man, and imagined what their resume might look like:

shaman role

Among the shaman’s medicinal plants, they are roughly divided into plants that are used for the body, and those that act on the mind and spirit.  For the Secoya (Siecopi) people of the Ecuadorian Amazon, plant potions like Pehi, Chiricaspi, and Yahe are gateways to the spirit and ancestors.  Kekenna is an Aristolochia pipe vine used for stomach ailments; wasi iko is a Chenopodium pigweed used for intestinal worms; suara iko is a coca relative, an Erthroxylum, used to treat diarrhea; ma susi is a big stinging nettle named Urera useful for muscle aches and pains; mito is used externally for skin parasites, it is tobacco Nicotiana.

secoya meds

The following are some scenes of my limited experience as a patient of the Amazonian Tradition.

To drink plant medicines it is necessary to fast.  Simple foods unadorned by spices and sugars.  Fasting is not just about the guts, it is also fasting for the heart.  To be aware and conscious of one’s breath; to not be quick to anger and frustration; to let it come in and let it go out.  Fasting is also about the movement of energy – cultivating the inner mind scape, making it as vast as the sky and as deep as the sea.


The shaman must bless the medicine by blowing his spirit into the potion.  This part reminds me of the kosher gefilte fish I loved to eat in the all you can eat cafeteria, and the holy water at the entrance to the church.  Dip your fingers, make a cross.

bless the brew

When the shaman sings, the song covers me in clouds of rainbows.  All the antigens find receptors and nest comfortably in the hammock as birds fly overhead.


This next part is painful.  It is the purge as the small rainbow snakes of the plant potion find their way to the guts and start to jerk the nastiness free of ones body.  It expels the parasites and locked up emotions in the cores of cells.  For many people, these are useful parasites in day to day modern life; they help to maintain the order and structure of civilization.  They help to define success and accomplishment.  For dwellers of the rainforest, , engaged in constant battle, evil must be purged if the tribe is to survive.  It hurts just thinking about this part.  Not fun, not fun.  The worms stare back at you with gaping mouths.


There are some excellent visuals that come with the drinking of these plant medicines.  I get the same visuals by going to the supermarket and standing in front of the cereal aisle.  Abundance, colors,  and excellence!!  Another way I’d describe it is this, combine fish:


with colorful produce:


Add a football game with its flowing colors and running patterns:


Multiply those images by 2000, then feel that energy running through your whole being.  That’s about right.

At some point during the medical appointment, you may come to the end of the road and see either a small crack in the earth, or perhaps a loud rushing river.  My best guess is that it is death you encounter.  Not physical death like I can’t breathe! or I got no heart beat! but the place where we all end up.  Across the river is another place full of blooming fragrant flowers.  I get cold and scared here at this point and turn around, but you may be tempted to just walk across.  When you come back to regular life, perspective is changed, priorities are aligned, and fear is not gone, but it is lessened.

death & spirit

The Amazonians believe in a universe filled with spirits, and lived with in balance with the heart and mind.  Heart and spirit.  There is a story about an Indian who was tempted by power, and was granted the ability to change into a jaguar.  He became ruthless and cunning, and knew only killing and destruction.  Too much power, not enough light.  Power must be balanced by the forces of the light –  goodness, and  respect for people and nature.

price of evil

Followers of the Amazonian tradition see that there is a small jaguar within ones heart that is to be awakened.  With the roar of the sun it comes to life.  With that, transformation takes place.  Everything  will look the same, but lines of gentle waves  will rock our tribe of humanity.


Well, that was my experience as a patient of Amazonian medicines.  May you find the time to reflect upon our world, and appreciate all it has to offer.

Heres a few more drawings that trace their origins back to rainforest medicines.  Thank you to the forest peoples who understand the importance of ancient trees and the spirits that dwell within:

Who is laughing here?!


If you are not awake in the wee hours of the morning, you’re gonna miss the best part!


I know Bauhinia as a legume tree with pink orchid like flowers.  In the tropics is a gnarly liana of a Bauhinia that climbs up to the sky people.


The chicharras are singing ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji ji…

caco pai2

Then Orellana’s ship was swallowed by the great amazonian catfish.  why!?  Where did he go?


In the shadow of the sun, Indians chant for another round.

sun canoe2

In the presence of indian medicine, songs are vibrations are rainbow arcs of energy that are inserted deep into one’s being.  The goal is to open one’s eyes to the magic of this world.  Know gratefulness and find kinship.















This is a quiz for fun.  It skips and dances over four basic themes – identity and self image, the mind and the universe, love sex drugs alcohol & money, and lastly sickness and old age.  These are questions about nature –  human nature, culture and nature, relationships in nature.  There is not one correct answer; you are free to pick any answer(s) that rings the most true for you.  Good luck!


























How did you do?