"Run Rabbit Run..."
"Senor Jaguar Preest, you sheet your pants, these Indians weel laugh their asses off at you!" Abogado chuckles at me. Of course he is right about that. I would be disgraced if I entered their village smelling like shit. So I shut my whiny-ass mouth and try to enjoy the descent into the jungle valley below, occasionally looking for fer-de-lance pit vipers to amuse myself. At least, that is what I tell myself.
We are high in the Sierra Madre in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Guerrero is Spanish for warrior. The Mexican federales do not like to confront these people and the federales will push anybody around. It is an all day trip by car and burro to this remote Indian village. Abogado is a Mexican lawyer. I met him a week earlier and volunteer to go on this trip...willingly even. I figure it will be an interesting adventure.
Finally, as we approach the Indian village, we are greeted with brightly colored dressed women and men. They look like flowers and the occasion seems to be a festival of some kind. Everyone is smiling and staring at me and Abogado. I notice and it is quite obvious, that Abogado is speaking a mixture of Spanish and some-kind-of-Indian language. "If I ask you to do something," he motions with his eyes to a crowd of men, "Do it without hesitation and don't question me." Now I am becoming a bit concerned about the wisdom of accompanying him.
People come to greet and touch us, especially me. Have they never seen a white, longhair flippo with a beard before? We soon dismount and I feel raw and sore. Abogado immediately starts speaking to the group of men that are gathered before us. They listen intensely. I assume he is telling them about the government grant for their water and irrigation project. There are no interruptions as Abogado speaks. They politely wait until he finishes. Then suddenly when Abogado is finished, there is an immediate burst of speaking among the Indians, to each other. Abogado remains very quiet. I am saying nothing but my mind is racing like a rabbit on meth, in front of a car, at night.
It is approaching sunset, I slowly begin to calm down and start to enjoy this village. I have very brief conversations with Abogado. I seem to be mainly an observer. The men of the village build a fire and we gather around it. There definitely is a festival feel about everything. Abogado laughs and is engrossed in everything that is going on. In fact, this is rather amusing since he and I look so out of place and weird here. Abogado has on this guayavera shirt, dress slacks and sandals. I look like some pinhead from freakland. Yet, the indios seem to think nothing of it. That is odd too. We are in a remote village in the Sierra Madres, in a jungle, sweating and looking like apes and they hardly seem to notice us.
At one point just after sunset, with a nice bright fire, a ladle is being passed around. "Drink this." Abogado says quietly as the ladle is given to him. "Act like it is the most wonderful drink you have ever tasted." I look at him, trying not to look suspicious. "What is it?" I am always leery of putting something foreign in me while in a foreign country, disastrous results can mysteriously appear. "Pulque..." Abogado answers fiercely with his eyes gazing at me. I take a drink of it and pretend to be very pleased.
"The goddess Mayahuel, has 400 breasts which ooze pulque..."
For those that have never tried the drink discovered by the goddess Mayahuel, don't. Pulque is a slimy, sweetish, milky, snot. It has the alcoholic content of beer. I act like it is wonderful. At this point, we are all seated around the fire. It's sort of like cumbaya-girl-scout-cookies night. I am handed a ceramic, terra cotta looking cup. After a few cups of this stuff, I am feeling woozy and light-headed. I figure I have sweat all day and I am probably dehydrated, so my body absorbs it quicker.
As the evening is rapidly overcome by darkness, everyone sitting around the fire starts to look weird. I tell myself this is due to the fire lighting up everyone's faces. Still, it is unsettling. Three or four of the Indian men begin passing around a pipe. In my ignorant, white-man way, I suspect they are smoking pot. It is not unfounded for me to think this either. Guerrero, Michoacan and Oaxaca are famous hemp growing areas. But I get a whiff of what they are smoking and I notice the smell of tobacco.
Abogado takes the hand-worn pipe handed to him and puffs on it deeply. He then hands the pipe to me, "Take this and inhale it." he tells me. I assume that he means for me to smoke it like pot. Dutifully, as promised, I do. Everyone is looking at me or at least it seems so. Abogado motions for me to pass it on. The men around the fire and Abogado are laughing a lot more now but I feel like I am approaching moments of shear terror.
As the pipe comes to me again and having studied how the other men have been smoking this stuff, I take as deep an inhalation as I can, then pass it along. Within minutes I find myself feeling like my body is somewhere else. I laugh euphorically at anything that moves. Vacillating between hilarity and fright I drink one more cup of pulque and decide to head off to bed somewhere.
WRONG! Like a jolt from a cattle prod I am energized. Instantly, everyone stands up without a word being said, as if we are a flock of grackles or primeval dinosaurs. "What did we smoke? Is something in this pulque stuff?", I blubber at no one in particular. No one can understand me anyway. My head is swimming and as I look into the fire I see fractals and mandelbrots. The men's faces are becoming distorted. Abogado looks like a hairy ape, with his skin sliding off. He has acquired a sinister laugh too. I see an Evil Clown in him and animal faces on everyone else. My vision of reality seems to be slipping away from this place. What will take its place? Can I stop this whirly-gig?
I don't understand and neither can anyone tell me, what is happening. We are all dancing around, in unison. There is lightness in my whole body, while the dancing continues more furiously. It is very flock-like. I glance at Abogado curiously and he seems not to have a care in the world. Sounds have an echo effect that appear to be infinite, my sense of these sounds approaches lunacy.
At this point, every action seems to be delirious and there is a great deal of confusion. My breathing was light too. Then, like a flock of geese, that have been sent a shock wave, we fly off in unison, flying and chasing a black jaguar through the air, in the jungle darkness. I feel the cool and light air all around me and I sense that not only am I stunned but so is Abogado. This flying is silent, swift and unstoppable. We pass through objects as if we are ghosts. With the darkness and speed, I find it hard to imagine. I remember nothing else.
The next morning, I am awakened by a strange Indian woman. I hear the crackling of a fire and see her smiling, pleasant face. Groggy and barely awake, I hear Abogado approaching as he enters the quaint hut. "Get up queeck! hurry! Don't say a word!" Abogado whispers through his gritted teeth. "WOW!...b-b-b-but...", my stuttering is cut off with his hand covering my mouth. "I brought two burros weeth me. Hurry! We must be queeck!". I am stunned, but obediently follow his instructions. We mount the burros and leave the village quicker than we arrived. Abogado keeps silent while continually looking behind us.
His silence continues until we reach the car. We tie up the burros where we picked them up, get in the car and immediately leave. "What the hell is going on?" Abogado doesn't answer and starts talking small talk. "What the fuck happened last night?" I ask again. He totally ignores me on that question for the rest of the ride back to Mexico City.
We return to Mexico City and Abogado drops me off at my room. He never says a word about the amazing night, despite my urging. It is as if "jaguar night" never happened. I don't look him up again before I return home. I did keep his Mexico City address and years later I write him letters. They are either never answered or never received. Sometimes I wonder if that night ever happened at all.
Hand drawn map from my 1981 journal of the village in the state of Guerrero, MX. HIREZ!
You may wish to listen to a public domain version of Die Walküre from Archive.org, Open Source Audio project. Do this by Shift->Right Click->Open In New Window. This version is performed by the American Symphony Orchestra 1921. Record format is Edison Diamond Disc.
Conejo, Ometotchtli, Two Rabbit, generally regarded as the supreme God of the drink pulque.
Pronounced: oh, may, tote, cheetel, ee
Mayahuel - To the Nahuatl, the maguey agave was divine, represented by the goddess Mayahuel, who had 400 breasts which oozed pulque
Th-Th-Th-at's all folks!