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Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Time Event
11:14a
A quick read ...
What a strange little book ... being both strange and little for the same reason ... I don't know what the impetus was for putting this out (now in a revised edition, even) rather than "fleshing it out" into a more substantial volume, but there it is. It would be "little" at its nominal 140 pages, but what reduces that, and makes it "strange" is that it's half in English and half in Spanish, with 3 pages of "only English" up front (title page, CR page, TOC) and 3 pages of "only English" (references) in the back, leaving 134 pages to be split between two languages, essentially a 67-page book. Why?

Eduardo El Curandero: The Words of a Peruvian Healer is obviously a follow-up to Douglas Sharon's definitive (and very rare) Wizard of the Four Winds: A Shaman's Story, but it appears to be based on "out-takes" from some of Richard Cowan's filming of Don Eduardo ... and just seems odd for that reason. The "revised edition" (the original came out in 1982, this in 1999), was no doubt due to commemorate the passing of Don Eduardo in 1996 ... perhaps they felt this was a more approachable book than Wizard, and could reach more people, but from somebody familiar with the subject matter, well ... I wanted a few hundred more pages!

Now, as background, I studied with Don Eduardo Calderon in Peru in the 80's ... and my "main Shamanic teacher", Dr. Alberto Villoldo, was for many years Don Eduardo's prime student. As such, any book that "brings him back to life" for me is a treat, as Eduardo was a special person, and I regret that I was only able to spend the few weeks that I did with him. It is interesting that Don Eduardo seemed to have two key "fan clubs" from the First World ... there is the side of Alberto Villoldo, who came to totally immerse himself in the Shamanism of Don Eduardo, and then you have the Sharons, who seemingly never dropped the "We're Cultural Anthropologists And We're Doing Important Research Here" mask. Frankly, I don't think either side had much use for the other ... Sharon never mentions Villoldo in any of the books, yet Alberto spent decades at Eduardo's elbow, and there's even a sniffing "dig" at "new age practitioners" in the introduction here, something no doubt aimed at Alberto.

Ah, I could go on about that stuff ... but I should get back to the book.

If one has an interest in taking a peek into a living Shamanic tradition, Eduardo El Curandero could be a good introduction. It's (as noted) brief, has a lot of pictures (from the film out-takes), and gives a good sense of Don Eduardo as a person, a part of his culture, and as a Shaman.

One of the most interesting things in this book (for me, at least), was a look at Don Eduardo's "mesa" (his ritual equipment) with photos of it in the early '70s and 1989, with a item-by-item inventory of what's there and what it was used for by Eduardo. A version of this was in Sharon's Wizard (from 1978), but it's approached a bit differently here. Of course, for one of Don Eduardo's students, who had had opportunity to "work with" various staffs and elements of his mesa, it's exciting to "touch" that vibration again ... especially seeing (in the 1989 photo) Eduardo's late-period seguro, a bottle of "stuff" in which the Quechuan Shamans "carry their lineage", and with which new students are initiated into that lineage. So cool!

Unlike some of the books reviewed here, this one is relatively new, so hasn't slid into that "fabulous deal" range via the Amazon used vendors ... but you could still score a copy for about ten bucks (with shipping) if you were so inclined.


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