These books form an excellent in-depth introduction to the indigenous and mythological ideas about nature, soul and healing. They form the core texts for The Oldavai Program.
Malidoma's autobiography is a stunning tale of a person split between modern academic and foundational indigenous conceptions of reality and his journey to reconcile the two. Malidoma is one of a short handful of individuals qualified in these two radically differing traditions of knowledge. (He holds two Doctoral degrees and is also a fully recognized tradtional diviner, medicine man and Elder of the West African Dagara tribe.) This is a very valuable document precisely because of its rarity: Some's unique experience and training allows him to present indigenous concepts to the moden mind in a way which is enheartening, revelatory and directs us to reclaim and reinhabit indigenousity.
Meade's book was originally titled "Men and the Water of Life." By the time it was ready for reprinting (he had to regain the rights), Meade had received as much feedback from women as from men. For people who want and need to remember that the cosmos holds a membership card for each and every person, this is the guidebook which shows how our own day to day life, what Daniel Deardorff calls "the steady life," is actually initiatory—it is just that we are not understanding the process and recognizing it. Meade has undergone the sacred exile of the old story "carriers," who had the responsibility to hold the life-giving wisdom of myth and be able to deliver the appropriate tale at the appropriate moment.
Deardorff has been called "one of the true inheritors of Joseph Campbell. His mentors include Robert Bly, Michael Meade, and Malidoma Some, but Deardorff is from the "next generation" of the mythopoaic leaders. He is working with what he calls "associative mythology," a concept which adds embodiment and "living myth" to Joseph Campbells "comparative mythology." Deardorff is smart, and the book tackles some tough territory intellectually, but shows the methodology of a master warrior at work with arguments, anecdotes, and poetry as his weapons on the battlefield of culture. How, he asks, can the sacred return in the midst of a devastated memory of the wild? Does Trickster have anything to do with it? Deardorff says yes, and gives a "home to the homeless" —those who would bring in messages from the wild.
Martín showed up somewhere in the nineties as a bringer of indigenous Mayan shamanism which had secretly survived the colonial period in Guatamala. (This phenomenon is now slowly gaining academic recognition as dissimulation rather than syncretism, meaning that the real culture hides under disguise in the wake of occupation in certain circumstances.) Like his totem the Jaguar, Prechtel carries sharp claws of knowledge that enable survival in the most wild places. And like his friend, he also shows the beautiful and multicolored cloak of furry language the way it is meant to be said: as something to keep us warm and show off our beauty to the rest of life.
Sobonfu is also from the Dagara culture in West Africa, a culture renowned for its specialty in healing and ritual. Sobonfu speaks in this book as you long to hear from your own mother, grandmother, sister, lover. Sobonfu really gives a blessing on all the real women that we do already know. The deep wisdom of intimacy and relatedness is a groundwater resource that can never be polluted, but does need to be found with dowsing and a kind of quiet, and sometimes, not-so-quiet, fierce attention. If you want to encourage a woman in your life, give her this book, at least, that is a suggestion. And even better, read it yourself first and feel the medicine of it in your soul healing some of the troubles of generations.
Clarrisa Pinkola Estes is both a qualified Jungian analyst and a woman who had her fingers cleaned over and over by the aunts and grandmothers that taught her stories, cooking, and the deep wisdom which runs bertween them like a wild river. She notes: Wolves have the same reaction to a danger as they do to something they are just curious about—perking up their ears. The lone wolf is a fallacy and Clarrisa shows that part of our pack is the four pawed ones and the spirit beings which are always generous, generative, and available to the human community through mythology. Every woman who has read this book rates it as an articulation of the "way it should be" that is deep in their own heart.
James Hall, a writer before he undertook this odyssey, well describes a rare journey, from the mind of modernity and a western person into the sometimes harrowing often extraordinary, and occasionally even banal or hilarious, world of indigenous training for initiation as a "Sangoma," the traitional healers of the Zimbabwean Shona. Hall captures the strange sense of "being forced by compulsion" at the same time one is "choosing by your own free will," which is typical in both mythological and reported accounts of indigenous initiation. A good story, and an insight to another side of reality from a plain speaking, articulate, compassionate voice.
Lewis Mehl Madrona gives his insights and story of learning in one of the more deeply protected of native american traditional "shaman training schools," as he is drawn into the world of Coyote, and has to reconcile his experience with his concurrent training as an American Medical Doctor, Madrona is a sharp-witted, astute observer and isn't afraid to question authority—either indigenous or modern. His best contribution is developing a "feel" for what "Coyote Medicine" is, and why it might actually work as a methodology, no matter the inability to "prove" illogical chains of causality.
Sark is Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, an artist and creative mastermind who gives practical exercises and disarming wit and wisdom about living the creative life, inviting in mystery, and unveiling eyes so that they can once again see magic. This is a handbook for doing guerilla acts of creative resistance to the dull, the mundane, the lifeless grind. So much of a spiritual practice can become unembodied so quickly in a modern context, and this little handbook asks only that you actually go to the kitchen sink and dig out a few ingredients and have some fun. But Sark's genius is really connecting all of this together with the kind of encouragement that you used to get from a grandmother, your older sister, or a favorite teacher.
Dr. Martin Shaw is like a cross between a badger in a foul mood looking for supper and a duck that is squawking around the pond calling alarm to what is hidden in the bushes rustling around the edges of the old story-paths. This is his first book, and tells his story of being thrown into exile and the tormenting process of initiation that the spirit world likes to call "school for the likes of you." Luckily, Shaw survived and scratched out a deal with the pixies in Dartmoor where he now runs the Westcountry School of Myth and Story, in between his stints as a visiting scholar in California. He is a storycarrier in the old and true tradition, and points out that while we still send people into exile for initiation, we don't yet remember how to welcome them back.
Mandaza Augustine Kandemwa is a Shona healer from Zimbabwe, who met his "partner-doctor" from the United States, Michael Oritz Hill, after they had both dreamed about each other. Part of the work they now bring, and share, is the traditional Shona practice of "Daré," the regular meeting to deal with spirit and healing issues. Mandaza actually was called by the spirits in the second half of life, after a career in law enforcement, and retains his common sense practicality along with a decidedly deep knowledge of indigenous mysteries. I like this book because it again gives a blessing for modern people to "steal" indigenous ideas in a proper way, as medicine, and healing, for all.
Julia Cameron is the author of this book, which had a great vogue for a few years. I went through the exercises myself and it was definitely part of the needed encouragement for learning how to work, in this medium, in the state of "flow." For anyone needing a good start on creativity, it is a disciplined enough workbook (she has a twelve week program) to achieve some results that won't slip away with the next distraction. She also has some other good ideas, and you won't get steered wrong. We need people confident of their creative abilities, and confident enough that their wilder conjectures deserve a little airtime to get the kind of game-changing projects that we need off the ground. And there is room for everyone, not just for the few that are "artists."