(The Eagle’s Gift)
When don Juan judged that the time was right for me to have my first encounter with his warriors, he made me shift levels of awareness. He then made it perfectly clear that he would have nothing to do with their way of meeting me. He warned me that if they decided to beat me, he could not stop them. They could do anything they wanted, except kill me. He stressed over and over again that the warriors of his party were a perfect replica of his benefactor’s, except that some of the women were more fierce, and all the men were utterly unique and powerful. Therefore, my first encounter with them might resemble a head-on collision.
I was nervous and apprehensive on the one hand, but curious on the other. My mind was running wild with endless speculations, most of them about what the warriors would look like.
Don Juan said that he had the choice either of coaching me to memorize an elaborate ritual, as he had been made to do, or of making it the most casual encounter possible. He waited for an omen to point out which alternative to take. His benefactor had done something similar, only he had insisted don Juan learn the ritual before the omen presented itself. When don Juan revealed his sexual daydreams of sleeping with four women, his benefactor interpreted it as the omen, chucked the ritual, and ended up pleading like a hog dealer for don Juan’s life.
In my case, don Juan wanted an omen before he taught me the ritual. That omen came when don Juan and I were driving through a border town in Arizona and a policeman stopped me. The policeman thought I was an illegal alien. Only after I had shown him my passport, which he suspected of being a forgery, and other documents, did he let me go. Don Juan had been in the front seat next to me all the time, and the policeman had not given him a second glance. He had focused solely on me. Don Juan thought the incident was the omen he was waiting for. His interpretation of it was that it would be very dangerous for me to call attention to myself, and he concluded that my world had to be one of utter simplicity and candor – elaborate ritual and pomp were out of character for me. He conceded, however, that a minimal observance of ritualistic patterns was in order when I made my acquaintance with his warriors. I had to begin by approaching them from the south, because that is the direction that power follows in its ceaseless flux. Life force flows to us from the south, and leaves us flowing toward the north. He said that the only opening to a Nagual’s world was through the south, and that the gate was made by two female warriors, who would have to greet me and would let me go through if they so decided.
He took me to a town in central Mexico, to a house in the countryside. As we approached it on foot from a southerly direction, I saw two massive Indian women standing four feet apart, facing each other. They were about thirty or forty feet away from the main door of the house, in an area where the dirt was hard-packed. The two women were extraordinarily muscular and stern. Both had long, jet-black hair held together in a single thick braid. They looked like sisters. They were about the same height and weight – I figured that they must have been around five feet four, and weighed 150 pounds. One of them was extremely dark, almost black, the other much lighter.
They were dressed like typical Indian women from central Mexico – long, full dresses and shawls, homemade sandals.
Don Juan made me stop three feet from them. He turned to the woman on our left and made me face her. He said that her name was Cecilia and that she was a dreamer. He then turned abruptly, without giving me time to say anything, and made me face the darker woman, to our right. He said that her name was Delia and that she was a stalker. The women nodded at me.
They did not smile or move to shake hands with me, or make any gesture of welcome.
Don Juan walked between them as if they were two columns marking a gate. He took a couple of steps and turned as if waiting for the women to invite me to go through. The women stared at me calmly for a moment. Then Cecilia asked me to come in, as if I were at the threshold of an actual door.
Don Juan led the way to the house. At the front door we found a man. He was very slender. At first sight he looked extremely young, but on closer examination he appeared to be in his late fifties. He gave me the impression of being an old child: small, wiry, with penetrating dark eyes.
He was like an elfish apparition, a shadow. Don Juan introduced him to me as Emilito, and said that he was his courier and all-around helper, who would welcome me on his behalf.
It seemed to me that Emilito was indeed the most appropriate being to welcome anyone. His smile was radiant; his small teeth were perfectly even. He shook hands with me, or rather he crossed his forearms and clasped both my hands. He seemed to be exuding enjoyment; anyone would have sworn that he was ecstatic in meeting me. His voice was very soft and his eyes sparkled.
We walked into a large room. There was another woman there. Don Juan said that her name was Teresa and that she was Cecilia’s and Delia’s courier. She was perhaps in her early thirties, and she definitely looked like Cecilia’s daughter. She was very quiet but very friendly. We followed don Juan to the back of the house, where there was a roofed porch. It was a warm day.
We sat there around a table, and after a frugal dinner we talked until after midnight.
Emilito was the host. He charmed and delighted everyone with his exotic stories. The women opened up. They were a great audience for him. To hear the women’s laughter was an exquisite pleasure. They were tremendously muscular, bold, and physical. At one point, when Emilito said that Cecilia and Delia were like two mothers to him, and Teresa like a daughter, they picked him up and tossed him in the air like a child.
Of the two women, Delia seemed the more rational, down- to-earth. Cecilia was perhaps more aloof, but appeared to have greater inner strength. She gave me the impression of being more intolerant, or more impatient; she seemed to get annoyed with some of Emilito’s stories.
Nonetheless, she was definitely on the edge of her chair when he would tell what he called his “tales of eternity.” He would preface every story with the phrase, ‘Do you, dear friends, know that. . . ?’ The story that impressed me most was about some creatures that he said existed in the universe, who were the closest thing to human beings without being human; creatures who were obsessed with movement and capable of detecting the slightest fluctuation inside themselves or around them. These creatures were so sensitive to motion that it was a curse to them. It gave them such pain that their ultimate ambition was to find quietude.
Emilito would intersperse his tales of eternity with the most outrageous dirty jokes.
Because of his incredible gifts as a raconteur, I understood every one of his stories as a metaphor, a parable, with which he was teaching us something.
Don Juan said that Emilito was merely reporting about things he had witnessed in his journeys through eternity. The role of a courier was to travel ahead of the Nagual, like a scout in a military operation. Emilito went to the limits of the second attention, and whatever he witnessed he passed on to the others.
My second encounter with don Juan’s warriors was just as contrived as the first. One day don Juan made me shift levels of awareness and told me that I had a second appointment. He made me drive to Zacatecas in northern Mexico. We arrived there very early in the morning.
Don Juan said that that was only a stopover, and that we had until the next day to relax before we embarked on my second formal meeting to make the acquaintance of the eastern women and the scholar warrior of his party. He explained then an intricate and delicate point of choice.
He said that we had met the south and the courier in the midafternoon, because he had made an individual interpretation of the rule and had picked that hour to represent the night. The south was really the night – a warm, friendly, cozy night – and properly we should have gone to meet the two southerly women after midnight. However, that would have been inauspicious for me because my general direction was toward the light, toward optimism, an optimism that works itself harmoniously into the mystery of darkness. He said that that was precisely what we had done that day; we had enjoyed each other’s company and talked until it was pitch-black. I had wondered why they did not light their lanterns.
Don Juan said that the east, on the other hand, was the morning, the light, and that we would meet the easterly women the next day at midmorning.
Before breakfast we went to the plaza and sat down on a bench. Don Juan told me that he wanted me to remain there and wait for him while he ran some errands. He left and shortly after he had gone, a woman came and sat down on the other end of the bench. I did not pay any attention to her and started reading a newspaper. A moment later another woman joined her. I wanted to move to another bench, but I remembered that don Juan had specifically said that I should sit there. I turned my back to the women and had even forgotten that they were there, since they were so quiet, when a man greeted them and stood facing me. I became aware from their conversation that the women had been waiting for him. The man apologized for being late. He obviously wanted to sit down. I slid over to make room for him. He thanked me profusely and apologized for inconveniencing me. He said that they were absolutely lost in the city because they were rural people, and that once they had been to Mexico City and had nearly died in the traffic. He asked me if I lived in Zacatecas. I said no and was going to end our conversation right there but there was something very winning about his smile. He was an old man, remarkably fit for his age. He was not an Indian. He seemed to be a gentleman farmer from a small rural town. He was wearing a suit and had a straw hat on. His features were very delicate. His skin was almost transparent. He had a high-bridged nose, a small mouth, and a perfectly groomed white beard. He looked extraordinarily healthy and yet he seemed frail. He was of medium height and well built, but at the same time gave the impression of being slender, almost effete.
He stood up and introduced himself to me. He told me that his name was Vicente Medrano, and that he had come to the city on business only for the day. He then pointed to the two women and said that they were his sisters. The women stood up and faced us. They were very slim and darker than their brother. They were also much younger. One of them could have been his daughter. I noticed that their skin was not like his; theirs was dry. The two women were very good-looking. Like the man, they had fine features, and their eyes were clear and peaceful. They were about five feet four. They were wearing beautifully tailored dresses, but with their shawls, low heeled shoes, and dark cotton stockings they looked like well-to-do farm women. The older one appeared to be in her fifties, the younger in her forties.
The man introduced them to me. The older woman was named Carmela and the younger one Hermelinda. I stood up and briefly shook hands with them. I asked them if they had any children. That question was usually a sure conversation opener for me. The women laughed and in unison ran their hands down their stomachs to show me how lean they were. The man calmly explained that his sisters were spinsters, and that he himself was an old bachelor. He confided to me, in a half-joking tone, that unfortunately his sisters were too mannish, they lacked the femininity that makes a woman desirable, and so they had been unable to find husbands.
I said that they were better off, considering the subservient role of women in our society. The women disagreed with me; they said that they would not have minded at all being servants if they had only found men who wanted to be their masters. The younger one said that the real problem was that their father had failed to teach them to behave like women. The man commented with a sigh that their father was so domineering that he had also prevented him from marrying by deliberately neglecting to teach him how to be a macho. All three of them sighed and looked gloomy. I wanted to laugh.
After a long silence we sat down again and the man said that if I stayed a while longer on that bench I would have a chance to meet their father, who was still very spirited for his advanced age. He added in a shy tone that their father was going to take them to eat breakfast, because they themselves never carried any money. Their father handled the purse strings.
I was aghast. Those old people who looked so strong were in reality like weak, dependent children. I said goodbye to them and got up to leave. The man and his sisters insisted that I stay.
They assured me that their father would love it if I would join them for breakfast. I did not want to meet their father and yet I was curious. I told them that I myself was waiting for someone. At that, the women began to chuckle and then broke into a roaring laughter. The man also abandoned himself to uncontained laughter. I felt stupid, I wanted to get out of there. At that moment don Juan showed up and I became aware of their maneuver. I did not think it was amusing.
All of us stood up. They were still laughing as don Juan told me that those women were the east, that Carmela was the stalker and Hermelinda the dreamer, and that Vicente was the warrior scholar and his oldest companion.
As we were leaving the plaza, another man joined us, a tall, dark Indian, perhaps in his forties. He was wearing Levi’s and a cowboy hat. He seemed terribly strong and sullen. Don Juan introduced him to me as Juan Tuma, Vicente’s courier and research assistant.
We walked to a restaurant a few blocks away. The women held me between them. Carmela said that she hoped I was not offended by their joke, that they had had the choice of just introducing themselves to me or kidding me. What made them decide to kid me was my thoroughly snobbish attitude in turning my back to them and wanting to move to another bench.
Hermelinda added that one has to be utterly humble and carry nothing to defend, not even one’s person; that one’s person should be protected, but not defended. In snubbing them, I was not protecting but merely defending myself.
I felt quarrelsome. I was frankly put out by their masquerade. I began to argue, but before I had made my point don Juan came to my side. He told the two women that they should overlook my belligerence, that it takes a very long time to clean out the garbage that a luminous being picks up in the world.
The owner of the restaurant where we went knew Vicente and had prepared a sumptuous breakfast for us. All of them were in great spirits, but I was unable to let go of my brooding.
Then, at don Juan’s request, Juan Tuma began to talk about his journeys. He was a factual man. I became mesmerized by his dry accounts of things beyond my comprehension. To me the most fascinating was his description of some beams of light or energy that allegedly crisscross the earth. He said that these beams do not fluctuate as everything else in the universe does, but are fixed into a pattern. This pattern coincides with hundreds of points in the luminous body.
Hermelinda had understood that all the points were in our physical body, but Juan Tuma explained that, since the luminous body is quite big, some of the points are as much as three feet away from the physical body. In a sense they are outside of us, and yet they are not; they are on the periphery of our luminosity and thus still belong to the total body. The most important of those points is located a foot away from the stomach, 40 degrees to the right of an imaginary line shooting straight forward. Juan Tuma told us that that was a center of assembling for the second attention, and that it is possible to manipulate it by gently stroking the air with the palms of the hands. Listening to Juan Tuma, I forgot my anger.
My next encounter with don Juan’s world was with the west. He gave me ample warning that the first contact with the west was a most important event, because it would decide, in one way or another, what I should subsequently do. He also alerted me to the fact that it was going to be a trying event, especially for me, as I was so stiff and felt so self-important. He said that the west is naturally approached at dusk, a time of day which is difficult just in itself, and that his warriors of the west were very powerful, bold, and downright maddening. At the same time, I was also going to meet the male warrior who was the man behind the scenes. Don Juan admonished me to exercise the utmost caution and patience; not only were the women raving mad, but they and the man the most powerful warriors he had ever known. They were, in his opinion, the ultimate authorities of the second attention. Don Juan did not elaborate any further.
One day, as though on the spur of the moment, he suddenly decided that it was time to start on our trip to meet the westerly women. We drove to a city in northern Mexico. Just at dusk, don Juan directed me to stop in front of a big unlit house on the outskirts of town. We got out of the car and walked to the main door. Don Juan knocked several times. No one answered. I had the feeling that we had come at the wrong time. The house seemed empty.
Don Juan kept on knocking until he apparently got tired. He signaled me to knock. He told me to keep on doing it without stopping because the people who lived in there were hard of hearing. I asked him if it would be better to return later or the next day. He told me to keep on banging on the door.
After a seemingly endless wait, the door began to open slowly. A weird-looking woman stuck her head out and asked me if my intention was to break down the door or to anger the neighbors and their dogs.
Don Juan stepped forward to say something. The woman stepped out and forcefully brushed him aside. She began to shake her finger at me, yelling that I was behaving as if I owned the world, as if there were no one else besides myself. I protested that I was merely doing what don Juan had told me to do. The woman asked if I had been told to break the door down. Don Juan tried to intervene but was again brushed away.
The woman looked as if she had just gotten out of bed. She was a mess. Our knocking had probably awakened her and she must have put on a dress from her basket of dirty clothes. She was barefoot; her hair was graying and terribly unkempt. She had red, beady eyes. She was a homely woman, but somehow very impressive: rather tall, about five feet eight, dark and enormously muscular; her bare arms were knotted with hard muscles. I noticed that she had beautifully shaped calves.
She looked me up and down, towering over me, and shouted that she had not heard my apologies. Don Juan whispered to me that I should apologize loud and clear.
Once I had done that, the woman smiled and turned to don Juan and hugged him as if he were a child. She grumbled that he should not have made me knock because my touch on the door was too shifty and disturbing. She held don Juan’s arm and led him inside, helping him over the high threshold. She called him “dearest little old man.” Don Juan laughed. I was appalled to see him acting as if he were delighted at the absurdities of that scary woman. Once she had helped the “dearest little old man” into the house, she turned to me and made a gesture with her hand to shoo me away, as if I were a dog. She laughed at my surprise; her teeth were big and uneven, and filthy. Then she seemed to change her mind and told me to come in.
Don Juan was heading to a door that I could barely see at the end of a dark hall. The woman scolded him for not knowing where he was going. She took us through another dark hall. The house seemed to be enormous, and there was not a single light in it. The woman opened a door to a very large room, almost empty except for two old armchairs in the center, under the weakest light bulb I had ever seen. It was an old-fashioned long bulb.
Another woman was sitting in one of the armchairs. The first woman sat down on a small straw mat on the floor and rested her back against the other chair. Then she put her thighs against her breasts, exposing herself completely. She was not wearing underpants. I stared at her dumbfounded.
In an ugly gruff tone, the woman asked me why I was staring at her vagina. I did not know what to say except to deny it. She stood up and seemed about to hit me. She demanded that I tell her that I had gaped at her because I had never seen a vagina in my life. I felt guilty. I was thoroughly embarrassed and also annoyed at having been caught in such a situation.
The woman asked don Juan what kind of Nagual I was if I had never seen a vagina. She began repeating this over and over, yelling it at the top of her voice. She ran around the room and stopped by the chair where the other woman was sitting. She shook her by the shoulders and, pointing at me, said that I was a man who had never seen a vagina in his whole life. She laughed and taunted me.
I was mortified. I felt that don Juan should have done something to save me from that humiliation. I remembered that he had told me these women were quite mad. He had understated it; this woman was ready for an institution. I looked at don Juan for support and advice. He looked away. He seemed to be equally at a loss, although I thought I caught a malicious smile, which he quickly hid by turning his head.
The woman lay down on her back and pulled up her skirt, and commanded me to look to my heart’s content instead of sneaking glances. My face must have been red, judging by the heat in my head and neck. I was so annoyed that I almost lost control. I felt like bashing her head in.
The woman who was sitting in the chair suddenly stood up and grabbed the other one by the hair and made her stand up in one single motion, seemingly with no effort at all. She stared at me through half-closed eyes, bringing her face no more than two or three inches from mine. She smelled surprisingly fresh.
In a high-pitched voice, she said that we should get down to business. Both of the women stood close to me under the light bulb. They did not look alike. The second woman was older, or looked older, and her face was covered by a thick coat of cosmetic powder that gave her a clownish appearance. Her hair was neatly arranged in a chignon. She seemed calm except for a continuous tremor in her lower lip and chin. Both women were equally tall and strong-looking; they towered menacingly over me and stared at me for a long time. Don Juan did not do anything to break their fixation. The older woman nodded her head, and don Juan told me that her name was Zuleica and that she was a dreamer. The woman who had opened the door was named Zoila, and she was a stalker.
Zuleica turned to me and, in a parrotlike voice, asked me if it was true that I had never seen a vagina. Don Juan could not hold his composure any longer and began to laugh. With a gesture, I signaled him that I did not know what to say. He whispered in my ear that it would be better for me to say that I had not; otherwise I should be prepared to describe a vagina, because that was what Zuleica would demand that I do next.
I answered accordingly, and Zuleica said that she felt sorry for me. Then she ordered Zoila to show me her vagina. Zoila lay down on her back under the light bulb and opened her legs.
Don Juan was laughing and coughing. I begged him to get me out of that madhouse. He whispered in my ear again that I had better take a good look and appear attentive and interested, because if I did not we would have to stay there until kingdom come.
After my careful and attentive examination, Zuleica said that from then on I could brag that I was a connoisseur, and that if I ever stumbled upon a woman without pants, I would not be so coarse and obscene as to let my eyes pop out of their sockets, because now I had seen a vagina.
Zuleica very quietly led us to the patio. She whispered that there was someone out there waiting to meet me. The patio was pitch black. I could hardly make out the silhouettes of the others. Then I saw the dark outline of a man standing a few-feet away from me. My body experienced an involuntary jolt.
Don Juan spoke to the man in a very low voice, saying that he had brought me to meet him. He told the man my name. After a moment’s silence, don Juan said to me that the man’s name was Silvio Manuel, and that he was the warrior of darkness and the actual leader of the whole warrior’s party. Then Silvio Manuel spoke to me. I thought that he must have had a speech disorder – his voice was muffled and the words came out of him like spurts of soft coughing.
He ordered me to come closer. As I tried to approach him, he receded, just as if he were floating. He led me into an even darker recess of a hall, walking, it seemed, noiselessly backwards. He muttered something I could not understand. I wanted to speak; my throat itched and was parched. He repeated something two or three times until it dawned on me that he was ordering me to undress. There was something overpowering about his voice and the darkness around him. I was incapable of disobeying. I took off my clothes and stood stark naked, shivering with fear and cold.
It was so dark that I could not see if don Juan and the two women were around. I heard a soft prolonged hissing from a source a few feet away from me; then I felt a cool breeze. I realized that Silvio Manuel was exhaling his breath all over my body.
He then asked me to sit on my clothes and look at a bright point which I could easily distinguish in the darkness, a point that seemed to give out a faint amber light. I stared at it for what seemed hours, until I suddenly realized that the point of brightness was Silvio Manuel’s left eye. I could then make out the contour of his whole face and his body. The hall was not as dark as it had seemed. Silvio Manuel advanced to me and helped me up. To see in the dark with such clarity enthralled me. I did not even mind that I was naked or that, as I then saw, the two women were watching me. Apparently they could also see in the dark; they were staring at me. I wanted to put on my pants, but Zoila snatched them out of my hands.
The two women and Silvio Manuel stared at me for a long time. Then don Juan came out of nowhere, handed me my shoes, and Zoila led us through a corridor to an open patio with trees. I made out the dark silhouette of a woman standing in the middle of the patio. Don Juan spoke to her and she mumbled something in reply. He told me that she was a southerly woman, that her name was Marta, and that she was a courier to the two westerly women. Marta said that she could bet I had never been introduced to a woman while I was naked; that the normal procedure is to get acquainted and then undress. She laughed out loud. Her laughter was so pleasing, so clear and youthful, that it sent chills through me; it reverberated through the whole house, enhanced by the darkness and the silence there. I looked to don Juan for support. He was gone and so was Silvio Manuel. I was alone with the three women. I became very nervous and asked Marta if she knew where don Juan had gone. At that precise moment, someone grabbed the skin of my armpits. I yelled with pain. I knew that it was Silvio Manuel. He lifted me up as if I weighed nothing and shook my shoes off me. Then he stood me in a shallow tub of ice-cold water that came up to my knees.
I remained in the tub for a long time while all of them scrutinized me. Then Silvio Manuel lifted me up again and set me down next to my shoes, which someone had neatly placed next to the tub.
Don Juan again came out of nowhere and handed me my clothes. He whispered that I should put them on and stay only long enough to be polite. Marta gave me a towel to dry myself. I looked around for the other two women and Silvio Manuel, but they were nowhere in sight.
Marta, don Juan, and I stood in the darkness talking for a long time. She seemed to be speaking mainly to don Juan, but I believed that I was her real audience. I waited for a clue from don Juan to leave, but he appeared to be enjoying Marta‘s agile conversation. She told him that Zoila and Zuleica had been at the peak of their madness that day. Then she added for my benefit that they were extremely rational most of the time.
As if she were revealing a secret, Marta told us that the reason Zoila’s hair looked so unkempt was because at least one third of it was Zuleica’s hair. What had happened was that the two of them had had a moment of intense camaraderie and were helping one another to groom their hair.
Zuleica braided Zoila’s hair as she had done hundreds of times, except that, being out of control, she had braided portions of her own hair in with Zoila’s. Marta said that when they got up from their chairs they went into a commotion. She ran to their rescue, but by the time she entered the room, Zuleica had taken over, and since she was more lucid than Zoila that day, she had decided to cut the portion of Zoila’s hair that was braided to hers. She got confused in the melee that ensued and cut her own hair instead.
Don Juan was laughing as if it were the funniest thing ever. I heard soft coughlike bursts of laughter coming from the darkness on the far side of the patio.
Marta added that she had to improvise a chignon until Zuleica’s hair grew out.
I laughed along with don Juan. I liked Marta. The two other women were abhorrent to me; they gave me a sensation of nausea. Marta, on the other hand, seemed a paragon of calm and silent purpose. I could not see her features, but I imagined her to be very beautiful. The sound of her voice was haunting.
She very politely asked don Juan if I would accept something to eat. He replied that I did not feel comfortable with Zuleica and Zoila, and that I would probably get sick to my stomach.
Marta assured me that the two women were gone and took my arm and led us through the darkest hall yet into a well-lit kitchen. The contrast was too great for my eyes. I stood in the doorway trying to get used to the light.
The kitchen had a very high ceiling and was fairly modern and adequate. We sat in a sort of dinette area. Marta was young and very strong; she had a plump, voluptuous figure, a round face, and a small nose and mouth. Her jet-black hair was braided and coiled around her head.
I thought that she must have been as curious to examine me as I had been to see her. We sat and ate and talked for hours. I was fascinated by her. She was an uneducated woman but she held me spellbound with her talk. She gave us detailed accounts of the preposterous things that Zoila and Zuleica did when they were mad.
As we drove away, don Juan expressed his admiration for Marta. He said that she was perhaps the finest example he knew of how determination can affect a human being. With no background or preparation at all, except for her unbending intent, Marta had successfully tackled the most arduous task imaginable, that of taking care of Zoila, Zuleica, and Silvio Manuel.
I asked don Juan why Silvio Manuel had refused to let me look at him in the light. He replied that Silvio Manuel was in his element in darkness, and that I was going to have countless opportunities to see him. For our first meeting, nonetheless, it was mandatory that he maintain himself within the boundaries of his power, the darkness of the night. Silvio Manuel and the two women lived together because they were a team of formidable sorcerers.
Don Juan advised me that I should not make hasty judgments about the westerly women. I had met them at a moment when they were out of control, but their lack of control pertained only to surface behavior. They had an inner core which was unalterable; thus, even at the time of their worst madness they were capable of laughing at their own aberration, as if it were a performance staged by someone else.
Silvio Manuel’s case was different. He was in no way deranged; in fact, it was his profound sobriety that enabled him to deal so effectively with those two women, because he and they were opposite extremes. Don Juan said that Silvio Manuel had been born that way and everyone around him acknowledged his difference. Even his benefactor, who was stern and unsparing with everybody, lavished a great deal of attention on Silvio Manuel. It took don Juan years to understand the reason for this preference. Due to something inexplicable in his nature, once Silvio Manuel had entered into the left-side awareness, he never came out of it. His proclivity to remain in a state of heightened awareness, coupled with the superb leadership of his benefactor, allowed him to arrive before anyone else not only at the conclusion that the rule is a map and there is in fact another kind of awareness, but also to the actual passageway into that other world of awareness. Don Juan said that Silvio Manuel, in a most impeccable manner, balanced his excessive gains by putting them at the service of their common purpose. He became the silent force behind don Juan.
My last introductory encounter with don Juan’s warriors was with the north. Don Juan took me to the city of Guadalajara to fulfill that meeting. He said that our appointment was only a short distance from the center of town and had to be at noon, because the north was the midday. We left the hotel around 11 A.M. and took an easy stroll through the downtown area.
I was walking along without watching where I was going, worried about the meeting, and I collided head-on with a lady who was rushing out of a store. She was carrying packages, which scattered all over the ground. I apologized and began to help her pick them up. Don Juan urged me to hurry because we were going to be late. The lady seemed to be stunned. I held her arm. She was a very slender, tall woman, perhaps in her sixties, very elegantly dressed. She seemed to be a lady of social standing. She was exquisitely polite and assumed the blame, saying that she had been distracted looking for her manservant. She asked me if I would help her locate him in the crowd. I turned to don Juan; he said that the least I could do after nearly killing her was to help her.
I took her packages and we walked back into the store. A short distance away I spotted a forlorn-looking Indian who seemed thoroughly out of place there. The lady called him and he came to her side like a lost puppy. He looked as if he was about to lick her hand.
Don Juan was waiting for us outside the store. He explained to the lady that we were in a hurry and then told her my name. The lady smiled graciously and initiated a handshake. I thought that in her youth she must have been ravishing, because she was still beautiful and alluring.
Don Juan turned to me and abruptly said that her name was Nelida, that she was of the north, and that she was a dreamer. Then he made me face the manservant and said that his name was Genaro Flores, and that he was the man of action, the warrior of deeds in the party. My surprise was total. All three of them had a belly laugh; the greater my dismay, the more they seemed to enjoy it.
Don Genaro gave the packages away to a group of children, telling them that his employer, the kind lady who was talking, had bought those things as a present for them; it was her good deed for the day. Then we strolled in silence for half a block. I was tongue-tied. Suddenly Nelida pointed to a store and asked us to wait just an instant because she had to pick up a box of nylons that they were holding for her there. She peered at me, smiling, her eyes shining, and told me that, all kidding aside, sorcery or no sorcery, she had to wear nylons and lace panties. Don Juan and don Genaro laughed like two idiots. I stared at Nelida because I could not do anything else.
There was something about her that was utterly earthly and yet she was almost ethereal. She kiddingly told don Juan to hold on to me because I was about to pass out. Then she politely asked don Genaro to run in and get her order from a specific clerk. As he started in, Nelida seemed to change her mind and called him back, but he apparently did not hear her and disappeared inside the store. She excused herself and ran after him.
Don Juan pressed my back to get me out of my turmoil. He said that I would meet the other northerly woman, whose name was Florinda, by herself at another time, because she was to be my link into another cycle, another mood. He described Florinda as a carbon copy of Nelida, or vice versa.
I remarked that Nelida was so sophisticated and stylish that I could imagine seeing her in a fashion magazine. The fact that she was beautiful and so fair, perhaps of French or northern Italian extraction, had surprised me. Although Vicente was not an Indian either, his rural appearance made him less of an anomaly. I asked don Juan why there were non-Indians in his world. He said that power is what selects the warriors of a Nagual’s party, and that it is impossible to know its designs.
We waited in front of the store for perhaps half an hour. Don Juan seemed to get impatient and asked me to go inside and tell them to hurry. I walked into the store. It was not a big place, there was no back door, and yet they were nowhere in sight. I asked the clerks, but they could not help me.
I confronted don Juan and demanded to know what had happened. He said that they had either disappeared into thin air, or had sneaked out while he was cracking my back.
I raged at him that most of his people were tricksters. He laughed until tears were rolling down his cheeks. He said that I was the ideal dupe. My self-importance made me a most enjoyable subject. He was laughing so hard at my annoyance that he had to lean against a wall.
La Gorda gave me an account of her first meeting with the members of don Juan’s party. Her version differed only in content; the form was the same. The warriors were perhaps a bit more violent with her, but she had understood this as their attempt to shake her out of her slumber, and also as a natural reaction to what she considered her ugly personality.
As we reviewed don Juan’s world, we realized that it was a replica of his benefactor’s world. It could be seen as consisting either of groups or households. There was a group of four independent pairs of apparent sisters who worked and lived together; another group of three men who were don Juan’s age and were very close to him; a team of two somewhat younger men, the couriers Emilito and Juan Tuma; and finally a team of two younger, southerly women who seemed to be related to each other, Marta and Teresa. At other times it could be seen as consisting of four separate households, located quite far from one another in different areas of Mexico. One was made up of the two westerly women, Zuleica and Zoila, Silvio Manuel, and the courier Marta. The next was composed of the southerly women, Cecilia and Delia, don Juan’s courier, Emilito, and the courier Teresa. Another household was formed by the easterly women, Carmela and Hermelinda, Vicente, and the courier Juan Tuma; and the last, of the northerly women, Nelida and Florinda, and don Genaro.
According to don Juan, his world did not have the harmony and balance of his benefactor’s. The only two women who thoroughly balanced one another, and who looked like identical twins were the northerly warriors, Nelida and Florinda. Nelida once told me in casual conversation, they were so alike that they even had the same blood type.
For me one of the most pleasant surprises of our interaction was the transformation of Zuleica and Zoila, who had been so abhorrent. They turned out to be, as don Juan had said, the most sober and dutiful warriors imaginable. I could not believe my eyes when I saw them again. Their mad spell had passed and they now looked like two well-dressed Mexican ladies, tall, dark, and muscular, with brilliant dark eyes like pieces of shiny black obsidian. They laughed and joked with me about what had happened the night of our first meeting, as if someone else and not they had been involved in it. I could easily understand don Juan’s turmoil with the westerly warriors of his benefactor’s party. It was impossible for me to accept that Zuleica and Zoila could ever turn into such obnoxious, nauseating creatures as I had first encountered. I was to witness their metamorphoses many times, yet I was never again able to judge them as harshly as I had on our first encounter. More than anything else, their outrages made me feel sad.
But the biggest surprise to me was Silvio Manuel. In the darkness of our first meeting I had imagined him to be an imposing man, an overpowering giant. In fact, he was tiny, but not smallboned tiny. His body was like the body of a jockey – small, yet perfectly proportioned. He looked to me as if he might be a gymnast. His physical control was so remarkable that he could puff himself up like a toad, to nearly twice his size, by contracting all the muscles of his body. He used to give astounding demonstrations of how he could dislodge his joints and put them back together again without any overt signs of pain. Looking at Silvio Manuel, I always experienced a deep unfamiliar feeling of fright. To me he seemed like a visitor from another time. He was paledark, like a bronze statue. His features were sharp; his aquiline nose, full lips, and widely separated, slanted eyes made him look like a stylized figure on a Mayan fresco. He was friendly and warm during the daytime, but as soon as the twilight set in, he would become unfathomable.
His voice would change. He would sit in a dark corner and let the darkness swallow him. All that was visible of him was his left eye, which remained open and acquired a strange shine, reminiscent of the eyes of a feline.
A secondary issue that came up in the course of our interaction with don Juan’s warriors was the subject of controlled folly. Don Juan gave me a succinct explanation once when he was discussing the two categories into which all the women warriors are mandatorily divided, the dreamers and the stalkers. He said that all the members of his party did dreaming and stalking as part of their daily lives, but that the women who made up the planet of the dreamers and the planet of the stalkers were the foremost authorities on their respective activities.
The stalkers are the ones who take the brunt of the daily world. They are the business managers, the ones who deal with people. Everything that has to do with the world of ordinary affairs goes through them. The stalkers are the practitioners of controlled folly, just as the dreamers are the practitioners of dreaming. In other words, controlled folly is the basis for stalking, as dreams are the basis for dreaming. Don Juan said that, generally speaking, a warrior’s greatest accomplishment in the second attention is dreaming, and in the first attention his greatest accomplishment is stalking.
I had misunderstood what don Juan’s warriors were doing to me in our first meetings. I took their actions as instances of trickery – and that would still be my impression today had it not been for the idea of controlled folly. Don Juan said that their actions with me had been masterful lessons in stalking. He told me that the art of stalking was what his benefactor had taught him before anything else. In order to survive among his benefactor’s warriors he had had to learn that art quickly. In my case, he said, since I did not have to contend by myself with his warriors, I had to learn dreaming first. When the time was right, Florinda would step out to guide me into the complexities of stalking. No one else could deliberately talk to me about it; they could only give me direct demonstrations, as they had already done in our first meetings.
Don Juan explained to me at great length that Florinda was one of the foremost practitioners of stalking because she had been trained in every intricacy of it by his benefactor and his four female warriors who were stalkers. Florinda was the first female warrior to come into don Juan’s world, and because of that, she was to be my personal guide – not only in the art of stalking, but also in the mystery of the third attention, if I ever got there. Don Juan did not elaborate on this.
He said it would have to wait until I was ready, first to learn stalking, and then to enter into the third attention.
Don Juan said that his benefactor had taken extra time and care with him and his warriors in everything that pertained to their mastering the art of stalking. He used complex ploys to create an appropriate context for a counterpoint between the dictums of the rule and the behavior of the warriors in the daily world as they interacted with people. He believed that that was the way to convince them that, in the absence of self-importance, a warrior’s only way of dealing with the social milieu is in terms of controlled folly.
In the course of working out his ploys, don Juan’s benefactor would pit the actions of people and the actions of the warriors against the commands of the rule, and would then sit back and let the natural drama unfold itself. The folly of the people would take the lead for a while and drag the warriors into it, as seems to be the natural course, only to be vanquished in the end by the more encompassing designs of the rule.
Don Juan told us that at first he resented his benefactor’s control over the players. He even told him that to his face. His benefactor was not fazed. He argued that his control was merely an illusion created by the Eagle. He was only an impeccable warrior, and his actions were a humble attempt to mirror the Eagle.
Don Juan said that the force with which his benefactor carried out his designs originated from his knowledge that the Eagle is real and final, and that what people do is utter folly. The two together gave rise to controlled folly, which don Juan’s benefactor described as the only bridge between the folly of people and the finality of the Eagle’s dictums.