Spirit Land: The Peyote Diaries of Charles Langley, by Charles Langley. 2018. ISBN 978-1-544-896755.
Charles Langley was a journalist from England turned Navajo medicine man’s apprentice.
So how does the British journalist, now submerged in the Navajo beliefs and traditions, come to terms with divination, witchcraft, curses and healings? And how can he maintain the role of an objective observer when he witnesses the medicine man find and remove the curses?
Langley chronicles some of his time as an apprentice under Blue Horse (pseudonym) and learns as he watches the medicine man work in healing others.
In Spirit Land, Langley shares his observations, doubts, experiences and understandings as he straddles two worlds – the modern material he grew up in and the ancient customs and beliefs of the Navajo.
Does Langley fully embrace being a Navajo medicine man’s apprentice or remain an objective observer and return to the modern material world?
“…I found myself inhabiting a parallel world in which everything I once believed or, more precisely, once emphatically did not believe, was being challenged.” p. 124.
“…that night Blue Horse put on one of the most dazzling demonstrations of a medicine man’s powers I was ever to see. An unworldly display that seemed to draw from the deepest roots of human existence, as they were before the rise of civilization cramped and corralled us.” p. 111
From the Author
Is there anything you wish to add that hadn’t made it into this book?
Lots. The book is actually edited highlights from my field diaries where I record in detail all that I have experienced as a Navajo medicine man’s apprentice. The diaries are nearly half-a-million words, as long as War and Peace, so there is an awful lot that did not make it into this book, but as other books are planned, more will be revealed as time goes by.
Do you have any insights or understandings you have had since the writing and release of Spirit Land that you’d like to share with your readers?
Not specifically resulting from writing this book, but there is plenty I have learned during my time as a medicine man’s apprentice that I want to share, and will share in future books.
What one piece of advice would you share with your readers as far as stepping outside of one’s own comfort zone, as you did?
DO IT! There is no point in being a hermit crab, no matter how much hermit crabs might like being who they are. For real life to be real, at least a part of what you dream about has to be translated into reality. To achieve that usually entails taking risks and anyone who wants to achieve anything must take some degree of risk. For those for whom risk-taking is a fairly comfortable option, I would suggest that unless you wake up in the night sweating, the risk is not big enough to be worth taking. I repeat: DO IT!
Thank you, Charles Langley!
No level of expertise is required.
I enjoyed what I believe was a tastefully done glimpse into Navajo healing traditions.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Review by Jan Toomer