It began in my dreams when I was a child. Strong and vivid glimpses of stories untold. As a kid it was a weird and overwhelming experience. The fact that I was born a “fruit salad” confused me further: a mix of bloodlines, from indigenous Mapuche to Italian, Spanish and Swiss ancestry. I am an indigenous mutation, a hybrid, constantly shapeshifting. Growing up a brown boy in a predominantly white environment, in the Chilean capital of Santiago, I never felt as though I fitted in and constantly wondered about my roots. I found respite in my school library, where I read everything that came into my hands, especially tales that contained any traces of mythology or magic. Gathering copious amounts of imagination, and some courage, I left home in my late teens and reached out first to the most alive—and at the same time forgotten—part of my heritage: the indigenous Mapuche people.
Leaving home, and with it everything that was familiar, felt both thrilling and utterly mad. I felt a strong calling, something mysterious and inexplicable was propelling me and I went for it. My journey began in the heart of the Andean mountains, at a place high above the clouds where the water is crystalline and the people still dance with the land. The first encounter with who would later become my teacher was marked with openness and a strange sense of familiarity, as if we knew each other from before. An indigenous grandmother in her sixties unwittingly initiated me in the Earth wisdom traditions. The night descended upon us suddenly, after having some wild conversations and sharing food around the open fire that was literally the centre of the house, on that beautifully simple earthen floor. Can we sleep here? my friend and I asked in unison out of nowhere. We had a room for you, but yeah, if that’s what you’d prefer, said our host, quite puzzled by our odd request. The coziness of the fire, the stillness of the mountain and waking dreams mixed together in that night, lighting my soul once and forever. In times of great unravelling, you can ask your dreams for council: it works.
The next morning as we jumped out of our temporary bed, my friend and I looked at each other in total amazement—we somehow knew we had had the same dream. In the dream, we were around the same fire that warmed us to sleep that night, this time however grandma Francisca was in front of us: standing majestic, making offerings to the fire, teaching us how to pray to the living world. My voyage into mysticism, and the realisation that the heart is our true compass, had begun.
A sense of belonging
Being 20, you don’t think twice about what you do, you just follow your instincts, and mine were strong. This journey to the Amazon—but really into discovering myself, my heart compass—was physically and emotionally challenging and also deeply rewarding. It was a modern initiation of sorts, hitchhiking down the mythical Pan-American highway that runs almost uninterrupted from Alaska to Patagonia, with little money and a small bag full to the brim with dreams. Which dreams? To really know myself, to discover myself, a unique remix of genes, constantly unfolding; the outer journey mirroring the one within.
Having found “home” and a sense of meaning among indigenous communities, I started diving into the parts of my being that are European, and began to build a bridge between the many different inheritances within myself, weaving them together into a complex tapestry, a cohesive whole. There is still certainly a tension between these identities, histories, and practices, but it eases when I am able to stand in the middle of it all, just as a human being. It is then I am able to feel the full richness and synergy of what it means to be a Latino living in the UK in the anthropocene. We can bridge, weave, remember—we are all indigenous to the earth.
Applying tools and practices
In times where there is so much division and fragmentation, I try to approach daily life with the same openness, humility and reverence for life that my teachers bestowed upon me. I also believe in a sense of humour, and that the acquisition of wisdom isn’t something we should take too seriously. At the same time, we must always honour and uphold the integrity of what we have been entrusted with—and never appropriate something that has not been given to us.
There are many tools and practices that I employ to help me stay attuned to this sense of being, belonging and connection to the mystical in the everyday. Here are my top three:
Altar: I create an altar everywhere I go. This is a central portal for intention, prayer and anything we are calling or releasing in our life. Some simple objects that make up the altar include a candle, a special cloth, elements from nature and photos of people who mean a lot to me. I see it as a living represtation of my journey: a reminder of where I come from and where I am going.
Fire: Fire can be destructive and is one of the oldest technologies. It’s alive in all of us if we are patient enough to listen. It is also the great alchemiser: an element of constant transformation and purification. It has been my life companion, teacher and friend. I like to keep a candle on my altar to honour my ancestors and keep the element present in my everyday.
Song: this came into my life later on. It was not until I decided to quit uni and spend some proper time learning about mysticism that things started to flow. I started to explore what literally makes the heart sing, how we can bring forth our voice form our heart, and the quality of that resonance. It can be anything from singing a pop song like La Bamba to deep and profound medicine songs: it’s about presence, potency, timbre and what it evokes. In one moment, singing from the sacred depths, you can become a cosmic wurlitzer.
To me, mysticism is a superpower like kindness, authenticity and openness. Something that is only found within you, and which you can cultivate. To use Gregory Bateson’s words, life is the process of revealing the pattern that connects. This pattern and these codes, the matrices of existence, are embedded in our reality. They can be a song playing on the radio, a strange dream, a recuring symbol in your life. Indigenous worldviews, with their ancient epistemologies, can help us with this and remind us who we truly are and where we come from. When reality and the dreamworld merge, the boundary between the liminal space and ordinary reality no longer exists. It is then that we can understand why we are here.
This issue is part of our Mysticism campaign at Dumbo Feather. For more conversations and essays on the topic, get your hands on a copy of Issue 62 of Dumbo Feather magazine.