Monday, January 23, 2012

Heriberto Yépez, "Re-reading María Sabina"

What this means is that Sabina was a wise-one not because she ate mushrooms and got into trips, but because she dominated a dynamical dictionary of meanings.

She re-produced those meanings in the ceremonies; she rewrote that dynamical dictionary throughout her life. She was trying to revolutionize the praxis. That’s why she even allowed foreigners to participate. She was trying to go beyond. She wanted to open the book. Maybe trying to open the book too much was the reason why her own book fell apart.

Understanding her praxis consisted in quoting means to reestablish the context. Understanding the recontextualization practice she made. Understanding time was her page. Her chants are the remaking of a cultural history. She was a woman working very consciously in the field of socio-metaphysics.

When she calls herself, let’s say, "opossum-woman" she is not referring to the animal but to a string of myths. Munn (using as sources the books of Carlos Incháustegui) synthesizes how the opossum represents for Mazatecs the power to play dead and gain invulnerability, the task of stealing fire--which is key because stealing fire creates ‘culture’. So if at first "opossum-woman" can bring images of Sabina identifying with ‘nature’ reading her more carefully brings us to the fact that Sabina chants are an interweaving of artificial meanings, and not an animistic exercise or ‘flow-of-words’ or a simple litany of plants, objects and characters. From the Moon to the Water, Sabina quotes cultural artifacts. Signs-with-histories. She re-constructs the order of words, meanings, contexts, subjects, cultures and things.

When reading

      I am opossum-woman

We should read,

      I am the interplay of nature and culture-woman.
      I am the performance-of-death-woman.
      I am the recasting-of-myths-woman.
      I am the keeper-and-changer-of-the-meanings-of-‘opossum’-woman

Our traditional understanding of Sabina (Paz included) falls very short of what she was really doing. Words for her are a therapeutic instrument, and a way to depict visions, but also a self-conscious flesh that remakes and investigates prior texts.

There’s nothing spontaneous, naïve, automatic or unconscious in María Sabina’s poetic praxis. Sabina is not a poet of the unconscious but of self-consciousness itself, a poet of cultural rereading and rewriting. 

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