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The Shamanic Odyssey

Homer, Tolkien, and the Visionary Experience

Reveals the striking parallels between indigenous cultures of the Americas and the ancient Homeric world as well as Tolkien’s Middle Earth

• Explores the shamanic use of healing songs, psychoactive plants, and vision quests at the heart of the Odyssey and the fantasy works of J. R. R. Tolkien

• Examines Odysseus’s encounters with plant divinities, altered consciousness, animal shapeshifting, and sacred topography--all concepts vital to shamanism

• Reveals how the Odyssey emerged precisely at the rupture between modern and primal consciousness

Indigenous, shamanic ways of healing and prophecy are not foreign to the West. The native way of viewing the world--that is, understanding our cosmos as living, sentient, and interconnected--can be found hidden throughout Western literature, beginning with the very origin of the European literary tradition: Homer’s Odyssey.

Weaving together the narrative traditions of the ancient Greeks and Celts, the mythopoetic work of J. R. R. Tolkien, and the voices of plant medicine healers in North and South America, the authors explore the use of healing songs, psychoactive plants, and vision quests at the heart of the Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Tolkien’s final novella, Smith of Wootton Major. The authors examine Odysseus’s encounters with plant divinities, altered consciousness, animal shapeshifting, and sacred topography--all concepts vital to shamanism. They show the deep affinities between the healing powers of ancient bardic song and the icaros of the shamans of the Amazon rain forest, how Odysseus’s battle with Circe--wielder of narcotic plants and Mistress of Animals--follows the traditional method of negotiating with a plant ally, and how Odysseus’s journey to the land of the dead signifies the universal practice of the vision quest, a key part of shamanic initiation.

Emerging precisely at the rupture between modern and primal consciousness, Homer’s work represents a window into the lost native mind of the Western world. In this way, the Odyssey as well as Tolkien’s work can be seen as an awakening and healing song to return us to our native minds and bring our disconnected souls back into harmony with the living cosmos.

Robert Tindall is a writer, classical guitarist, and inveterate traveler who has lived in England, Argentina, Peru, and Mexico. His work explores themes of pilgrimage and the crossing of frontiers into other cultures and states of consciousness. With his wife, Susana, he leads groups into the Amazon rain forest to encounter the indigenous healing traditions there. In addition to The Jaguar that Roams the Mind, he is the author of The Battle of the Soul in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“The authors weave a fascinating tale connecting South American shamanic practices of magic plants and wondrous spirit beings to one of the West’s oldest mythic tales of exploration--Homer’s Odyssey. Such tales provide nourishment and medicine for the soul’s growth.”

– Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., psychologist, Professor Emeritas at the California Institute of Integral Studi

“The authors’ exploration of the shamanic, indigenous characteristics of Odysseus’ journey through the ancient otherworld of divine powers is a noteworthy new contribution to the field of Classics. In particular, his reading of the Odysseus and the Cyclops episode in light of the encounter between the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the ‘civilized’ European conquistadores opens marvelous new possibilities for understanding the mind of Homeric man.”

– Carl A. P. Ruck, Ph.D., professor of Classical Studies at Boston University, and co-author of The Ro

“A unique and insightful comparative look at the Odyssey and the South American shamanic tradition—highly recommended!”

– Mark Plotkin, author of The Shaman’s Apprentice and Medicine Quest

“Tindall and Bustos do more than remind us of a world celebrated by visionaries from Homer to Shakespeare to Tolkien to indigenous shamans, a world where the old gods walked with us and the animals taught us how to live and the plants healed us. They take us there.”

– Steve Walker, Ph.D., Professor BYU College of Humanities, author of The Power of Tolkien’s Pro

“Placing the story firmly in a shamanic context, ranging on the way over sacred psychoactive plants and the creative mythology of Middle–earth, and presenting us with a Homer who is an indigenous singer of healing song, Tindall and Bustos have a truly comprehensive vision, a striking depth of knowledge, a scholar’s love of language, and a compelling storyteller’s way of tying together the many threads. A significant and hugely enjoyable book.”

– Stephan V. Beyer, author of Singing to the Plants

The Shamanic Odyssey is a brilliant book, and beautifully thought out. The authors explore wildness, in the form of plant spirits, indigenous people, and ancient roots of deep knowledge. They illustrate what one meets on a shamanic quest, whether mythic, collective or individual. The treatment is erudite, illuminating, and deeply insightful.”

– Kathleen Harrison, M.A., Ethnobotanist

“Tindall and Bustos have blended personal experiences and scholarship into a compelling narrative that links the indigenous wisdom hidden in the Odyssey to contemporary shamanistic practices in North and South America. A marvelous blend of stories and practices illuminating today’s pressing problems. Overall, a splendid, engaging and ultimately hopeful presentation.”

– James Fadiman, Ph.D., author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide

“The elegance and brilliance of this book will demolish philosophical presuppositions, break literary boundaries, create new dialogue between worlds, change your eyes, and open your heart.”

– Adine Gavazzi, author of Arquitectura Andina

“The nature of reality and of consciousness is slippery. At the cutting edge of quantum physics scientists now tell us that no absolute truth or reality exists. In The Shamanic Odyssey however, Tindall and Bustos demonstrate we have always intuitively known that to be the case, from the first origins of European literature to the oral wisdom of shamanic traditions worldwide. This evidence has important consequences for how we view meaning, life and truth.”

– Ross Heaven, founder of The Four Gates, therapist and author of Cactus of Mystery

“An ingenious, innovative approach to the Odyssey, the symbolic language of the myth and the world of Classics. Extremely interesting, well documented, intuitive and very well presented. A joy to read.”

– Evie Holmberg, professor of Classics and Greek Patristic Literature, Hellenic College, Holy Cross Sc

“This is a fascinating work which offers an insider’s view of the shamanic way of life, it is solidly founded on a traditional worldview and while offering much of the latest psychological research on the nature of shamanism avoids many of the pitfalls of a ‘western looking in’ at the shamanic experience.”

– Living Traditions, February 2013

“..if you enjoy literature and the role of shamanic thinking in the world-at-large, then this is great reading.”

– Psychedelic Press UK, March 2013

“The authors’ exploration of the shamanic, indigenous characteristics of Odysseus’s journey through the ancient otherworld of divine powers is a noteworthy new contribution in the field of Classics.”

– Carl A.P. Ruck, Boston University, Reality Sandwich, January 2014

More books from this author: Robert Tindall