"As it has come down to us from out of the ripples of shamanistic lore, the quasi or semi organaform-being called the Death Defier was a human from long ago that, on becoming a shaman-sorcerer, used his powers to try and escape death. He managed to alter his form so he would more closely resemble inorganic beings. However, in the process, he was trapped by the lure of power from those same inorganic beings. Eons later he managed to escape. Existing on a thin threshold between the not-fully human and the inorganic he couldn't eat, yet still needed energy. To evade his former captors and sustain his form, he needed to constantly search for energy. In the year 1725 AD the Death Defier, addicted to living and needing energy, down on power, in his last dying moments, cornered a then minor shaman from a long line of minor shamans by the name of Sebastian. In a noticeable weakened state he was able to extort energy from him --- but only through a deal. To stay alive each generation of shaman-sorcerers in Sebastian's lineage would give the Death Defier some of their energy in exchange for knowledge --- knowledge and secrets gained or learned by the Death Defier over thousands and thousands of years. Thus the Death Defier 'earned' the name tenant and by doing so, a new lineage was born. The secret is, in making the deal, the crafty Sebastian and those that followed, have given the the life-addicted Defier only enough energy to survive."
THE DEATH DEFIER
One day my uncle and I were on one of our excursions deep into a remote part of the southern New Mexico desert to visit a very strange man my Uncle was somehow associated with. After arrival the two sat together in the shade outside the man's shack and talked for a good part of the day while I either played with the dogs or sat in the cab of the truck fiddling with the radio tying to find stations that wouldn't come in.
The old man my uncle was visiting was not Indian like the Navajo or Hopi I had been used to interacting with in most of our travels in the desert southwest. Neither was he a brown Mexican nor Anglo white either. However, as a boy I still thought he was an Indian, primarily because he looked like one --- although he spoke Spanish instead of any Indian dialect I was familar with. As I look back now there is a chance he may have been Yaqui or possibly of strong Mesoamerican heritage. To be truthful my sophistication in such matters at the time just weren't refined enough to assimilate all the subtle nuances.
Interestingly enough, some four years after spending a few days in the desert with the old man, I went with my uncle to the east coast to meet with my uncle's longtime friend, Albert Einstein. I was stunned, and most surely in awe of how the fully educated and noted scientist and the shoeless old man in the dirty baggy pants living in the desert somehow seemed so similar. It is not so much how they looked per se', because for sure, when I remember how Einstein looked or see a photograph of him I don't see a long, fine nose. However, as I struggle for words here, there was almost the exact same kind of aura or knowledge about the two them that you could feel or comprehend in your bones or gut somehow --- rather than knowing who they were being flashed over undulating thought-surfaces in a thin, veneer-like conceptual overlay using someone else's words. Seeing a man of Einstein's stature living in surroundings such as Princeton you might expect it. An old Indian living out in the middle of nowhere in a dirt floor shack is another thing.
On our second day with the old man we took off in the pick-up --- with me riding in the back and the two of them in the cab --- and under the directions of the old man, followed a rough almost non-road trail down into an area where a small stream trickled through the rocks. Stopping the truck we walked along the stream until we came upon a strand of willow trees where the stream curved and flattened out into a pond before it continued on. Turning and pointing up into the rocks above and behind us the old man said something in Spanish to my uncle. My uncle told me the old man said there was a small cave up in the rocks that was very sacred and wanted the two of us to climb up to it. I already had a somewhat frightening and extraordinary exprience involving a tribal or spritual elder sometime before at the Sun Dagger site and I wasn't excessively over eager to go through it again. After assurances from my uncle I hesitantly aggreed to go along.
Leaving the old man behind in the cool shade of the trees we climbed the steep side of a mountain until we reached a rock ledge at the very top. After reaching the vantage point of the ledge I could easily see we were in the foothills of an even higher range of mountains that hadn't been visible from the lower level of the creek. My heart sank as I thought we were going to have to climb farther. However, although there didn't seem to be any discernible trail on the way up, along the ledge there seemed to be the vaguest outline of a path. My uncle turned to follow the path like he had been there before and I trailed along in his footsteps. In a short distance my uncle stopped like he was looking for a recognizable landmark of some kind. He cupped his hands over his eyes and looked up toward the sun, then in a few more steps, basically out of nowhere we suddenly came upon a small shallow cave concealed amongst the rocks.
The cave was perfect for the two of us to sit in side by side out of the sun. My uncle's head nearly touched the top of the cave and our backs fit almost perfectly along the cool surface of the curved rock wall. When I commented on how nice the cave was my uncle told me it was man-made, having been carved out by ancient people thousands of years ago and that animals and insects and even people shied away from it because it had been infused with something that made living things feel ill at ease. Even so, I didn't feel it. At first, except for being tired from the climb, I felt quite comfortable there, I even liked it. Something about it gave me a good feeling inside. However, as time passed and in that we had no food or water and the sun began to drop low in the sky flooding the cave with heat and light, that feeling of good and comfortableness began to wane. Still we sat. The sun finally reached the top of the mountains across the valley. The very second the sun touched the mountains in its downward path I could clearly see it was centered exactly behind the point of the tallest mountain peak along the chain and perfectly aligned with the cave. I had watched the shadow of the peak and that of the wedge shaped sides from the mountain slowly crawl cross the valley below and upward along the foothills like a giant wave engulfing everything in its path until the very tip of the shadow touched into the cave. Then suddenly like an explosion of light it was gone, the black of the mountain glowing with illumination of the setting sun going down behind it leaving nothing but a slight glow along the horizon. With the sun gone it got very dark and cold.
Still we sat. I was tired, cold and hungry but, as the night wore on I began to get drowsy. Soon I was closing my eyes and nodding off, then slumped over in deep sleep.
I was jarred awake hearing my uncle talking with someone just outside the cave. Thinking the person might be the old man with food or water to share I scrambled out. The person he was talking to appeared in the dark to be an old man all right, but not the one we left at the creek. This old man was very thin an emaciated, dressed in what I would almost call a dirty white peasant outfit along with what appeared in the darkness to be the paraphernalia of a shaman. His skin was extremely dry with a color almost like the dull light yellow found on the white part of over-cooked bacon. He seemed startled to see me as though he didn't expect anyone to be there. He reached out his hand in an effort to touch me and my uncle stepped between us, grabbing his arm at the wrist and stopping him. When I moved to see the man more clearly my uncle again repositioned himself between us, blocking a clear view, all the while still holding the man's wrist. With his free arm behind his back my uncle pushed me toward the cave. The unexpected move caught me off guard and I lost my footing, falling backward onto the floor of the cave.
My uncle let go of the emaciated man's wrist, the two men yelling at each other eye-to-eye in an ever increasing volume. The man's bony arms were now fully outstretched in a straight upright position above his head with his baggy sleeves slipping to his shoulders and his hands curved down at the wrists, his long fingernails almost like claws --- all the while hissing like a cat in my uncle's face. Suddenly the man brushed past my uncle and lunged toward the cave. I shut my eyes and pulled myself up into a fetal position to protect myself when through it all I heard my uncle yell something at the top of his voice in Spanish. Then sudden silence. I waited for the impact and the grip of the man's hands, but nothing. I opened my eyes. My face was covered with a dirty white peasant shirt and on the floor of the cave was a pair of matching white pants along with the thinning end of a huge teardrop shaped pool of grease from outside the cave --- but NO sign of the emaciated man.
When I asked my uncle what had happened he told me he and the old man back at the creek were just ensuring my future, and it wasn't Spanish he had used, but, as I was to learn years later from my uncle, Latin prefaced with a northern Oaxaca or Popolocan language corruption of an ancient Mesoamerican word (or name) that I think was Xoxonapo.
Possibly also Xoxopanxoco. Roughly, in translation, an old person ready for death, senile. Specifically, The Death-Defier, as described by Carlos Castaneda and rendered in the masculine in Spanish by Castaneda as el desafiante de la muerte. Also sometimes, The Tenant, rendered in the masculine in Spanish as el inquilino. However, Amy Wallace, in her book Sorcerer's Apprentice (2003) writes that the Death Defiers name Xoxonapo, AKA: Xoxopanxoco, means "fruit of eternal spring" in Nahuatl, a southern Uto-Aztecan language. John Bierhorst, a recognized expert in Aztec language and literature, lists the word Xoxo:pan, (freq. of xopan), in translation as "in summer, every summer" and freely, "in sping" (when referring to new growth). He cites as an example:
Xoxo:pan xihuitl i:pan tochi:huaco[h] = we come to do as herbs in spring.
Xo:pan is green place, green time (i.e., spring), as opposed to the dry season.
Xo:tl means green, x:o:co means "by means of green."
For me there isn't really too much difference in translation. For a person "ready for death," actual death could be the FRUIT of "eternal spring." As applied, Xoxonapo Xoxopanxoco appears to be more of an oxymoron, as the Death Defier seemed to strive toward life at all costs rather than seek the FRUIT of eternal spring --- which I translate as death.
My uncle died in 1989. The Wallace book was published in 2003. The discussion regarding the cave with my uncle as discussed below transpired sometime well before either of those two years. During that discussion I tried to entice him to repeat for me what he had said that night outside the cave, verbatim, in whatever language it was, then translate into English the actual indepth meaning behind the words. He told me it ended that night in front of the cave and not to concern myself. However, he refused to say the Defier's name out loud intimating that he, my uncle --- and I quote --- "did not want to be found." According to Wallace, as told to her by a Castaneda confidant, by invoking the Death Defier's name in Tula, that is Nahuatl, the Defier's spirit will awaken.
I am not sure how accurate all that is. My uncle told me it ENDED that night in front of the cave, yet he was hesitant to the point that he refused to verbalize the Defier's name out loud. If it ended, then what's the problem --- unless there is more than just one Death Defier. And if there is, why would invoking one Defier's name awaken the spirit of another, especially to the point you could be found?
The major problem I have with the whole Death Defier situation is a personal one and goes back to those Friday night after work artist meetings described at the bottom of DON JUAN MATUS: Real or Imagined? and the full page CARLOS CASTANEDA: Before Don Juan. Those artist get togethers happened over a period of time before Carlos Castaneda, who was a regular participant at those meetings, ever heard of or thought of Don Juan Matus. However, at those meetings, on a minimum of two occasions, I either mentioned or told the cave story in an almost fully unabbreviated fashion as I have presented it above. I am certain Castaneda was in attendance for at least one, possibly both of those unabbreviated times. At that, the only reason I bring it up is because in Castaneda's eighth book Power of Silence (1988) in the section entitled THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT: The First Abstract Core he describes, at least up to the appearance of the emaciated man, an almost exact scenario --- carved out cave and all --- that transpired between himself and Don Juan.
So, what am I saying, that Castaneda copied my story? Could be. Or it could be, unrelated to anything I said, that he himself was taken to one of the three seasonal caves by Don Juan Matus or the old man or both. So too, although such an occurrence seems to be highly remote, he could have, after hearing the story and getting wrapped up in the various events as they unfolded, searched until he found one of the caves or someone who could take him there.
As to the emaciated man disappearing with a teardrop shape of what could only be called a pool of grease leading into the cave remaining, Castaneda, talking with an old Indian man regarding diableros and if any are left is told by the old man:
He killed dozens- maybe even hundreds of people with his sorcery. We couldn't put up with that and the people got together and took him by surprise one night and burned him alive."
"How long ago was that?"
"In nineteen forty-two."(i.e., the year 1942)
"Did you see it yourself?"
"No, but people still talk about it. They say that there were no ashes left even though the stake was made of fresh wood. All that was left at the end was a huge pool of grease."(source)
Pool of grease or no, there was neither fire nor wooden stake involved in the confrontation between my uncle and the creature that night. Although the grease pool was outside the opening of the cave following the incident initially, within seconds it evaporated, soaked into the hard rock surface, or simlpy disappeared altogether. However, in the instant before I covered my eyes and hit with the peasant clothes, I am sure, like the ability of the witch-like shaman sorceress 'la Catalina' I saw a large wisp of smoke disappating against the darkened starlit sky similar as in the event written about 'la Catalina' below. My uncle stated he himself observed no such phenomenon outside the cave that night:
"Looking toward the woman across the fire after Castaneda handed her the book, he caught a glimpse of her dark silhouette between the flames rising superimposed against the twilight sky, and then almost in a wisp of smoke the blackened silhouette seemed to sail through the air beyond view in the darkness."
In Castaneda's third book, Journey to Ixtlan, in the section titled A Worthy Opponent dated Tuesday, December 11, 1962, Castaneda writes of 'la Catalina' not unlilke the creature at the cave, having a similar ability as the woman at the firepit. Castanteda says:
"I kept my eyes glued to that spot and suddenly, as if in a nightmare, a dark shadow leaped at me. I shrieked and fell down to the ground on my back. For a moment the dark silhouette was superimposed against the dark blue sky and then it sailed through the air and landed beyond us, in the bushes. I heard the sound of a heavy body crashing into the shrubs and then an eerie outcry."
ABOUT THE CAVE:
Many people have asked me about the cave. My uncle told me it was man-made and very ancient. It was quite clear it was located and made where it was because of its exact alignment with the setting sun and the major mountain peak across the valley. When asked about the timing for me being there I am at a loss for words as I was never informed one way or the other by my uncle or the tribal spiritual elder that it was somehow coordinated because of a given celestial event or any other reason. However, as I look back now I am convinced being there must have been because of the solstice or the equinox --- although in either case, the importance of that being so was never made clear. In that I was off from school at the time it must have been summer or possibly fall, but I really can't say as I do not remember. I do know that I had already been with my uncle at the Sun Dagger site and our timing there was designed to coincide with an extremely "special time," that special time being an occurrence of a very rare astronomical phenomenon of the moon being full at the EXACT same time as the summer solstice. Initially the Sun Dagger event did not seem to involve me, only my uncle and the spiritual elder we were traveling with. But the results were quite different before we left. The event in the cave ended with a similar involvement.
Who originally built the cave, how ancient it really was, and why it was so important to go through all the trouble to align it with the equinox or solstice is also a mystery to me. Years later I asked my uncle where the cave was and how to find it. He told me it was a very sacred place, but when the time came it would be revealed to me. He also told me including the cave we had been to there were two other mostly hand-carved caves spread out along the ridge for a total of three, each one aligned with one of the seasons and the mountain peak across the valley --- one for the two equinoxes, one each for each of the solstices.
Even though my uncle had told me that when the time came it would be revealed to me, to this point in time, and even though many upon many years have elasped, such has not been the case. I can tell you that as I was leaving the cave very early the next morning and looked back I could see the ridgeline was slightly crescent shaped curving fairly sharply toward the west and rather slowly curving back toward the west at the other end --- almost as though the center of the crescent was directly in the middle facing toward the mountian peak across the valley. Hiking back to the truck, after I asked, my uncle told me as you sat in the cave facing toward the equinox sunset, the summer solstice cave was to the left of the equinox cave along the ridgeline, which was in the middle of the three, while the winter solstice cave was to the right.
Although, as presented in The Last American Darshan, I had been to and seen, as a very young boy, Arunachala, the holy mountain of the venerated Indian sage the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, I did not remember it primarily because of mitigating circumstances. However, the first time I saw a picture of Arunachala depicting it in a distance view, as a grown-up, thinking back to my experience at the cave, even though the mountain peak was way across the valley from the cave, the shape of the peak looked exactly like Arunachala.
AND NOW THIS:
ABOUT THE WANDERLING AS THE AUTHOR OF THIS SITE:
Over and over people ask why is it that they should accept what I have written about Castaneda as having any amount of credibility?
--------(please click image)
For one thing, as clearly described in the main text above, I personally knew, met and interacted with Castaneda many times --- however, it was done-so long before Castaneda became Castaneda. Matter of fact, he was still a nobody student trying hard to obtain an AA degree from Los Angeles City College, working at Mattel Toy Company. During that period he considered himself mostly as an aspiring artist rather than anything that remotely resembled an author or shaman. Secondly, and unrelated to Castaneda and I knowing each other, my uncle was the Informant that is so widely mentioned in Castaneda's works both by him and others that introduced him to the rituals and rites of the use of the plant Sacred Datura. If you remember from Castaneda's works, it was Sacred Datura and NOT Peyote that first sent him into his initial experiences of altered states. Third, in an attempt on my part to confirm, clear up, or have any number of things that have shown up or been said about Castaneda and his life that should be discounted, things that have taken on a life of their own as fact because they have been repeated over and over so often, I personally interviewed, talked to, or conversed with a number of individuals that were prominent in his life --- especially so in areas that raise conflict when people read one thing about him and I write another.
Originally, when I first started writing about Castaneda it was for one reason only. It had to do with help substantiating an incident in my life that revolved around what are known in Buddhism and Hindu spiritual circles under the ancient Sanskrit word Siddhis. Siddhis are supernormal perceptual states that once fully ingrained at a deep spiritual level can be utilized by a practitioner to initiate or inhibit incidents that are beyond the realm of typical everyday manifestation.
In that the incident that occurred in my life, although bordering on the edges of what is generally conceived in the west as Shamanism or possibly the occult, was actually deeply immersed on the eastern spiritual side of things. To bridge the understanding between the eastern and western concepts I brought in for those who may have been so interested the legacy of one of the most well read practitioner of such crafts in the western world, Carlos Castaneda. Although highly controversial and most certainly not the fully unmitigated expert in the field, he is widely read and a known figure when mentioned, by camps both pro and con. So said, Castaneda has the highest profile in of all individuals to have claimed the ability through shamanistic rituals the ability to fly --- thus, for reasons as they related to me I used Castaneda in my works as an example. In doing so it opened a virtual Pandora's Box of never ending controversy, causing me to either ignore or substantiate what I presented. Hence, as questions were raised by me in my own writing or raised by those who read my material more pages were created to explain who, what, when, where, and why.
SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
The following people were all major movers in the life of Carlos Castaneda, and at one time or the other I met and talked with them all, which is more than most people who write about Castaneda has ever done. And I only did so on and off over time primarily to clarify questions about Castaneda that I had read that just did not make sense. Most people who question what I have presented about Castaneda simply gather their information from the standard already in existence party line. Some of the people I've talked to in reference to Castaneda who, following some rather extended discussions, clarified a lot for me --- after Castaneda himself of course, others are people like C. Scott Littleton, Alex Apostolides, Barbara G. Myerhoff, Edward H. Spicer, Clement Meighan, who Castaneda dedicated his first book to, and Castaneda's ex-wife Margaret Runyan.
Interestingly enough, my interview with Runyan came about because before she married Castaneda, she had been engaged to another author, the cowboy and western writer, with over 100 books to his credit, Louis L'amour. It just so happened my uncle who, if you recall, was the Informant in Castaneda lore, just happened to know L'Amour. My uncle took me with him one day he went to see L'Amour. When I had a chance to meet Runyan years later I used me knowing L'Amour as the wedge to talk with her. As it was, and not many people know about it, my uncle, who was influential with Castaneda also, along with another man deeply seeped in Native American spiritual lore by the name of H. Jackson Clark, worked together funneling Native American spiritual facts to L'Amour used as a theme in two of his books that borderlined much of what Castaneda wrote about, titled The Californios and Haunted Mesa.
Can a nicuicanitl huiya Xochitl in noyollo ya
nicmana nocuic a ohuaya ohuaya
o xoxpanxoco o xoxopanxoco
CARLOS CASTANEDA: BEFORE DON JUAN
CARLOS CASTANEDA: TIMELINE
POWER OF THE SHAMAN
THE DEATH DEFIER
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