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Biography of Martín Prechtel

Artist, Writer, Musician, Storyteller, Teacher, Healer

As an avid student of indigenous eloquence, innovative language and thought, Martín Prechtel is a writer, artist, and teacher who, through his work both written and spoken, hopes to promote the subtlety, irony, and premodern vitality hidden in any living language. A half-blood Native American with a Pueblo Indian upbringing, he left New Mexico to live in the village of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, eventually becoming a full member of the Tzutujil Mayan community there. For many years he served as a principal in that body of village leaders responsible for piloting the young people through the meanings of their ancient stories in the rituals of adult rites of passage.

Once again, residing in his beloved New Mexico, Prechtel teaches at his international school, Bolad’s Kitchen. Through an immersion into the world’s lost seeds and sacred farming, forgotten music, magical architecture, ancient textile making, metalsmithing, the making and using of tools, musical instruments and food and the deeper meanings of the origins of all these things in the older stories, in ancient texts and by teaching through the traditional use of riddles, Prechtel hopes to inspire people of every mind and way to regrow and revitalize real culture and to find their own sense of place in the sacredness of a newly found daily existence in love with the natural world. Prechtel lives with his family and their Native Mesta horses in Northern New Mexico.

Praise for Martín Prechtel’s Books

The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic is like one of the seeds Martín Prechtel describes. When planted in fertile ground, the words and thoughts and images and prayers will grow into a life-giving complexity. This is a wondrous and powerful book.”

“A brilliant writer, Martín Prechtel bears gifts from our ancestors, gifts that are essential to awaken a wayward humanity to the need for a spiritual ecology.”

“Prechtel’s words are like the wildly colored heirloom kernels of corn born of ancestral knowledge that traditional Maya farmers prayerfully place into the holy earth. Once planted, the author waters these sacred seeds of the Indigenous Soul with heartfelt compassion for a spiritually disconnected humanity in this period of global transformation. May these sprouts of indigenous awareness flourish and produce vital seeds for a collective return to an awareness of our oneness with nature.”

“[Martín Prechtel is] a short kind of pony that gallops through the fields of human possibility with flowers dropping out of his mouth…”

“After reading Rescuing the Light, I feel like I’ve been planted at this moment with spiritual common sense and that I don’t have to solve the mystery but know the acceptance of amazement.”

“Through savoring and digesting so many sparks of wisdom, perhaps you will discover that Rescuing the Light is in essence about beauty—that is, about the light that resides inside all things and all people, visible to those who dare to look. En el proceso de saborear y digerir tantos destellos de sabiduría atesorados en estas páginas, descubrirás quizás que Rescuing the Light trata en esencia sobre la belleza, sobre la luz que reside dentro de todos y todo, visible para quienes se atreven a mirar.”

“Each little seed of eloquence that came before me bloomed off the page with such riotous exuberance that it couldn’t be contained, and how do you turn the page from that? It’s like looking out the window to see a dragon eating your car and turning to finish the dishes.… This is truly a miraculous text, like a hatful of magical castles and horses! Please be warned: This is not a book of wise sayings designed to make you feel better, to make your life better, or feed your soul. It’s really not even a book at all—it’s more like a bag of holes to throw onto the wall of the box you have been trained to think was your life, and if you dare let the light in, and maybe even summon up the courage to peek out, you may just find a path to becoming a useful being, capable of feeding something far grander than yourself.…”

“In a time of immense cultural insanity, Martín’s inimitable spirit echoes out through the words on these pages. As an Indigenous woman, his words have had a profound healing impact on the generations in my bloodlines. Rescuing the Light will reverberate across the grand loom of time, a true gift for the transformative times we find ourselves in. This book helps us remember how to be good future ancestors and responsible descendants. Kí:ken iewennahnotáhkhwa. Ionkwaienawá:se aonsaionkwehiahráhkwen oh ní:ioht ahonnonkwe’tiióhake tsi nén:we ne ionkhihsothokón:’a akénhake tánon aionkhiniáhese tsi nikionkwathwatsirí:non.”

“Once in a decade you read a book that, for a time, renders all other books irrelevant, trivial, or extraneous. Such a deep experience with a book makes it nearly impossible to write about it without sounding like an advertisement rather than an earnest review. However, in this case I must persevere, as Martín Prechtel’s latest book (his fourth), Stealing Benefacio’s Roses, is one of these peak moments in recent literature….”

“This in not an account of a vestigial culture; this is the operating manual for a sacred planet, a planet the Earth once was and still could be.”

“Each of these beautiful stories is full of delicious knowledge and spirit and like all good horses, when they bring you home at the end of the ride, you feel exhilarated and closer to your true self. I enjoyed reading it immensely.”

“This is a very powerful soul-growth book, one of the most powerful in recent years. The ideas are so fresh and new that they quicken the taste buds and put an expectant readiness in the legs!”

“Martín Prechtel is one of the most profound teachers I have ever encountered. He is an unusually gifted artist, musician, storyteller who guides and initiates with passion, kindness, eloquence, wisdom, fierceness and humor, awakening us to the sacred realities present everywhere at all times. To be with Martín is to remember the forgotten divinity that is the very essence of who we are.”

“A lyrical, haunting memoir of one man’s spiritual rebirth in a Mayan village before it is ravaged by guerrilla warfare and modern times. Long Life, Honey in the Heart is a cry from the heart—a lonely yearning for an ancient beautiful culture now gone forever.”

“Told with great honesty, insight, and generosity, Prechtel’s chronicle offers modern readers a privileged and rare glimpse into the complex and spiritually rich life of a contemporary Mayan village.”

“This eloquent and expressive work…is highly recommended.”

“The picture [Prechtel] creates…is so beautifully drawn that his delight in their culture becomes contagious, as does his grief when the civil war creates havoc in their village.”

“A superbly written work. Perhaps most remarkable is the luminous eloquence of Prechtel’s language—the book is written in a style worthy of the reverence accorded by most oral peoples to the beauty of living language. That so many experiences and insights rooted in indigenous, participatory, oral modes of awareness managed to be translated onto the written page, without losing their ancestral wildness, is something of a wonder. It’s a landmark text, a kind of talisman filled with clues for those working on behalf of the wild, more-than-human earth. Don’t miss it.”

“[Prechtel’s] view of the Maya allows us to hear the snap of twigs, the hiss of burning wood, the ageless power in an elder’s voice, the sound of people’s laughter, the sound of his own breaking heart, the beating wings of many fierce souls. And I think that, although they keep a squinting, watchful eye on ‘written accounts,’ the Mayan gods, who hold eloquence above all else, must surely be pleased with this soul, who, in this lifetime, is named Martín Prechtel.”

“In Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Prechtel…shows how to infuse language with spirit and a sense of the sacred without sacrificing its sensuousness. He demonstrates for us how a trained bard of a traditional society might attack a writing project—with all 20 layers transparent and tingling!”

“Martin Prechtel’s book is beautifully written and wise… he offers stories that are precious and life-sustaining. Read carefully, and listen deeply.”

“Here Martin Prechtel sends us an invitation to peace: to personal, village-level, and world peace. His indigenous wisdom gives us much-needed insights into the reverberating impact of not grieving our heart-rending losses. Most poignantly, he shows us the devastating inheritance of our ever more voracious wars and the misunderstood burden of ghosts that swirl around our modern warriors. Yet, instead of leaving us more despondent, every chapter holds out a new seed, breaking into new life. Martin coaxes us through funny and quirky turns of the ordinary and the miraculous to leave us inspired to wake up singing to the beauty of our rising sun and live in praise of this complex and gracious world.”

“Martin Prechtel’s genius takes many forms: painting, music, a continuously evolving learning community, and thank God, books like this one. I get so excited reading it, I cannot stay in one place. I sit reading on my porch…then back to my living room to make a fire and watch Martin’s gorgeously alive prose burn inside me. His ideas and language are so enlivening my impulse is to quote great sections of it. I’ll just touch on a few of his brilliant insights around how animals help us to grieve, and to make our way out of grief into the beauty of praising. As he says, animals help us grieve our loss of naturalness. And we have mostly forgotten ‘the very old worldwide tribal custom of having a “grief relative” from the wild living together with us in our houses.’ Caring for animals is a sacred responsibility. To truly grieve and to weep deeply is something the animals really do help us with. And O they help us praise too, to accomplish that most marvelous art of turning the grief into praising. Martin tells us, ‘Let the world jump up and live again,’ and he makes that happen with his delicious sentences. Read this necessary, very beautiful book, and then read it again.”

“Alchemy, by definition, metabolizes and transmutes. A reading of The Smell of Rain on Dust is alchemical. If the shredding of the glorious web of life has you sinking into a depth of despair, read this book; your grief can metabolize and transmute such wrongness. Deep and delightful, The Smell of Rain on Dust is also instructive. It will charm you into wanting to live life more fully, to walk in beauty even amongst modernity’s polarized spiritual failures.”

Once again, Martin Prechtel is up to his old tricks… “Making medicine out of poison.” Taking grief, pain, strife and other elements of a society in distress and concocting a potion that actually heals those who have ears to listen.  The Smell of Rain on Dust does exactly that.  In a world that needs to grieve its wrongdoings but has lost its ability or forgotten its ancient wisdom, Mr. Prechtel has been selected as a spokesman to reunite modern man with ancient wisdom. Not an enviable position!

I love Martín’s book. It was amazing reading it aloud to the Ocean. At one point I moved up the coast assuming the listening birds, seals and whales would stay, but they moved with me. The waves listened and the wind. Read this magical book as it takes you into the courtyard of the heart.

This wonderful book, The Smell of Rain on Dust, not only addresses this culture’s lack of grief but it discusses in poignant ways how our inability to grieve  has created many of our culture’s delirious, fast paced, toxic, constant state of emergency symptoms where depression, addiction and mediocrity reign.  As a mother, daughter, teacher, and farmer I found  this book to stir up a deep prayer, that as a people we might one day through being with the depths of our grief find so much love and  deliciousness in being alive that we  praise this life so genuinely nothing  is left unloved.

I held my personal grief for decades until, with the help of the author, I ceremonially metabolized my grief into a thing of beauty. Like a magic genie, I popped out of the bottle I had crawled into with a renewed love of life.  In The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise, Prechtel leads the reader down this same trail of animals and life in the womb while revealing that grief is the sister of praise. Like Prechtel’s other books, this astonishing book will draw me back often to re-examine the beauty of a life lived well.

Many Veterans are now banding into “Warrior Societies” but do not know what direction to go. In my work, I see on a daily basis many new patients (veterans) coming in for help: some with traumatic brain injury (TBI), substance abuse treatment (mainly alcohol), post traumatic disorders, and the all too often “suicidal attempt” where a new generation of warriors kick off the repressed memories of Vietnam era warriors remembering what was suppressed for so many years, their minds desperately making an often failed attempt to resolve an un-grieved, ghost ridden past. The Smell of Rain on Dust beautifully addresses the possibility of a “Society of Warriors” so changed by having killed that they become a society of healers to heal those wounded in war, both old and new.

“It’s a precious thing, this book. I’ve never known another like it. It’s a great encyclopedia of beauty… Like some poems of Neruda’s, it is a treasure house of language, in service to life.”

“Prechtel’s storytelling is intricately woven, densely layered and beautiful.”

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