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Martín Prechtel is an American author and educator. Raised on a Pueblo reservation in New Mexico, and of First Nations and Swiss ancestry, as a young man in 1970 he traveled to Guatemala. After a year, he settled in a Tz'utujil village near Lake Atitlan. He learned their Mayan language and studied with a shaman.
He assimilated into village life, marrying a Tz'utujil woman and having a family with her. After his mentor's death, he became accepted as the temporary shaman of the Tz'utujil people in the Atitlan region. During the extended Guatemalan civil war, Prechtel and his family fled to the United States for safety. The couple separated and their two sons joined their father in the US. He began to share his spiritual teachings from the Maya, and contributed to workshops sponsored by poet Robert Bly, who was leading the Men's Movement. Prechtel has published several non-fiction books drawing from his time in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala; the first was published in 1998, and the most recent in 2015. Prechtel settled near Ojo Caliente, where he operates a school. He also lectures internationally and gives workshops on spirituality.
Prechtel was raised on a Pueblo Indian reservation near Ojo Caliente, New Mexico. He learned the Keres language as well as English growing up. His mother was a First Nations Canadian and his father a Swiss paleontologist.
In 1970 his mother died and Prechtel ended his first marriage. He started traveling, going south through Mexico and entering Guatemala. After a year of traveling through the country, he settled in a small village near Lake Atitlan, which was inhabited by the Tz'utujil (one of the numerous ethnic Maya peoples). There he met Nicolas Chiviliu Tacaxoy, a respected shaman of the village, who told him that Prechtel was the student he had prayed for. The American began studying with the Mayan shaman.
Prechtel learned the Tzutujil language, married a Tzutujil woman, and helped raise their two sons (a third son died young). He eventually became one of the most important village members, both spiritually and politically. When his teacher and mentor Chiviliu died, Prechtel became acting shaman to the approximately thirty thousand people of Santiago Atitlan.
Prechtel also joined the Scat Mulaj (the village political body). During his time there, he rose to the position of Nabey Mam (the first chief). He was responsible for leading the initiation and ritual passage of the village's young men into adulthood. As the violence of the Guatemalan civil war (1960–1996) increased, when government forces were attacking the Mayan villages in the highlands, Prechtel and his family fled for their lives. In 1984 they settled in the U.S. His wife returned to Guatemala later with their two sons, and the couple divorced. The two boys later returned to the US to live with their father.
Upon resettling in the US, Prechtel was introduced to poet Robert Bly, who was active in leading what he called a Men's Movement. He began contributing to Bly's workshops, and Bly was instrumental in getting Prechtel's writing published, writing the Foreword to his first book, which was published in 1998.
Prechtel married again, to a woman named Hanna, and resides in New Mexico, at the site of the school he founded near his former home village of Ojo Caliente. The school is called Bolad's Kitchen. Prechtel speaks at different international educational conferences and leads workshops to assist in individuals reconnecting to the sacredness in nature and daily life. In addition, he helps them find a sense of purpose in the modern world. Colleagues include Robert Bly, Malidoma Somé, and Michael J Meade.
Prechtel has published several non-fiction books drawing from his learning among the Maya in Guatemala. These include Secrets of the Talking Jaguar (1998), an autobiographical account of his initiation as a Mayan shaman, which is likely the best known. Robert Bly wrote the Foreword. Publishers' Weekly said he described his apprenticeship to a shaman and 13 years of living as a Tzutujil, saying "his view seems at times romanticized" but he portrays an "idyllic Indian life" of "colorful rituals and rapport with nature."
Long Life, Honey in the Heart (1999) is an account of his village life in Santiago Atitlán; Stealing Benefacio's Roses: A Mayan Epic (formerly titled The Toe Bone and The Tooth), an autobiographical account of how he relived an ancient Mayan myth; and The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun, a Mayan myth that includes Prechtel's observations of how the Maya relate to the story.
His newest book is The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise (2015). His works also include paintings and various musical recordings.
- Secrets of the Talking Jaguar (1999)
- Long Life, Honey in the Heart (1999)
- The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun (2002)
- Stealing Benefacio's Roses: A Mayan Epic (formerly titled The Toe Bone and The Tooth) (2002)
- Grief and Praise (Audio CD)
- The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive (2012)
- The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise (2015)
- Jensen, Derrick. 2011. Truths Among Us: Conversations on Building a New Culture. Oakland, CA: PM Press. Martín Prechtel, pp. 233–257.
- Prechtel, Martin in Jensen, Derrick. 2011. Truths Among Us: Conversations on Building a New Culture. Oakland, CA: PM Press. p. 254.
- Jensen, Derrick (April 2001). "Saving the Indigenous Soul: An Interview with Martín Prechtel". The Sun. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
- "Mayan Myth". ABC Online, Radio National, Australia. 24 September 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- Jensen, Derrick. 2011. Truths Among Us, p. 234.
- "Review: 'Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: A Mayan Shaman's Journey to the Heart of the Indigenous Soul', by Martin Prechtel, Author, Robert W. Bly, Foreword". Publishers Weekly. 3 August 1998. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
- Prechtel, Martin in Jensen, Derrick. 2011. Truths Among Us, p. 252.