In my case, don Juan wanted an omen before he taught me the ritual. That omen came when don Juan and I were driving through a border town in Arizona and a policeman stopped me. The policeman thought I was an illegal alien. Only after I had shown him my passport, which he suspected of being a forgery, and other documents, did he let me go. Don Juan had been in the front seat next to me all the time, and the policeman had not given him a second glance. He had focused solely on me. Don Juan thought the incident was the omen he was waiting for.
His interpretation of it was that it would be very dangerous for me to call attention to myself, and he concluded that my world had to be one of utter simplicity and candor – elaborate ritual and pomp were out of character for me. He conceded, however, that a minimal observance of ritualistic patterns was in order when I made my acquaintance with his warriors. I had to begin by approaching them from the south, because that is the direction that power follows in its ceaseless flux. Life force flows to us from the south, and leaves us flowing toward the north. He said that the only opening to a Nagual’s world was through the south, and that the gate was made by two female warriors, who would have to greet me and would let me go through if they so decided.
He took me to a town in central Mexico, to a house in the countryside. As we approached it on foot from a southerly direction, I saw two massive Indian women standing four feet apart, facing each other. They were about thirty or forty feet away from the main door of the house, in an area where the dirt was hard-packed. The two women were extraordinarily muscular and stern. Both had long, jet-black hair held together in a single thick braid. They looked like sisters. They were about the same height and weight – I figured that they must have been around five feet four, and weighed 150 pounds. One of them was extremely dark, almost black, the other much lighter. They were dressed like typical Indian women from central Mexico – long, full dresses and shawls, homemade sandals.
Don Juan made me stop three feet from them. He turned to the woman on our left and made me face her. He said that her name was Cecilia and that she was a dreamer. He then turned abruptly, without giving me time to say anything, and made me face the darker woman, to our right. He said that her name was Delia and that she was a stalker. The women nodded at me. They did not smile or move to shake hands with me, or make any gesture of welcome. Don Juan walked between them as if they were two columns marking a gate. He took a couple of steps and turned as if waiting for the women to invite me to go through. The women stared at me calmly for a moment. Then Cecilia asked me to come in, as if I were at the threshold of an actual door.
Don Juan led the way to the house. At the front door we found a man. He was very slender. At first sight he looked extremely young, but on closer examination he appeared to be in his late fifties. He gave me the impression of being an old child: small, wiry, with penetrating dark eyes. He was like an elfish apparition, a shadow. Don Juan introduced him to me as Emilito, and said that he was his courier and all-around helper, who would welcome me on his behalf.
It seemed to me that Emilito was indeed the most appropriate being to welcome anyone. His smile was radiant; his small teeth were perfectly even. He shook hands with me, or rather he crossed his forearms and clasped both my hands. He seemed to be exuding enjoyment; anyone would have sworn that he was ecstatic in meeting me. His voice was very soft and his eyes sparkled.
We walked into a large room. There was another woman there. Don Juan said that her name was Teresa and that she was Cecilia’s and Delia’s courier. She was perhaps in her early thirties, and she definitely looked like Cecilia’s daughter. She was very quiet but very friendly. We followed don Juan to the back of the house, where there was a roofed porch.
It was a warm day. We sat there around a table, and after a frugal dinner we talked until after midnight. Emilito was the host. He charmed and delighted everyone with his exotic stories. The women opened up. They were a great audience for him. To hear the women’s laughter was an exquisite pleasure. They were tremendously muscular, bold, and physical. At one point, when Emilito said that Cecilia and Delia were like two mothers to him, and Teresa like a daughter, they picked him up and tossed him in the air like a child.
Of the two women, Delia seemed the more rational, down- to-earth. Cecilia was perhaps more aloof, but appeared to have greater inner strength. She gave me the impression of being more intolerant, or more impatient; she seemed to get annoyed with some of Emilito’s stories. Nonetheless, she was definitely on the edge of her chair when he would tell what he called his “tales of eternity.” He would preface every story with the phrase, ‘Do you, dear friends, know that. . . ?’
The story that impressed me most was about some creatures that he said existed in the universe, who were the closest thing to human beings without being human; creatures who were obsessed with movement and capable of detecting the slightest fluctuation inside themselves or around them. These creatures were so sensitive to motion that it was a curse to them. It gave them such pain that their ultimate ambition was to find quietude. Emilito would intersperse his tales of eternity with the most outrageous dirty jokes. Because of his incredible gifts as a raconteur, I understood every one of his stories as a metaphor, a parable, with which he was teaching us something.
Don Juan said that Emilito was merely reporting about things he had witnessed in his journeys through eternity. The role of a courier was to travel ahead of the Nagual, like a scout in a military operation. Emilito went to the limits of the second attention, and whatever he witnessed he passed on to the others.
From “The Eagle’s Gift” by Carlos Castaneda, Part Three.