Hallie N. Love & Bonnie Larson,
Watakame's Journey: The Story of the Great Flood & the New World
(Clear Light, 1999)

Before you read Watakame's Journey: The Story of the Great Flood & the New World, you will likely spend a while looking at the illustrations. They are "yarn paintings," created by pressing yarn into softened beeswax and pine pitch that has been applied to wood. There are 28 full-page illustrations, plus many half-page or smaller. They are absolutely extraordinary! The detail is mind-boggling.

These yarn paintings were created by more than 10 Huichol artists. They make this book become much more than a folktale; it is nothing less than a work of art. As the vehicle that introduces this art form to the world, Watakame's Journey is priceless!

Once you have studied the paintings, settle down for the story of how the Huichol Indians came to live in the Sierra Madre mountain region north of Guadalajara, Mexico. This story happened long ago, in the beginning, when the world was inhabited by animal people.

The animal people grew lazy and forgot to be thankful. They even forgot to worship. Only Watakame remembered to work, pray and give thanks. One day Nakawe appeared to him and warned him the animal people would be destroyed by a flood in five days. She instructed him to build a boat and told him exactly what to put in the boat. Because Watakame had been a good person who worked hard and always remembered to pray and give thanks, he was chosen to be saved from the flood and begin the new people.

Watakame did not know whether to believe her or not. He spent two days debating the situation. When Tatewari, the wise fire god, appeared to him, he decided to build the boat. He barely got it finished and loaded before the flood came.

When the flood receded, only Watakame remained. Nakawe and the gods watched over him. They taught him the ways of the shaman and all the sacred ceremonies and rituals. He became the first wise man and healer of the Huichol people. Nakawe helped him find a wife, and they became the parents of the Huichol tribe.

Love and Larson pen a lively, animated story that pushes you toward the climax. There is sufficient tension and mystery to keep you enthralled.

The authors have included a glossary of Huichol symbols and a brief description of the culture of the Huichol Indians. The story reveals a surprising amount of information about the Huichol culture and beliefs. By the time you have read this book, you have a strong understanding of the spiritual basis of their culture.

Watakame's Journey is an outstanding value. It far surpasses the average book in looks, readability, construction and dissemination of cultural information. It is truly a book to last a lifetime.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

14 June 2008

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