Almost a year ago, I bookmarked what was then a new National Geographic story about jaguars. I have finally gotten around to reading it, and I am glad I did.
The article is titled “Inside the Hidden World of Jaguars:” written by Chip Brown and featuring Steve Winter‘s incredible photography. The main thrust of the story is Brown’s trip to Peru to take part in an ayahuasca ceremony, through which he explores both the physical survival of jaguars and their spiritual significance.
Concerning the physical realm, Brown covers a host of important topics. He explains the science behind the jaguar’s massive bite force (for their size, jaguars have the strongest bites of all big cats), chronicles the decline of jaguar habitat, and discusses efforts to conserve the species – such as Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative.
However, it is Brown’s discussion of the spiritual importance of jaguars that I found to be most engaging. He writes about the cultural and spiritual roles jaguars played in pre-Colombian civilizations, including the ancient Maya, and of individuals who still revere the cats. One such person is Maestro Juan Flores, founder of Mayantuyacu.
Maestro Juan is a curandero, or healer, who almost miraculously cured himself of a shotgun blast to the legs using traditional methods. He founded Mayantuyacu, a center for spiritual healing and traditional knowledge, near the spot where he located the tree that he used to heal himself.
I am not going to go into much detail here, because I want you to read the original story. You will not be disappointed; Brown’s writing and Winter’s photographs combine to transport viewers to the healing center in Peru, the floodplains of the Pantanal, and a realm beyond which our bodies can travel. Trust me, this is an exceptional read.