Shamanistic traditions around the world often involve shape shifting. The shaman enters a trance and adopts the form and/or spirit of an animal, for healing, travel to another world, or more sinister purposes. Often the switch is made with the aid of a hallucinogenic drug, such as peyote. This is the drug of choice among the Huichol Indians of Mexico and is frequently portrayed in their art. In addition to works produced by indigenous people for sale in Puerto Vallarta, I also found a number of murals that illustrated the indigenous tradition of shape shifting.
While almost all Huichol creations reflect the tribe’s belief system, much of the art created in Oaxaca is created solely for the beauty and pleasure it brings, often with a sense of humor attached. The same can be said for Puerto Vallarta’s murals.
Shape shifting is a thing of dreams in our minds as well. We imagine what it might be like to be a hawk soaring across the sky, or a cheetah running with the wind. I’ve been reading a book on lucid dreaming, just for fun. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it has to do with consciously being aware that you are dreaming and doing things you can’t normally do in life, like walk through walls, or take off flying whenever you wish. Basically, you control what happens in the dream.
The book, A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming, even has a section on shape shifting. “Before you go to sleep,” the book directs, “decide what person, beast, or object you want to transfer into.” Say you want to try being a tiger. Imagine it before you go to sleep. When you awake in your dream, “feel the sensations a tiger would feel. Stand on all fours and feel your teeth getting sharp.” Good advice (grin). Once you become a skilled Oneironautic, you might actually make it happen according to the book.
Now, I confess I am a little skeptical. At least I haven’t suddenly become awake in my dreams and decided to become a yappy Chihuahua. That’s not saying it isn’t worth a try. I do on occasion change the course of a dream from a bad ending to a good ending. I actually get up and run away from the monster instead of lying there in a semi-paralyzed stupor as he starts to devour me from the toes up. It’s a start, but not enough. I dearly want to be that hawk winging across the sky or the Cheetah charging along at 35 miles per hour. How about you?
NEXT BLOG: Peggy and I say goodbye to Puerto Vallarta
11 thoughts on “Shape Shifting and Art in Puerto Vallarta— or, On Becoming Your Favorite Animal”
Interesting essay with amazing vibrant pictures. Delicious post. Thank you for sharing on this Monday Morning.
You are welcome JoHanna. And thank you. –Curt
The iguana might look glum to you but I think it’s rather smashing!
They are amazing creatures, both in life and art, AC. –Curt
Hmm, shapeshifting in my dreams. Maybe I’ll visualize a cat lounging on the couch all day. That sounds pleasant. But it would have to be a reading cat. I’d like to have a book with my leisure time. 😉
Wonderful artwork and pics!
Thanks Carrie. And maybe the cat idea isn’t so farfetched. I’ve always been amused (and pleased) by the number of cats I find living in small bookstores. –Curt
I love the colour in Mexican art. They have no fear of overdoing it! Of this collection my favourite is the string painting.
I’ve been interested in lucid dreaming for many years, though not enough to make it any kind of priority, although I actually did once achieve it. I was briefly aware of looking down at my body lying on the bed. I’d like to remember the flying I do every night 🙂
Good point on Mexican art… it’s the same reason why I like it— that and the fantastic worlds they create. Apparently, from what I’ve read, it takes a fair amount of work to master lucid dreaming. Don’t know if I will, Alison, but I like the concept. –Curt
I love the concept! But don’t have the commitment I guess.
Delicious post indeed! The art you have photographed is all enticing, with the colours as well as the theme of shape shifting. I haven’t ever dreamed about shape-shifting, but I would surely choose a bird, so that I could soar above the ground and get a good look and a new perspective. I have also managed to wake myself up from nightmares, when I somehow realized “Oh, it’s this rotten dream again, and in the next scene there is a monster who I am really not in the mood to visit again.” I think if I was exposed to all this art, I would desperately want to bring some of it home with me. Did you?
Laughing here about “in the next scene there is a monster who I am really not in the mood to visit again.” How very true. I wake up, go back to sleep, kick the monster in the shin, and live happily ever after. As for the art, yes, some of it has made it home to our house. (grin) –Curt