There is one more mysterious and magical activity you can partake in with jagua as your guide. In my last post, I suggested you get together with friends and shrink somebody's head as a fun and scary idea for Halloween. This one is a little more subtle, though. You can disappear!
I don't know about you but when I first heard of the "cloak of invisibility" in the first Harry Potter movie, I totally wanted one. But magical and mystical powers don't usually work the way they show it in the movies. The end result is the same but how you get there is often a little more earthly.
In my book, Jagua, A Journey into Body Art from the Amazon, there's a chapter called Jagua Magic, which recounts the many magical myths and belief systems of various Indigenous groups in the Amazon around the jagua fruit. When it comes to the belief around jagua helping people achieve invisibility, it's easy to understand how it came about: when certain tribes would head out to attack another tribe, the members would paint their entire bodies with jagua, turning them black, and thus easily camouflaged and impossible to see as they moved stealthily through the forest, especially at night! Hence, jagua = invisibility.
Another evidence of jagua's power to confer invisibility is entwined with the Indigenous Kuna people's beliefs around the soul's perilous "Journey of the Dead." A shaman stands over the deceased and uses special chants, amulets, plants and seeds needed to help the soul through multiple dangers and traps, including swimming through roiled rivers and boiling waters, leagues of hungry alligators, oceans of giant sharks, as well as scaling of rigorous, snake-infested mountains. PLUS, the soul needs to travel through dwellings where trapped souls will do anything to stop this spirit's forward motion to heaven.
For this purpose, the shaman brings with him the sacred fruit of the jagua tree to paint the soul black so that it may avoid detection by these dreaded trapped spirits. Once the soul has successfully overcome these trials, he will vanish into a void for a long period of time. When he emerges, he will be a purified, immortal and superior being charged with overseeing the fate of humans in the physical world. So, not only can jagua make you invisible, it also helps turn you into a superhero!
But does it really work? You may ask. Well here's the proof, provided by Felicia, a friend whose forehead was painted with a pretty jagua design before she knew about an unexpected trip to New York. The only problem was she had lost her I.D. and her passport was expired. But she decided to try anyway, in spite of her prominent facial tattoo, and here's her report:
“I was never stopped,” she said. “From the ticketing agent to the security people, they just waved me on through.”
Anyone traveling in post 9/11 America knows that this is impossible. Two weeks later, her tattoo had faded, and Felicia flew back to Los Angeles, again with no I.D. and an expired passport; and, here's what she told us:
“Every step of the way, I was the only one chosen for a random search.”
Photo: Felicia with her facial tattoo