Meeting the Medicine Men by Charles Langley – book review

Meeting the Medicine Men This site is called Mostly Food and Travel Journal and the space that isn’t food will be filled with what I hope will interest and amuse you. Lots of travel and social history, and items like this book that encompass those topics and much more.

Charles Langley has written this most unique and fascinating book, Meeting the Medicine Men – An Englishman’s Travels Among the Navajo. I thought this might be a Victorian anthropological documentary and how was I going to review a book like that! This is something far different.

Meeting the Medicine Men is the story of a chap from North London who, via some ‘coincidences’, is introduced to the Navajo nation and, in particular, to its Medicine Men. Yes, they do still exist and are very much a part of Indian custom and culture. Although the next generation don’t seem too interested, the more conservative Indians will naturally seek out the help of the Medicine Men when western health treatment has failed. They will trust that those same men will be able to recognise a curse set by a rival family, and to destroy that curse.

New Mexico is a magical place but it’s the Navajo who are the impressive element in this narrative. They are far from ‘The Noble Savages’ that early historians would portray them as. They are regular folks with a particular perspective. The Medicine Men allowed Charles to participate in traditional religious rituals, and opened his eyes to the possibility that there might be spiritual dimensions somewhat different from the western concept.

Now, I can understand that you might just put that down to superstition and to most westerners it all seems a bit far-fetched, but Charles tells of his experiences and it’s enough to make you think! Yes, but think what? That’s for every reader to make up his own mind but the story is extraordinary and well worth reading.

We live in a technologically advanced world but even scientists agree that there is so much that cannot be explained. It’s very easy to accuse these Medicine Men of trickery but the author assures us that events that he describes were exactly as he saw them and that sharp practice would not have been possible. How, for example, could anybody manage to find a small bundle of sticks and fur buried in the middle of a desert?

It’s a riveting read and the book will raise questions in the minds of the sceptical. On the other hand it gives confirming proof to those that are convinced that the world is more complex and spiritual than people imagine. I enjoyed this book very much and I suspect that you’ll enjoy it just as much, whatever your personal conclusions might be.

Meeting the Medicine Men – An Englishman’s Travels among the Navajo
Author: Charles Langley
Published by: Nicholas Brealey
Price: £9.99
ISBN 978-1-85788-507-1

 

Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018

 

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