In Honor of the Day of the Dead (November 2, 2019)

day-of-the-dead-1868836_1920This beautiful image comes from


From 1999 to 2005, I was a proud member of the Seattle Latino literary troupe, Los Nortenos. We gave performances (songs, poetry, and stories) for the Day of the Dead in the Seattle area.

For each performance, we wrote pieces that were juried by other members in the troupe. Here is one of the poems I recited during performances.

Spider Man & The Shamans

By Patricia L. Herlevi

Sometimes when I fall asleep, I fall deep into the heart of Africa.  Wooden men with painted faces conjure spirits forth into the starless night. They pound out rhythms with their bare feet and their shrill cries echo into the chambers of the forest.

Ancestors enter the circle as ghosts. They enter into our souls as we breathe them in and they blow wisdom into our hearts thus allowing us to teach the next generation. They educate us about our ignorance and illuminate our individual paths.

The shamans recite the legend of Spider-Man. The shamans warn us not to be tricked into Spider Man’s wicked web of illusions.  For once we enter into this illusion we are tempted to destroy the planet and other lives. Spider-Man, the trickster mirrors our deepest fears, our most vengeful anger as well as, our greed and our lust. We find him hard to resist since he presents himself in a glorious light promising us treasure.

But once we fall for the trap, we sell our souls for the smallest trinkets.  We sell our children to slave labor, our forests to the highest bidder and we slaughter the animals while leaving no place for the beneficent spirits to enter or the sprites to reside.

This is why the shamans dance tonight as if our lives depend on it. They’ll dance for twelve hours, pounding their aching feet on to the hard soil and chanting songs until their throats become coarse and raw. They tango with death and drop into the underworld where they plead with the spirits to save us from illusions. And in the end, they set us free from Spider Man’s dark ways.

Spider-Man can be tricked and he can be blinded through the strength of our ancestors.  Tonight Spider-Man will be sedated as he watches the shamans spin and gyrates around a fire.  Tonight Spider-Man will be hypnotized into a deep sleep that will last for centuries. Tonight the shamans will set their people free from their inner and outer oppressors.

The dance ends when dawn arrives and the dew appears on thirsty leaves and animal spirits return in full force reclaiming the earth, water, and sky.   The dance ends after I awake and face my daily life.  And yet, the raw pounding feet and shrill cries linger in my conscious brain reminding me that I must face my daily duties same as the shamans who wash the paint off of their bodies and tend to their harvest. I must stay awake and not fall into Spider Man’s illusions by honoring my ancestors and nature’s spirits. And by following the heart of a shaman, I sidestep the traps of greed, rage, and cravings.  I too hypnotize Spider-Man and dance with spirits at night in the manner that the Africans have taught me.

This story was originally performed with the Latino/Latina literary group, Los Norteños at North Seattle Community College, 2000.  While I was reciting this story on stage, my necklace (a beaded one from Peru), broke and beads fell on the stage.  Therefore, I feel that this is a powerful piece that should not be taken lightly.


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