A dream in the eighth layer

naiwar, sugar canes, 2022

A mediine man in Armira, Guna Yala, Panama (2022)
The art craft called Mola, created by the indigenous tribes of Guna Yala.(2022)
A seine of performance in Guna Yala.(photo by Wanda von Bremen, 2022)

La Wayaka Current residency program,
April 17th-May 8th 2022

Guna Yala,PANAMA

I visited the Autonomous Community of Guna Yala in the San Blas Islands, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea in the Republic of Panama. I stayed in  Armira, the most traditional village in Guna Yala. There are about 50 sugarcane houses built on the sandy beach. There is almost no access to electricity, gas, or radio waves, not to mention cars. They live without inconvenience thanks to the bounty of the jungle and the abundant resources of the sea and rivers.

What struck me most about their customs, beliefs, and values was the fact that they still have a medicine man to treat their ailments. The medicine man, the only one in the village, heals by using the wealth of knowledge of plants passed down to him from his ancestors.

It was also interesting to note that their worldview has eight layers. There is no hierarchical relationship between each layer; everything is cyclical and holistic. The outermost layer is the space of the sun and moon, and all plants and animals live in the inner hemispherical world. The hemispherical world has eight layers, from top to bottom, with plants living in the top layer, waste sediments in the second layer, microorganisms and insects in the third layer, animals and humans in the fourth and fifth layers, and spirituality in the sixth and seventh layers. The eighth layer is the mystical world, which only shaman women can reach. There, they received geometric patterns that acted like letters and gave them wisdom on how to build dwellings and how people should live.

What were the universe as seen by a shaman?What were the patterns that brought wisdom to Guna Yala? I  asked the Medicine Man about traditional methods for purifying the body and mind, and attempted to get to the boundary between creativity and the spiritual world.