Inspired by Juan the shaman, who I met in Quito, Ecuador; and by the lovely writing of Louis de Bernieres.
At five foot ten, Juan the shaman was unusually tall for an Aymara indian. He lived alone in the forest under the dense canopy of a mahogany tree, alongside the jawbones of his long-dead ancestors.
He was graceful and slim, and could stay in a trance for days without eating or moving from his hammock. He spoke so deliberately that everyone believed his words; and remained so poised that the glossy black hair pouring down his back never rippled.
On his feet, splayed from a lifetime walking barefoot, he wore sandals made from old car tyres; in his hand was a willow branch, the tool of his trade; and he circled it in the smoke that rose from the dying fire – protecting us against the evil eye, against the snakes, against the spirits.
He bent down to read what was written in the embers.