by Michael Parra Callas

“No Gods come here, only the ones who run Underworld,” says Dart, an Underworld Monitor.

Dart is speaking to a soul on her knees, praying as if she was in a church – the Our Father, of all things. Not exactly the right act for a soul that wants to move through the nine levels of the Underworld, this being level two and her having a way to go, that is.  

The soul answers with some attitude, as if she’s repeated this a few times, “Yes, two parts of me died through the liver, me here, on level two, and the other parts of me, that died through my crown, are in the Clouds level, 8 – Is that right? – I’m split, sir. That’s why I’m praying like this.”

She raises a hand as if to wave him away, but Dart only goes where he must, even though he’s not clear why he must anything with this dead woman. He never talks to the dead. He just monitors them and keeps the system moving.

“An evolved soul, I see…,” says Dart, “Not many souls even know they have soul parts. What is your name?”

The woman stands now, eyes him with a shine coming in her eyes, “None of your co-workers have ever spoken to me.”

She shrugs her shoulders and stretches lightly for a moment, “I am Nest.”   When she smiles at him her eyes shine topaz.

Dart’s never seen eyes like this, not in a living person, much less a dead one. Eyes of Topaz, alive.

“Where are you taking all those arrows, Underworld Being?” asks Nest, pointing to the bundle on his back.

“If most of you,” Dart says, “is, as you say, with the Clouds now, then those parts had to pass through the Arrows level.”

“Level six, right?” she verifies.

“Yes,” answers Dart, a bit surprised at how well this soul had mapped the Underworld.

“Aha,” says the lady soul who’s moved closer to Dart, “So you’re an Underworld warehouseman stocking the nine levels of deadland?”

The part of her in the Clouds, which is level 8, had to pass through level six, Dart’s territory of trials and tribulations. It surprises him he didn’t see her; it actually upsets him he didn’t see her, but he’s not going to show it.  

“This is the Underworld, Mictlan,” he corrects,“and yes, part of my job is stocking the sixth level,” says Dart.

Nest observes him with those somewhat mesmerizing Topaz soul portals. Seeing he’s not phased, and even though she’s worried about how much energy she has left, she tries a different approach.

In a throaty tone of voice that challenges Dart’s ability to detach, Nest says, “I bet your arrows hit their mark,” then, from deeper in her throat she whispers, “I wonder how my higher parts got through your level 6 without seeing you.”

Dart takes a step back, “You know there’s only memories of sex here in Mictlan, don’t you?”

Topaz orbs beam. “I’m sorry…I’m not strong,” Nest says, and promptly drops to her knees, by all appearances, defeated and deflated, once again a desperate being.

Dart’s had plenty of illusions thrown at him as a Monitor; normally, he just cancels illusions and goes on. Today he watches, patiently even, thinks something real is happening in all this.

Suddenly Nest shapeshifts. It happens so fast Dart’s not sure “shapeshift” is the right word. The movement goes from light to dark and back again, over and over. Her eyes either shine to the sky or they are absorbed by the dead dirt where she stands.

As if a decision were handed down Nest goes immediately and gracefully upright. This time she is all curves, which Dart doesn’t fail to notice. She wears a wide red sash around a bottleneck waist. Truly a splash of life in a placewhere it has no business.  

Dart is only thinking about reaching for her when she, yet again, drops to her knees – the shine gone, yet again.

Dart puts down the bundle of arrows. He’s seen as much illusion as anyone, but all of this is not processing normally. The most baffling of all, though, is the irresistible urge to help. He can’t touch her, for certain, but he can give her a boost into level 8. He reasons it might even be allowed in certain situations.  

But now the shift really hits the fan for Dart when he perceives a memory. It’s a red-haired girl running through tall grass. Huh? Why does he think he knows her?

Here his discipline reacts. That’s ridiculous. Monitors don’t know anyone, so they don’t remember anyone either. Monitors’ only purpose is to keep the cycle of the living and dead turning as it should.

That’s when Dart just quit thinking; he still blames, and credits, the decision he’s about to make for everything that’s happened since.

Ignoring the call of duty, Dart cups his hands as he spreads his arms. A humming sound fills the air, the hands light up in violet and white, and just grow, steady but sure, eventually growing large enough to cover Nest completely. A rich, Violet Flame pours from his hands into the kneeling figure.

Nest straightens into more erect kneeling, like kneeling for communion.

“Ahhhh,” she moans, a long release, a living moan that snakes through Dart faster and more intense that he’s used to. When the “snake” passes, Dart is left wanting, but he’s not sure what. He smiles, though, when he hears a sigh of deep peace.

He un-cups his hands and they grow in reverse, back to “normal.” She is gone.

Dart picks up his load, takes two steps and materializes in level 8, the “clouds,” the last step toward Eternal Rest, level 9, where the Universe opens new options to those who pass through Underworld.

Dart peers into the clouds. There she is…astride a palomino pony. He can only imagine how she acquired that.

As energized as Nest is in these moments she can’t help but feel Dart’s eyes on her. She pauses a moment then yanks the palomino’s reins. Horse and rider spin in the air to face him. She smiles.

Dart may think his decision to help her turned his life upside down. Others think it was that smile.

She waves and rides full bore into the clouds, but Dart must talk to her sometime before she exits level 9.

(to be continued)


Demons on Two Wheels

As told to the editors of michaelparracallas.com by Maximiliano Plata

From the Chronicles of the Hummingbird Group: Sheepdog Files. Mr. Ernest Red House, full-blood Navajo, ex, and always, a United States Marine; “black sheep” Medicine Man and co-founder of Grupo Colibri. “Demons on Two Wheels,” from Night Ride 7.

“When you ride two wheels, at night, high speed, you know there’s ghosts out there,” says Sheepdog.  

He’s right. These “ghosts” of a thousand descriptions just love our physicality and the sensation humans produce: in this case, there’s some tasty danger in the wind and dark. Sometimes the critters, aliens and ancestors we call ghosts simply touch our experience, and sometimes they feed on it.

We corporeal humans have essence the ghosts miss and want, and that desire-hunger plays out a million ways, resulting, for one, in all the different types of entities that pass as “ghosts.”

Bikers, sort of, have a solution for some of that ghostly activity, considering how close to the ground and out-in-the-open riders are when they ride. Bikers hang a little bell on the motorcycle’s undercarriage. The consistent ringing of metal on metal frightens away the ghoulies-ghosties to avoid freak accidents, bad luck, police speed traps, rival riders and so forth. The little bell does the trick, some of the time.

Sheepdog had planned an afternoon ride to Jemez for an overnight retreat, a special place for him, and nothing out of the ordinary. The ride, however, doesn’t happen until after sundown.

Sheepdog passes Bernalillo, NM going about 100 mph on a New Moon on the darkest leg of the trip when a glowing gray mass, the size and shape of a flattened basketball, perches on the right side of the Harley’s faring, flapping and throbbing, transforming itself.

From any view other than the biker’s seat, the anomaly on the faring would appear as a fog, possibly as large as the whole motorcycle, depending on where the viewer stands.

No one worries much about Sheepdog in any form of darkness, being he’s a master of the same. That also means, however, that when something comes at him from the dark, the event is definitely job related.  

“Anyone else on the highway, I’d be wiener stuffing,” says Sheepdog, passing the ritual cigars to the group. Escaping the Reaper deserves some ceremony.

The flattened basketball, zombie thing, throbs as it pushes limbs out from the gray mass. It takes on form, accompanied by the nose-racking stench that only demonic level ghosts can conjure.

“I let off the throttle, tested the brake and tried to downshift,” says Sheepdog, taking a puff of his cigar, “Nada.”

The oblong twisting thing on the faring achieves two solid limbs and the hint of fangs: two-digits each claw, aiming at Sheepdog, thrusting. Then a big round eye pops from the gray mass, blood red and purple, and fortunately, looking the wrong way.

There’s a dagger in Sheepdog’s boot…if he can put that dagger between his belly button and the demon, he’ll repel the demon, though likely crash in the process.

“Is that when you see the Twins?” asks Juanita, a twin herself.

“Shh,” says Max’s girlfriend, Serafina, “We’re supposed to wait, Juanita.”

Happy he can still steer, Sheepdog “throws his eyes” into his attacker, an offensive move that may be too late, but since it does lots more than stare, it’s worth a shot. The zombie looks more like a wicked, pissed, badger, especially as the two fangs, now well-formed, glitter red and white.

“Got to throw the eye-forks in, ‘fore you can oust the monster,” says Sheepdog.

His magic eyes occupied, Sheepdog’s normal vision espies a welcome site. The Group’s two helper Duendes, Dwarves, are on the roadside, floating close to the ground, hovering, as they always appear.

Today they bring a fuller pastoral scene into the play. In their customary Mexican farmworker-issue, cotton whites, they shepherd a herd of goats who are calmly meandering, as they “Bah” loudly, across the highway, about 100 yards ahead.

Throwing the eyes might have done something. The blood red eye shifts, somewhat desperately, around the former flat basketball, now badger, trying to find a place to focus. Almost comical.

The herd of goats create a certain mass of energy, adding to the energy from the unchecked Harley. Both masses of power collide in the wind on that highway, at that moment.

The goats act upon the Harley, like the zombie’s energy acted on the bike and rider moments before, a counter energy.  

The badger’s teeth are stretching it seems, but the eye never finds its target, and now the two-wheeler slows way down causing demon and rider to wobble.

“By then I had my dagger,“ says Sheepdog, meaning he was able to slip it under his belt buckle against his skin.

The high carbon steel of that old Mexican dagger has been consecrated by two tribes and its medicine people for just one purpose – demons. Steel always affects the ghosts and demons, but this steel flat stops them, cancels them. The zombie-basketball-badger vanishes. They can come back later, but this gets them for the moment.

“There’s only one demon we know can take over engines like that,” muses Juanita, mostly to herself.

“It’s Cabral,” Serafina says, for the world to hear, “our old nemesis.”

“Shh,” says Juanita, “Not supposed to say it out loud.”

“Unless it’s to put him on notice,” says Max, “Time we find a new nemesis.”

Sheepdog regains control of the Harley, pulls over and parks. The two duendes hover atop a flatbed pickup going slowly the other direction. One Duende smokes a cigar, waves at Sheepdog, the other holds up a shot of Tequila. Sheepdog nods with a bow of gratitude.

Make Art

An Interview with Max Plata

Sorcerer of the Hummingbird Group: Myth

We’ve been documenting the work of Grupo Colibri and Maximiliano Plata for thirteen years now, and it’s taken that long for them to allow us to publish all that we‘ve witnessed.

If we weren’t distant relatives of the Platas, Max reminds us, he’d never have allowed us to “ride along.” Maximiliano Plata, Jr. is the Curandero you met in “Dead People in Cyberspace.”  He chides us saying we could have started with something more exciting than that story, but says he’ll trust what he calls our “too-much-academics approach.”

On a recent visit, we got “too much academic” again and asked Max about the power of myth on the sorcerer’s path.

Max says, “It’s not a subject, Mikey, it’s a craft.”

Following that good start comes the uncomfortable silence that almost always begins when you ask Max anything. He says he wants to answer us fully, chew it up in his head, first. And that sounds great in theory, but doesn’t always work out for the asker.  

“Cedar yourself,” he says, passing the smoke over himself before sliding the smoker in my direction.

I cup the smoke and pass it over heart and will. Then I slide the smoker to the middle of the long altar, the Group’s Altar.

“’Myth’ was one of the first school words that earned me approval from Mrs. Springer, 3rd grade, circa 1959. Being of Mexican descent, I’d been placed in 3B, ‘the slow group,’ aka the ‘beaners.’ Soon after those years, they called us ‘Spanish Surnamed.’ Now we have all kinds of new names.”

What sort of approval did you get, and are you talking about words like Chicano, Hispanic, Latino?

He slides the smoker back to the center of the Altar, “Every one of those words represents a myth, you know.”

I wait, then say, “You didn’t answer the teacher that way, did you?”

He laughs, says, “All I did was repeat what she said, ‘All of us love myths.’

And I only did it because the smartest kid in class, Catalina, sitting behind me, had just whispered, ‘Like the Llorona, Max, a myth, legend.’”

Max steps up to what must be a microphone on a stage that we can’t see. He spreads his arms and smiles up at the invisible camera and the audience beyond it.

He announces, “Hey Readers, if you aren’t aware of the very Mexican tale of the Wailing Woman, La Llorona, I suggest you write to the publisher of this blog and demand their version of this classic. Gracias.

Then he spreads his arms again and bows his head. He turns and steps off the stage, and looks back at me. I swear it’s his height. He uses it to do sleight of hand or something along those lines.   

“The Llorona wasn’t a real flesh and blood thing, a few of us 3rd graders had already reasoned by then, yet at the sametime, each of us privately, knew her to be quite real, especially in certain moments: like when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to, for instance. Or when you’re alone, walking home, at the precise corner where the local Llorona is said to appear.”

His eyes narrow at me. We’d argued over the Llorona more than once. Thankfully, he continues.

“So that’s ‘myth,’ thought my third-grade self. I answered clear as I could, ‘All of us love myths,’ then mumbled something about the Llorona.”

“Then? Max?”

“I was transformed into a class genius, like Catalina, of course!” he proclaims, smiling like a 3rd grader in discovery and wonder.

Then he surprises me, as always, going “too-much-academics” on me – from a poetry slam style monologue, no less.

“That ‘learning moment,’ as you call it, means plenty for me since it eventually led to some level of success in the school system – in spite of all its racist, control-freak shortfalls. Specifically, it was reading that opened options other than poverty, jail or death – as in, by the police or Vietnam.”

“Reading saved my ass more than once… oh, the things you could do just knowing how to read! You get answers on your own,fix things on your own and even make money, on your own. Survival reading, right?”

Max sprinkles a little more Cedar into the smoker and waits the seconds it takes for the Cedar to rise as smoke.

“The Myth ‘incident’ gave me a real hard-on for reading, Mikey. I read every comic from “The Classic Series” ever published by the age of 13 – history, legend, myth, and literature in living color pictures and dialogue boxes! I found so many stories that were just like our oral histories and stories; no kidding really, you could change the names and skin colors and plug in the same storyline!”

Why? What gave you a ‘hard -on?’

“Max whispers now, ‘During myth reading time the words created images that gave me an escape from tough surroundings and, when it really got good, those words allowed me to,” now loudly for an audience that isn’t there, actually create another reality, at least for a few moments at a time.”

Then Max stands, Cedars himself, and without a glance at me, walks out of the house.

Nothing new. Doesn’t even offend us anymore. I gather my stuff and walk out to find Max opening my car door and motioning for me to scoot.

“Go do your homework and come back, Mikey. Magic is afoot tonight.”

“But Max, the myth.” Having no choice in the matter, I got in the car and cranked it while Max shut the door. “When do we finish with myth, Max? C’mon.”

Then Max lays out one of his damn formulas, “Imagination provides freedom, myth provides structure. Go,” and points to his driveway.

We’ll see more of Max and the Hummingbird Group, we promise. Meanwhile,


Dead People in Cyberspace

by Michael Parra Callas

“Of course, witchcraft happens via the internet,” I say, “all the time.”

“But how?” asks Eddie, an old customer to our humble altar.

I am Don Maximiliano Plata, curandero in and for Albuquerque, New Mexico; Max, to friends and witnesses.

Eddie and his new girlfriend, Sylvia, his third since he’s come here, are here seeking help in this new relationship. There’s some trouble with sexuality, which goes with this kind of thing. Both, but especially Sylvia, feel contempt from friends and from both sides of the family. They can’t spend an hour together without fighting, and there’s a “presence,” says Sylvia,” an “espanto,” a ghost, says Eddie, that terrorizes them at all hours.

“Internet is new, but cyberspace was here before the Earth began,” I add.

The Santa Muerte statue, our physical link to spiritual power, affirms it once more. Today’s diagnosis: witchcraft for revenge, in matters of the heart. The Tarot showed an ex-lover, a girlfriend I’d known as Delphine. The Santa reminded me that Delphine was drawn to that dark manipulative magic back then. She must have found a bruja to do this brujería for her. This foreign energy, made of raw emotion, has been professionally placed, with abundant malevolence.  It is well-disguised and since it was so recent, the spell likely still has some fight left in it.

Sylvia says, “You say she placed the curse…in the email…she sent us, right?” Pause. “How?”

“The way witches do with a strand of hair, oils, a picture – with their minds, only this time using Google – like downloading a virus that gets in you, not your computer” and then I add, “I didn’t say ‘curse,’ remember, I said ‘placed a muerto.’”

The malevolence spell opens on them by their reaction to the email, but I’m not going to try explaining that to them right now. Delphine and her bruja, maybe brujo, caught Eddie and Sylvia’s attention with pictures and inflammatory statements. Once their attention was primed the bruja delivered the ghost and the curse it carries, via cyberspace.  

“Yes,” she agrees, almost whispering, ”that presence…that breathing, the shadows…from where, who?”

“The muerto, baby,” corrects Eddie, grins at me as he does when he brings someone to the altar.

“No!” says Sylvia, “Unacceptable, a dead person haunting us, trying to hurt us. It’s too much, I mean…what the fuck?” Then, realizing she cursed at an altar, she makes the sign of the cross, “Sorry.”

“I understand,” I say, “believe me.” I place a hand on her shoulder, “Is it OK to cleanse you with this little egg I have in my hand? Give you a limpia?

She sighs, looks at Eddie who nods his approval. I face her East as I consecrate the egg for the limpia, first up to the Creator and then toward the Santa Muerte, the Angel of Death.

Delphine essentially had a witch place an enslaved spirit to exact revenge – if she can’t have Eddie, then nobody can. When a human spirit doesn’t follow the Light at death, it strays from its safety, because it’s confused, or doesn’t think it’s dead. That spirit falls prey, way too often, to living humans, who sometimes use it for a good purpose, but mostly they use it to serve good old malevolent, manipulative intent of some type.

The egg I pass over Sylvia will either cut the muerto from her or make it easier when I bring the fire. “Sylvia, the egg has magnetismo that extracts, foreign energies from you.”

“OK. That why I feel stuff, like moving around inside me when you’re not even touching me with the egg?” she asks.

“The egg’s magnetic field doesn’t tolerate impurities within itself, so when we ask for help, it repels our impurities.” Not sure if that satisfies her curiosity, but it always sounds good.

In my mind’s eye, a dark mass shows itself behind her liver. I place the egg there and watch magnetic waves pull the mass together into a thicker and more manageable cord-like mass. I turn the egg slowly, drawing the dark cord out to the edge of her skin, then with a tiny bite I perform “psychic surgery.” I don’t touch her, I snap the cord out, spit it over into the bottomless abyss, where it belongs.

Some people call it imagination, fantasy, but that’s why they can’t see much magic.

“You got it, didn’t you, Max?” asks Eddie, who sometimes wants to become an apprentice.

“Got what?” asks Sylvia.

I say, “Got it. You don’t feel anything moving any more, right?”

She listens. “Yes, you’re right, nothing’s moving,” she smiles.

“Eddie, your muerto poisoned Sylvia. She’s clean for now, and will stay clean, if we can keep it off you now.”

“Oh my God,” says Sylvia, “It was on Eddie? Not on me? Are we going to be able…?”

“Let’s step here to the fire,” I say, turning her slightly toward the rising cedar smoke.

We have a fire prepared, a few coals in a sacred burner, red hot now. The smoke circles her ever so subtly. It will protect her should something go wrong.

I adjust Eddie now to face me. I sprinkle cedar leaves on the coals. When the smoke comes up thick, I use an old Eagle feather fan that has chased away more evil than God’s Archangels. I fan the cedar smoke around, up, and off Eddie.

The sweat on Eddie’s brow signals the creature senses my threat. His thighs tremble and his liver, where we find sudden power, is humming. I close my eyes so I can see better. It’s a human ancestor there, but in her condition, “creature” is a kind term.

My eyes flutter, scanning again. The dreamways open, aka the astral worlds, and yes, aka cyberspace, too. A whirlwind of waves unravels out from Eddie’s center, weaves through his aura and moves toward me, reluctantly.

“Who are you?” I say.

The waves want to move toward Sylvia. It’s how the creature is programmed. But since I have it gripped with my eyes, I repeat, “Quién eres?”

Her name pours out in a wail, “Leticia,” but from Sylvia’s vocal cords, not Leticia’s, who has none. Makes sense – Sylvia, female, empathic to the female that’s been tormenting her, the “connection” does the wailing – but always a bit unsettling when it happens.

You know that once these things are captured, we humans of flesh and bone have all the authority, but lording authority over spirits isn’t exactly our style. I add, “Leticia, pretty name, amiga. No one has called you that for a long time, have they?”

In the wailing sounds I see deeper, into the whirlwind, past the illusion. Something controls her… a brujo on the other side of her, controlling, orchestrating. I say to him, while I can still glimpse him, “Hey Dumb Ass, wannabe Digital Demon, that’s a human ancestor there, and you and I know you have no right.”

Sylvia will be fine, but Eddie’s hunched over now, “I am almost finished, a few more seconds,” I assure them.

In mind’s eye, from mind’s voice, I speak into the whirlwind, “Leticia is a formidable acquisition and I see what you have done, but you have crossed lines holier than yours and mine. Let her go, and there will be no pain.”

He answers with blood. Blood flows in streams in the whirlwind. “Damn, I wish you guys could be more original. It’s pointless, I swear…In the name of Seven Flower and the Rights of the Dead, and with the permission of the spirits of this place, you will release the woman…Leticia.

I see a sword cross the wind ripping the whirlwind, causing it to sink and deteriorate. The blood disappears, all at once. A yellow ash, what’s left of the cord used to hold Leticia, crumbles in the breeze. It should have burned the brujo.  

In some unseen distance, Leticia wails on her own now, still wretched but free, until she finds Light, or until some other predator/brujo finds her.

I smudge Eddie with the cedar smoke as his pain subsides. Sylvia leads him to the bench, where she sits, sobbing with relief. Now I can see something of what Eddie sees in her.

The End



We’re forced to call it fiction in this blog, but we know by experience that Story and Myth heal, among other positive powers. Whereas fiction merely entertains, Story and Myth create possibilities and magic can happen.  

“The transformative power of myth” to improve ones’ lives is a well- established description of how we feel about Story and Myth, but we go beyond the psychology of it.

Story holds a firm position in the human psyche. Before schools, all our ancestors told stories to reveal both the dangers and pleasures of life. We’re hardwired for story.

Story and Myth rescue humans, every day, all around us. Yes! Story and Myth just swoop in and pull us from the jaws of disaster. 

Story informs us, myth propels us and magic happens. If more of it happens for you, more of it happens for all of us.