Hill, Michael Ortiz

Michael Ortiz Hill

Michael Ortiz Hill is an author, registered nurse and practitioner of traditional African medicine in the United States and among the Bantu people in Zimbabwe. Born in 1957 to a Mexican Catholic mother and an Anglo Buddhist father, his life always involved moving between different cultural communities.

Taught Buddhist meditation by his father as a teenager, Michael ultimately received formal training in the Zen and Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhist traditions. His father died when Michael was twenty and over the next 30 years he brought his Buddhist practice to bear on hospice care for people with life-threatening diseases and underwent training as a registered nurse. During this time Michael practiced as a lay monk, spending much of the time in complete solitude refining his meditation practice.

His first book, Dreaming the End of the World: Apocalypse as a Rite of Passage(Spring Publications 1992), examines the themes of death and rebirth that traditional rites of initiation share with the apocalyptic dreams of contemporary people. It is also an effort to understand the path of compassion during a tumultuous age. In 1992 Michael was in Los Angeles at the bedside of a dying friend when the city was consumed in the civil unrest following the Rodney King verdict. This led him to apply the insights he gleaned from examining apocalyptic dreams to racial, specifically, white people's dreams about black people and black people's dreams about white people.

To do justice to the dream life of African Americans required a serious study of the African (predominantly Bantu) world that gave birth to black American culture. Early in his research, Michael began noticing African patterns in dreams of African Americans. After four years of preparation, he journeyed to Africa in 1996 where he met the Bantu tribal healer Mandaza Augustine Kandemwa and through Mandaza became the first non-African initiated into the ritual tradition anthropologists recognize as the headwaters of what was to become African American culture.

This time of study and initiation resulted in Michael’s collection of essays known as the Mapatya Trilogy. The first, Capable of Such Beauty, looks at the shape of the "white self" as revealed in white people's dreams about blacks and describes Michael’s own breakdown of that "self" as he submits to the African rite of initiation. The Village of the Water Spirits—which will be published by Spring Journal Books in August 2006—is based on a series of interviews with Mandaza that interpret the racial dreams of black Americans, offering a compelling picture of the African shape of the African American soul.

Gathering in the Names—the final essay in the trilogy co-authored by Michael and Mandaza—was first published by Spring Journal Books in 2002 under the title Gathering in the Names: A Journey into the Land of African Gods and is the culmination of Michael’s and Mandaza’s work together. Quest Books/The Theosophical Publishing House is releasing the book in January 2007 as Twin from Another Tribe: The Story of Two Shamanic Healers from Africa and North America. It is the dual autobiography of these twin brothers (mapatya) as they journeyed faithfully on the same path toward their calling to shamanic healing, emphasizing the struggle the two overcame to become medicine men (ngangas) and share in the healing of two worlds: Mandaza amongst the poor in South Central Africa, Michael as a shaman and registered nurse at UCLA Medical Center.

Michael is currently married to the novelist and feminist thinker Deena Metzger and has one child and two grandchildren. They live in the Santa Monica mountains of California with their wolf Isis. Michael's work has been featured on NBC’s "Mysteries of the Millennium" and Canadian Broadcasting’s "Man Alive." For more information on all of Michael’s work, visit his web site at www.gatheringin.com.

Other Works By the Author
Twin from another Tribe: The story of two Shamanic Healers from Africa and North America