Painting by Ricardo Ortega
The air is thick with copal smoke, as you sit in a wooden chair. The ladies are in the corner, at a small shrine praying on their knees before an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. There are various herbs on the altar before them, rue, rosemary, pirul, yauhtli. Holy water is sprinkled on the herbs, and they bring them over to you and ask you to stand. You arise, and one starts sweeping the herbs over you, intoning prayers while the other sprays you with a strong smelling alcohol, and passes the incense smoke over you. They anoint various places on your body with an oil from a jar kept next to a monstrance holding a host. After several minutes of this, the oldest among them passes an egg over your body and cracks it into a glass of water, and studies it, while her apprentice recites a rosary. After several minutes of her ancient eyes scanning the water and egg mixture, she smiles, and motions for you to lay down. They bring you a pillow and a blanket, and leave you to sleep before the ofrenda, the air still thick with prayer and smoke, the Virgin keeping watch over you, trusting that their efforts will bring you peace and health.
Curanderismo, the 'Way of Healing', is not a unified practice, but rather, a collection of practices. Anywhere in the Spanish speaking world, those who claim or are claimed to heal may be known as curandero/as ("healers"), or medico/as ("doctors"). Because of regional variance and influences, every locale has its own ideas about how to practice, what constitutes the healing arts, and indeed, who the local curandero/as might be. This can range from pragmatic medical herbalism, bone-setting or midwifery, to faith healing, shamanism, and folk magic.
These healers, operating mostly under an (colonially imposed) 'universal' Hispanic Catholic worldview with various influences, cosmologies, and modalities, are able to cure those that come to them of various physical, spiritual, or emotional illnesses. One might argue that within the common framework of curanderismo, all illness is related, and all has a source and diagnosis in the spiritual-material world, which is not separated as concretely as in the western worldview. It is this hybrid and syncretic worldview, born of the mixture of Catholicism and Indigenous belief, that keeps miracles alive and God moving through the world, and allows our curandero/as to heal and fight disease.
Is this Christian folk healing? Rural folk medicine or superstition? Is it prayer or science? Is it the survival of native belief past colonization and state Catholicism? Is it witchcraft? Nothing is so simple when we look at the history, context, and practices that are all called curanderismo in Mexico. History is not truth, religion and science don't always disagree; herbs may be used both magically and medicinally, disease may be both spiritual and physical, and a simple egg may be both a tool for diagnosing a disease and its cure.
This course will be a five week exploration and overview of Mexican Curanderismo, in its varied forms and expressions, including
Curanderismo is traditionally an apprenticeship based system, passed mouth to ear and hand to hand, or a power given directly by God and Spirit to the healer. It is important to know that this course is not a certificate program or in any way a ‘training’ to become a curandero/a. It is the clients that are healed that name you curandero/a, it is not a title you wear. We will discuss many techniques, materials, and rituals common to curanderismo that indeed one could incorporate into their practice- but this class is to celebrate and to educate, not to serve as a substitute for training.
The class will be taught by Jesse Hathaway Diaz, the Goat of Wolf & Goat, who has been studying Mexican Curanderismo and Folk Catholicism actively for over two decades, rooted and based in familial devotions and inspired by ancestral practices of his family on both sides of the Border. He has guest lectured at several colleges and universities on the subject, and delivered papers at several conferences examining various aspects of the subject. He continues to research and write on many topics, in addition to being co-owner of Wolf and Goat.
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
All text and images ©2013-2019 by WOLF & GOAT
An Introduction to Mexican Curanderismo
taught by Jesse Hathaway Diaz
Five 1.5 hour Monday Sessions
Monday, April 1st, 2019
Monday, April 8th, 2019
Monday, April 15th, 2019
Monday, April 22nd, 2019
Monday, April 29th, 2019
Time: 9:00pm to 10:30 pm, EDT
Cost: $150 - payment due at time of registration
Recordings of the class will be available for viewing via online streaming for those enrolled in the class.