The Art of Healing

Today just might have been the busiest day on our Copper Canyon trip.  Unfortunately, we would feel it for sure because I had dragged Steve out of bed well before the sunrise so that we could be in place in plenty of time to see the sunrise.  Fortunately, our first stop would take us to the home of a Rarámuri shaman.  For 50 pesos, we were told, Catalina would perform a healing.  Perhaps she would have a fix for sleepiness.



Catalina greeted us on the rim of yet another canyon.  I wish I could be more specific.  Truthfully, I just do not remember which one. She then invited us to her home where she would perform the healings.  Catalina lived in a traditional Rarámuri home; a cave.  Actually, two sides and the roof were made of rock, and she closed the remaining sides with wood, similar to a log cabin.  It was obvious that Catalina was very proud of her home.  Standing on her roof, we could see for miles across the canyon, bursting with green.  Steps carved into the mountain rock led down to her front door.

Her home was one room.  Obviously, she had no electricity or running water.  There was a fire burning, and the smoke was vented though one of the walls.  Catalina had four pieces of furniture:  a stump which she used as a chair, a wooden, platform bed (no mattress), a small, handmade wooden end table, and a long, narrow table used for food preparation and storage.  She had added shelves to the walls to hold some of her supplies.  The rest were kept in plastic, five gallon buckets under the table.  Natural shelves in the rock walls held smaller items. She cut a small viewing window in the wall directly on the rim of the canyon.  Looking through it, I became dizzy for the first time since arriving in the canyon system. 

Catalina, a Rarámuri shaman, and her granddaughter, Lola, in front of their home

The home was crowded with eight adult visitors.  Since the only place for guests to sit was on the bed, that is exactly what five of us did.  I seated myself on the wooden stump and was immediately joined by Catalina’s small granddaughter, Lola.  Lola was fascinated with my curly hair, and it kept her distracted while her grandmother performed the healings.  Ruth and our driver, a close friend of Catalina’s, moved in and out of the home.  Catalina knew some Spanish, but she spoke primarily, Rarámuri, an indigenous language spoken by more than 70,000 people in the state of Chihuahua.  Our driver helped translate.

Now, I was completely unsure whether Steve would agree to participate in the healing.  He does not like to visit a regular doctor, and there is no way anyone would ever describe him as a “New Age, searching for enlightenment” kind of guy.  So imagine my shock when he not only decided to go for it, but actually volunteered to go first!

I have read about sweat lodges and smudging.  I know about the power of medicine men among indigenous peoples.  I have had friends describe their experiences with healing crystals.  I know many who practice meditation and swear by holistic treatments for various illnesses.  None of this prepared me for what I was about to witness.  I am not sure if it was a good thing to let someone else go first or not.  Once Catalina got started healing Steve a part of me thought, “Meh, I have lived with this shoulder pain since December.”

First, using a cigarette, she blew smoke into his ears and mouth.  Catalina then moved the smoking cigarette in circles around his shoulders, knees, and lower back.  She spit water on the top of his head- -and stuck her finger in his mouth.  Finally, she had Steve rub an uncooked egg (yes, it was in the shell) over the parts of his body where he experienced the most pain.  I have never in my life seen my husband more serious about anything!  He still giggles when someone says Uranus (well, don’t we all), yet he appeared stoic throughout his healing, no matter where he was being poked, prodded, or spit upon.


And when Catalina broke the egg in a cup of water so we could all see the pain that had been removed from his body, Steve was fascinated by the knife shape leaving the yolk from the underside.  “Yes, that is exactly what the pain in my shoulder has felt like since December!”  (We had the same pain, due to our increased kayaking.)  And I could tell by the look in his eyes that he truly believed the pain had been absorbed by the egg and removed.  He had follow up instructions; he needed to complete some steps once we returned home.  He solemnly agreed to carry them out.  

After seeing what Steve endured, one in our group decided she was just fine and opted out.  That moved me up a spot.  And when it was my turn, in addition to having water spit on my head, smoke blown in my ears, and a finger inserted into my mouth, my buddy, Lola, also walked back and forth across my back.  I am not going to lie.  When I left Catalina’s home I felt somehow changed, different, in a good way.

And get this!  The next morning Steve and I had zero pain in our shoulders!  Joe; however, had a stiff neck and a headache.

Author: acstrine

Amy is a former elementary school teacher, currently living "Over the Border" with her husband. She loves reading, traveling, and learning through new experiences. While she would be incredibly flattered if you choose to share her articles, she asks that her name is kindly included as the author.  

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