Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pam Visits a Shaman

As I mentioned in my last post, I am taking Spanish Lessons at a school called Simon Bolivar here in Cuenca. They really believe in a "hands-on" approach to learning language.In the course of one of my lessons I mentioned to the instructor that Pam has been having some chronic medical issues which Western medicine hasn't seemed to help that much. She immediately suggested we visit a woman shaman that she knows who "practices" in a local mercado (a huge, outdoor market).

For those of you who are not up to snuff on shaminism, a shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits. Here in Ecuador, many of the shaman are mujeres (women).

It was raining outside, but the mercado was only a short walk away so Pam agreed to make the trek to see the shaman without knowing what to expect.

We encountered a little old Andean woman with crinkles at her eyes and a sweet smile on her face. She was dressed in colorful native garb and wore a fedora type hat.She didn't speak a word. (Sorry, I didn't think to take a picture at the time, and I was also fearful of offending those evil spirits).

Pam sat on a little stool. The shaman started by grabbing a bunch of herbs which she crushed with her hands against her leg. Then, she thrust them into Pam' s face for Pam to smell. This was followed by shaking the herbs and then pummeling Pam about the head and body with them, while silently chanting.

I found out later that Pam was also chanting to herself, but with a different chant: "please don't touch my hair...please don't touch my hair...please don't touch my hair."

Step two in the process was the "egg." It was a brown egg that apparently had special powers.  The shaman rubbed the egg all over Pam' s hair, face, and body while still chanting. I think the purpose was to draw out evil spirits (poison) from Pam' s body. In this step, Pam later revealed she was telling herself: "please don' t break that egg over my head....please don't break that egg over my head."

On to Step 3 - the sacred water ritual.This lady comes from a local village where they have sacred water which is supposed to have special healing and spiritual properties. She had some in a bottle from which she took a swig. Suddenly she spit out the water in puffy bursts on Pam's head, and the back of her neck. Then she lifted up Pam's sweater and continued the treatment on Pam's stomach. This purification ritual was experienced by Pam as: "she spit on me."

Finally, she put some "vile-looking" green liquid with a pleasant aroma on Pam's hands which Pam then applied all over her body. We have no idea what the liquid was but it felt good to Pam so she continued to apply it.

The cost? Only two dollars. Did it help? We don't know yet, but Pam was feeling better the next day.
Maybe..just maybe..we'll return for another treatment. In the meantime, we will practice spelling the word "placebo."


  1. You must have enjoyed observing this entire experience, Tony, albeit, at Pam's expense. I hope the whole ritual did Pam some good. If not, at least the experience gave us readers a good laugh.

  2. Which mercado was it? How do I find her?