Curanderismo: Healing the Healer
What is Curanderismo?
To put it simply, Curanderismo is the ancient art of traditional healing in Latin America.
'Curanderismo blends religious beliefs, faith, and prayer with the use of herbs, massage, and other traditional methods of healing. Curanderismo can be defined as a set of traditional beliefs, rituals, and practices that address the physical, spiritual, psychological, and social needs of the people who use it. The Spanish verb curar means to heal. Therefore, curanderismo is translated as a system of healing.' (1)
Cultural practitioners (curanderas/os) usually work on three levels:
Physical (Body). Use of ritual objects, plática (heart-to-heart conversation), plants and herbs, song, and prayer;
Spiritual (Spirit). The use of prayer and meditation to communicate with spiritual beings (Angels, Saints, Animal Protectors, Deities, Ancestors) for guidance and spiritual healing power to effect healing. Some curanderos work in a trance-state. Some curanderas work in the dreamtime.
- Mental/Energy (Mind). Mental focus, visualization, and directing healing energy at the non-local level.
In Curanderismo, it is believed that disease is caused by social, emotional, physical, environmental, and spiritual factors.
Curanderismo can address a wide array of situations, including:
Addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of facing potentially life-threatening illness (by patient/client and family members).
Chronic long-term stress of anxiety and depression.
Providing emotional and spiritual support for women who have experienced a miscarriage or termination of a pregnancy
Susto / Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) such as that experienced by returning veterans, activists, victims of sexual trafficking, and law enforcement officers.
How does this relate to Despierta?
As the founder of Despierta, I have always poured my knowledge, background, and innate 'gifts' into every aspect of my products (what I call, my healing tools). Being of Mexican descent, I created Despierta every step of the way with the intention that my journey and experiences up to now would emanate the very magic & wisdom of my ancestors.
I have personally been to curanderas, both as a child and into my adult life, to help guide and heal various ailments - and a lot of what my day-to-day upbringing brought, was thanks to that very knowledge through my own grandparents. I have had many experiences in this life that have led me to believe and practice within the spiritual realm.. my tale goes as far back as before birth, and spills deeply into my dream work, my career in aiding others through my mirror work, my world peace tour, etc.
All of this, has led me to who and where I am now. I have always felt drawn to and had this deep knowing that I would someday return to my roots, fully - and now, here I Am.
Meeting my Tribe
Earlier this month I was blessed to be welcomed into a beautiful group of curanderas. I did not know what would come of this trip, but I knew it was important and though I had not traveled in 3 years, there my soul led me.
I arrived and only knew that I wished to be of service, play the role of 'whatever you need, let me know' and just help out the best I can being on hand for whenever translation was needed during healing sessions, or grabbing water - literally anything.
As to not write a novel (at this time), what I experienced this week with such an incredible group of beings was heart-filling.
The first couple days prior to the teachings beginning, I bonded with a few of the women and we shared our stories - ones of heartache, loss, illness.. my heart full and weeping for others I had just met, and moved by their strength.
Little did I know that the days to come the tears would only continue to flow...
Healing the Healer
I don't have the words quite yet to express what I've experienced, but can only state how grateful I am to have been guided to this experience and be so gently held by this community of healers.
Many of you may not know this about me (or much about me at all if you are just finding me through Despierta), but I lost my mother when I was 13 years old.
This may not mean much to you, but as someone who grew up too quick and too young, always had to 'take care of herself' and everything around her from such an early age, and in turn never learned to rely on or be open to, or even KNOW, what it was like to have community to depend on.. this trip was everything I never knew I needed. As a healer, and most importantly as a human being.
Over the course of my time with these beautiful people, little by little I shared hints of my story and childhood.. and glimmers of my traumas, pain, and inner-child shown through.
Am sure this is what caused Maestra Rita (the teacher Curandera) to feel drawn to call upon me when the time came.
After aiding Maestra in a healing session as a translator,
I let her know how honored I was to be able to not only play witness to her at work, but how much of my life had led me to this very day and wishing to learn more from her and the others to expand my knowledge and practice. She smiled, held me as she said in spanish, 'You have already taken the most important steps' as she went on to tell me how important it is to her that the youth and younger generations take interest, learn, and continue the practice of our ancestors as she will not be around forever.
That was my first real interaction with her, and I could not wait for more. As the next day came, we did our morning practices, listened intently to the lessons and then it was time for a volunteer to demonstrate one of the practices.
I do not know if it was me who volunteered from curiosity, or my soul from need - but there I was, with my hand in the air as she called upon me to step forward.
We had just done role playing 'mother & daughter' partnered up with others in the group so my eyes were already swollen from crying, and now we were going DEEPER.
There I was unaware of what was coming, and I was asked to choose 2 people from the circle who would represent my mom and grandmother. I choked up immediately, choose my two female figures and was asked to express in 5 minutes to each of them, anything I had left unsaid or wanted to share with them.
I immediately lightly told myself how I regretted volunteering in my mind, as I am not one to happily cry nor voice such thoughts and words in large groups of strangers.. and almost instantly forgot this fear whispering within me and started to speak to my 'grandmother' who just recently passed during COVID.
As the words came through, I smiled into her eyes. A beautiful native elder with the soul of the skies within her. She warmly stared as she listened, and then when my time was up, she spoke. Through the lens and voice of my grandmother after what she had heard, she reassured me of her love, how much I mean to her and that she is never far from me. I couldn't stop crying, but it was now time to speak to my 'mom' and I could feel the circle welling up as the community was so tightly involved and emerged in the experience as I began this healing journey.
I spoke, my voice cracking and pushing through tears. What could I say? It has been 20 years, and the timing is crazy .. so the first thing that comes out of my mouth as I looked around the room was, 'It's funny because what you all didn't know is that I am just 2 weeks away from spreading my mom's ashes in Mexico with my sisters finally after 20 years.' and the class goes silent as I see their eyes fill with tears.
I begin to express myself to this woman who is playing my mother and I apologize for not knowing how to act as a child when she was going through chemo, radiation, through all of the hospital visits, and her ever changing appearance, and for believing everyone when they said 'everything is going to be okay' and then, it wasn't. I could feel a weight being lifted but also the pain Ii had been holding in exploding within me and my chests tightening.
After the time was up, my 'mother' spoke.. and Maestra said, 'there is a void here' -- and she requested I now find a 'dad' within the circle and so I chose..
I went through this process again with him, and same result - tears, love, connection and somehow, so that I do mention here.. these figures I had chosen almost blindly out of a circle of 'strangers' slowly transformed into the very vessels and beings I had wished for them to embody.
It may sound strange or pure 'woo' at this point, but when I looked into their eyes.. I felt the eyes of my elders looking back at me, smiling, being there with me - for me.
..and then She Became a Butterfly
After theses three roles were done, she asked me, and so Dulce now how do you feel? I turned back and said, 'I just want to be with my sisters' as I let out a light heartfelt chuckle and tears rolled down my cheeks and gathered on my chin before they dripped and fell to my feet. And then she asked, and what is it you need right now? I looked at her and replied, 'A hug.'
She saiid okay, turned to the class and told us all, 'now we are going to move onto the next part of the healing and demonstration.'
Gathering a few large linen-like cream sheets, she and my 'family members' (that I had chosen) began to place them in position, she asked me to lay down on them, while my 'mom and dad' held onto one, and then folded another which my 'grandmother' held as she elevated my head.
And then it was time for another 'void' to be filled. Again, not knowing my full story and history, this teacher and curandera knew, sensed or felt that we were still not done here. She looked at me and saiid the word, 'Abuelo' - in spanish which means grandfather. I knew what she meant and I went ahead and selected another male from the circle to play the role.
He also had just passed during COVID and I was unable to say goodbye to him due to travel restrictions, and so this final addition to my 'family' for this healing was definitely someone I would have loved to have there.
The grandfather role, my Tata Armando, was 'placed' at my feet as Iaid on the floor with my feet now elevated and held by a sheet beinig sustained by him.
And then, it began.
She asked my 'grandmother' to sing to me as if she was comforting me to sleep.. requesting that all family members rock me (like a baby). Because my selected grandmother was native indigenous, her song was a beautiful one of ancient tones and I could not hold back the tears.
The song began to soothe me, and the rocking was so beautifully comforting.. then the others joined in song harmoniously as Maestra passed around instruments (maracas, drums, and some made of shells). I laid there honestly so grateful to everyone, and also slightly ashamed and feeling bad that they 'had to' take care of me.
When that thought came up, I began to weep more deeply.. I rarely had the opportunity to experience such care from others - my sisters and I had to care for ourselves for the most part, and this grew me into the overtly independent woman that I had always known myself to be. I didn't accept love the way I could when it came, and I basically ran from anything/one that offered me the world.
This too, was part of my healing that day. I cried, and smiled, and said, let the love pour in - you deserve it. And I did.. it flowed in me and through me, and as i heard everyone sing I could feel my soul rejoicing, becoming lighter - and myself.. just happier than I had been in .. perhaps ever.
Then Maestra came up to me.. placed her hands on my chest and pressed lightly. I SCREAMED.
In excruciating pain and almost agony.. she saiid 'uh huh' as in, 'yes' -- she told me to let it out
It hurt, and then i realized.. it DID - Losing my mother so young and never really having that standard family structure, it hurt me. I never let anyone know, but there it was clear as day as a pain in my heart screaming to be released.
She went 3 or 4 more times and with every passing of her pressing, the less it hurt.
On the last one as I cried and cried, she asked okay now on a scale of 1-10 how much does it hurt.. I had gone from saying 20.. to 8.. to 6.. to now, a steady 2.
She reassured me, this was a great work we had done but that it was not over. As she looked down on me as I lay there having spent what felt like the past hours being embraced by the community as I cry and heal, they began to 'wring' me tightly with the sheets removing any of the remaining energies out of my body and wrapping me up tightly.
She requested I try and get into a fetal position while in this 'cocoon' and as I did, they began to lay even more blankets on top of me.. my body wrapped tightly in sheets from head to toe and now beneath a load of heavy blankets.
After an hour or so of 'resting' while the circle sat around me and discussed what had just happened, how they felt, etc. I was asked to 'emerge' from and try to release myself from this outer shell.
And quite literally I felt the metamorphosis of letting go and releasing the layers. I became a butterfly as I broke free of the last layer and stretched out after a long and arduous healing journey, transformed.
I can not explain what I felt, nor even to this day how much this has helped me prepare for the coming week as I begin to make my way to Arizona so that I can be reunited with my sisters to drive down to our childhood home in Mexico and celebrate my mom's life and at last 'put her to rest' as we spread her ashes over the Sea of Cortez.. nor just how serendipitous 'becoming a butterfly' is for me.
But I know that I am forever grateful.. and this is solely the beginning of my journey as a Curandera.
That was day 1.. what came after as I was initiated as an apprentice Curandera, will be a tale for another time.✨💜🙏