The women shamans of Peru have come to visit. They carry the sacred objects we will use in ceremony, and between them, over 50 years experience in healing. In Peru they are called curanderas, here they are sometimes called shamans. I have booked Ysabel and Olinda heavily during their 3 day stay. It is a rare opportunity for people to receive healings in the US from these women. They do not often travel from their neighborhoods or villages in Peru.
The morning after their arrival, we are up early, shopping for supplies. They do not speak English and my Spanish, while passable as a tourist, seems woefully inept. Sill, we manage to get by with a lot of hand signals and some interesting gesturing. Through it all their smiles and laughter make everything seem smooth and easy. They are probably the least judgmental and most loving individuals I have met in a long time.
Our supplies consist of eggs, white candles, a large glass bowl and lots of water. As we move through the aisles at Target, Ysabel and Olinda are enchanted with the store and ask to return for some “shopping” after the work is done. It is one of the few words that they consistently use in English.
When it is time for the first person to receive their healing. I am there to translate and to observe, as Ysabel and Olinda begin their work. It is fascinating to watch them, each one has her own tasks and they support each other in every moment of the healing.
Ysabel begins by having the client (for lack of a better word), sit with her at his healing altar (mesa). She pours a glass of holy water, prays into it briefly and drinks it down. Next she will offer one to her patient, then to Olinda, then to me since I am to participate in the healing.
The water is holy water which has sat on Ysabel's mesa since she began her practice 26 years ago. The bottle has never been completely empty, and the essence of that night so long ago remains in the water to this day. These women are from the Catholic tradition, but it seems to me as I watch from my seat in the corner, that they have a deep understanding of the sacred, and are open to the many and varied interpretations from traditions different from their.
Once the participants are properly blessed, Ysabel has the patient stand up and she rubs 2 white candles over her body, followed by rubbing an egg over her entire body. She is gentle with her movements, and she misses nothing as she fulfills her work. When she is finished, she cracks the egg into a glass of water and sets it on her mesa.
Then she sits down in front of her altar and Olinda begins her work. As Ysabel instructs her on which of her many healing staffs to use, the auxilia begin to cleanse, or perform limpias on the person receiving the healing. Ysabel watches as the egg begins to change, and the mesa tells her what the patient needs. Several different staffs are used for each person. The staffs, which are carved out of several different types of wood indigenous to South America, are a common tool in Peruvian north coastal healing.
At the end of the cleansing, on every person she works with, Olinda picks up a pair of scissors and begins to snip away old environments and patterns that do not serve the person. She uses the scissors in a complete circle around the person, going from head to foot on all sides. They do not explain what they are doing – I can see it as I sit there watching – old threads, dark clouds, patterns of disease, falling away.
While the cleansing with the staffs takes place, Ysabel sets in communion with the mesa and with her higher guidance, which she calls the Holy Spirit. When she finishes the limpias, Olinda goes into the kitchen to work with the candles that have previously been rubbed on the patient's body.
Ysabel has the person lay down on a mat we had placed o the floor, and she begins the healing portion of the session. She uses a form of hands-on healing – part massage, part energy work (similar to Reiki or Healing Touch). Her hands have been described as “the hands of an angel”. She focuses on particular parts of each person's body, depending on what she is seeing.
Meanwhile, Olinda is working with the candles. She brings them out into the kitchen, breaks them in half, and melts them in a small frying pan. They have carried this frying pan around with them through their 2-month stay in the US I somehow find this touching, an example of the humility and egolessness of these gentle healers. She waits patiently for the wax to melt and when it is finished, she pours it with a flourish into a glass bowl of cool water. There, a form begins to take shape in the wax. I watch them do over 20 healings in their 3-day stay and no two wax forms are the same.
As soon as the wax has solidified, Olinda carefully removes it from the bowl and brings it into the other room where Ysabel is working. She looks at it and they exchange a knowing glance between them. “It is like an x-ray of the person's physical body, energy and spirit,” Olinda tells me in Spanish. I notice that it almost always corresponds to the place or places on the person's body where Ysabel has already been working. There are many people who stories I know, or with what I have already worked, and I find that I can clearly read what the wax is telling them in some cases.
During the rest of the session, Olinda takes off the white rosary around her neck and begins to say the Hail Mary in Spanish. She speaks the prayers softly at first, rising in tone as she goes through the beads. It took me several days, but I finally realized that she was clearing the space and protecting Ysabel with the prayers. I could feel the intense amount of heavy energy being released during the sessions, but when they were over, the apartment felt completely clear and peaceful. It was as if the light they access came through and swept away anything that was not resonant with Light.
As she reaches the end, Ysabel will explain to the person what she has seen. She brings up things that have happened in their past which have stayed in the body, causing emotional pain or physical illness. She shows them the wax “x-ray” and says that this is what the candle has dropped out of them. It is in the past, she says, all here in the candle and no longer in your body. Then she breaks the wax picture and throws it in the garbage. Gone.
Next she picks up the egg which has been evolving in the glass of water. The egg is not as clear to me. It speaks more directly to her. The yolk symbolizes the person, and what happens in the glass is a kind of movie of what goes on during the healing. In some people she has opened a pathway to Spirit and this is reflected by white threads drifting upward from the “body”. In others there is a lot of energy removed from the body that clouds the glass completely. In a few, the yolk has broken, and its pattern gives her more information about that particular person. Like the candle wax, each egg is completely different.
It has been a privilege for me to witness these healings and to learn from them as an apprentice would – by watching, listening, and being of service in whatever way I can. It has informed the way I will go forward in my own healing practice and taught me that there is much to learn always.