New Mexico Living Magical Traditions
Soul Retrieval refers to forms of shamanic practice that aim to reintegrate various interpretations of the soul that might have become disconnected, trapped or lost through trauma.
The Tibetan people traditionally view the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space as pervading all of life and as the essential components of our entire worldly existence. The soul (la) is said to be composed of these elements at a very subtle level — and it is believed that a traumatic event or other shock can cause an individual to lose connection with the elements and become dispirited. The ancient shamanic rites of soul retrieval (la gu) and life-force retrieval (tse gu) from the Mother Tantra of the Bon tradition are methods of calling on the living essence of the elements — the elemental spirits — to balance and heal the individual. Just attending the ritual in itself brings a healing effect. Students receiving the teachings additionally learn how to diagnose the need for soul retrieval as well as how to perform it. Through ritual and meditation practice, they learn to overcome negative influences and bring back the positive qualities that are missing or reinforce the qualities that are weakened in themselves or in others. Cultivating these personal qualities, in turn, serves as a foundation for spiritual awakening.
Navajo also use ceremonies used for curing people from curses. Many people often complain of witches and skin-walkers that do harm to their minds, bodies, and even families. Ailments aren't necessarily physical. It can take any form it wishes. The medicine man is often able to break the curses that witches and skin-walkers put on families. Mild cases do not take very long, but for extreme cases, special ceremonies are needed to drive away the evil spirits. In these cases, the medicine man may find curse objects implanted inside the victim's body. These objects are used to cause the person pain and illness. Examples of such objects include bone fragments, rocks and pebbles, bits of string, snake teeth, owl feathers, and even turquoise jewelry. There are said to be approximately fifty-eight to sixty sacred ceremonies. Most of them last four days or more; to be most effective, they require that relatives and friends attend and help out. Outsiders are often discouraged from participating, in case they become a burden on everyone, or violate a taboo. The ceremony must be done in precisely the correct manner to heal the patient, and this includes everyone that is involved.
Maclovia Sanchez de Zamora, the 85-year-old yerbera who prescribes herbs and oils and tinctures for what ails you, might want to brew up a big pot of Saint-John’s-wort tea. B. Ruppe Drugs has been an Albuquerque business since 1883, when Bernard Ruppe, a German who pronounced his name “ROO-pee,” settled by accident in Old Town and began selling medicinals. “His donkey or his cart or something broke, and he decided to stay,” is the story Zamora tells. The tradition of healing with plants has been with us since man and woman started walking on two legs. Its trendiness, like hemlines, comes and goes, but Zamora has been on the bandwagon since she was 10 years old. The curandera tradition came into Zamora’s family when she was a child in Belen. Her stepmother’s mother was a midwife and curandera and carried her black bag of herbs everywhere. Little Maclovia watched and learned. Cota tea to help the kidneys. Peppermint for inflammation. Pine tar to tame an angry boil. “I fell in love. I really fell in love with herbs,” she said.When Zamora began working at Ruppe’s, she had a small table of herbs. In 1985, she bought a share of the business, and over the years has expanded the herbal selection to a dizzying array of roots, grasses, weeds, oils and tree tars.Two-dollar pouches of herbs from A to Z line one wall – catnip, cloves, dandelion, eucalyptus, ginger, ginkgo, flax, laurel, passion flower, yarrow – while baskets and bowls brimming with yerba del manzo (good for wounds) and osha root (coughs, colds) line the counters. At 80, Zamora is still a bundle of energy. She is coming to terms with the end of her role as the mistress of remedios and considering her second act. She lectures about herbal remedies and is considering putting her lifetime of knowledge into a book.
"Bless Me, Ultima" is a coming-of-age novel that centers on Tony’s quest for personal and cultural identity. Perhaps the most prominent theme is that of Tony’s emerging spiritualism, which becomes an essential part of both his personal and cultural self. Anaya entrusts Tony’s spiritualism to Ultima, a wise healer, or curandera, who comes to live with Tony and his family. Upon meeting Ultima, Tony is overwhelmed by her powers. Revelation through dreams is one of the ways Anaya illustrates Tony’s metamorphosis. According to tradition, curanderas often attend laboring mothers, and Ultima had attended Tony’s mother during the birth of her children. In further keeping with tradition, she had buried the placenta after Tony’s birth, and with it the key to his destiny. Tony says “there was a nobility to her walk that lent a grace to the small figure.” It seemed to him as if she were part of the landscape, one with the spirit of the earth. He says that when he imitated her walk, he was no longer lost in the enormous landscape of hills and sky. “[He] was a very important part of the teeming life of the llano and the river.“ Ultima is confident, and she seems to possess an inner peace; she commands respect and she emanates power. Many people in the Chicano culture know the powers of curanderismo and consider them magical. But Tony can feel the magic. He is captivated by Ultima, and he speaks of the “clear bright power in her eyes [that] held [him] spellbound.” When he first shakes hands with Ultima he says that he “felt the power of a whirlwind sweep around [him].”
One of the major themes that emerges in Bless Me, Ultima is that of spirituality and healing. Ultima is a kind of shaman, a spiritual guide that helps Tony come to an understanding of God and nature and helps him use that understanding to recognize spirit in his world. In many traditional cultures, folk healing is tied to a belief in the sacredness of nature. Curanderismo is an ancient system of Mexican American folk healing; it relies on the use of rituals and the power of herbs that arise from the land. Curanderas reputedly can heal both body and soul. To Tony it seems that they know earth magic. Anaya tells us that “for Ultima, even the plants had a spirit,” and everything in nature is a manifestation of life force. Ultima teaches Tony a respect for nature. She teaches him that spirit exists everywhere, and that his spirit “[shares] in the spirit of all things.”
John Hopkins....Northern New Mexico