Interestingly enough, the Inca healing legacy is still very much alive throughout Latin America. The healing traditions have been maintained, and in particular, Bolivia and Peru have more healers than doctors in some of their state-run hospitals. People from the indigenous populations of society place more trust on healers than doctors. Healing is a cultural tradition that could not be easily exported to other countries.
When you think of the Andean mountains and places like Machu Pichu, you never really get the sense that this is in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. The healing tradition is shamanic. In these parts of the Jungle, they use a substance called Ayahuasca (a trance inducing potion) to link into the magic that brings about the healing, understandings, knowledge and visions. The first few occasions that you take the substance, your body is cleansed at all levels with the aid of the Shaman or ‘Curandero’ who is there to guide you, and assist you in your journey. The healing that takes place happens at a mental, emotional and physical level.
Shamanic ecstasy is provoked by the ascension of the soul of the shaman into the heavens or its descent into the underworld. These states of ecstatic exaltation are usually achieved after great and strenuous training and initiation, often under distressing circumstances. The resulting contact by the shaman with the higher or lower regions and their inhabitants, and also with nature spirits, enables the healer to accomplish such tasks as accompanying the soul of a deceased into its proper place in the next world, affect the well-being of the sick, and to convey the story of their inner travels upon their return to the mundane awareness.
Healers connection with nature spirits to me is a most interesting one. I once heard a story from a Peruvian Shaman, Don Carlos, of his first encounter with a spirit from the Jungle. This happened on the third occasion that the healer went into a trance with Ayahuasca. He told the story of how the spirit of an Ant came to him and befriended him. The Ant then guided and introduced the healer to all the other nature spirits in the Jungle. From the healer’s relationship with the Ant Spirit, the healer has built knowledge over the last 30 years of the healing properties of plants, and the healer helped many people in his community, not just looking after their health, but also taking care of their emotional well being. The people of Don Carlos’ community trust this healer a lot more than they trust the doctors in his community, and some of them have never been to one.
The interesting part of the story to me is the connection to nature spirits. Every living creature, animal, or vegetable has a spirit and you are able to befriend those spirits and interact with them, not in a conventional way, or in the case of Don Carlos with the aid of ‘ayahuasca’. But the reality is that those relationships are as real to him as any of the relationships we have with our friends, partners etc and have a very practical implication for the well-being of his community. To me, the fact is that through those relationships, understanding, knowledge, healing, and empowerment into a different way of life can take place. And furthermore, because of the needs in Latin American society, these understandings are not cast aside as nonsense, but have been incorporated into the health care system and work in harmony with modern medical practices. In certain sections of society in Latin America, if the ‘curanderos’ or ‘shamans’ were not there, people would have no access to healing medicines or guidance of any sort, as they simply cannot afford it. And the ‘curanderos’ often have clinics at home where they put themselves at the service of their communities, after hours, so to speak.
The nature spirits that the ‘shamans’ connect with are all around us, just waiting for us to interact with them. Through this guided visualisation, you can bring the healing peace of the Andean Mountains and Jungle to your doorstep.
You will need to find a quiet place. Find a photo of the Amazon River or Jungle or one of the Inca temples in Peru up high in the Andean mountains. Settle yourself down in a quiet space. Breathe gently and evenly for a few minutes relaxing – some pan-pipe music may be appropriate. When you feel relaxed, imagine yourself transported to the place in your picture or to the place in your mind in the old Inca World. See yourself there. Imagine the smells, the sounds, and the atmosphere. After a few moments, become aware of all the spirits there, whether they be the spirit of the people there, the animals, the jungle, the vast Amazon River, the powerful mountains. Picture that strength and that power and see it all condensed into each breath that you are taking. Then imagine your body being filled with the magic, the power, the peace, the knowledge and the wisdom of the Ancient Incan habitat with every breath you take. As you breathe out, feel the powerful spirits that you have connected with cleansing your body and mind at all levels. The Jungle, the mountains, the river, the animals, the people, all supporting you in your quest for a stronger life here and now in your space. Bring the magic of healing from an ancient world to you through your breath and your imagination.