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Traditional Healers, Curanderos in San Miguel

by Gray Wolf

Over a period of twenty-five years in the United States, I studied, practiced and taught various healing modalities. After several years of successful practice, I created a vocational school of training for holistic therapists. I assembled a faculty of gifted practitioners, doctors and healers who established an in-depth curriculum. The school succeeded and gained national recognition. In the year 2000 while on personal retreat, I received an audible message from Spirit:

Sell everything.

Though this was the first audible message that I had ever received, I have had a lifetime of mystical experiences. I took this message seriously, sought counsel with my mentors and began preparing the sale of my assets. In the year 2003, preparations were complete and everything that I owned was on the market and for sale. The only indication of what I was being called to do once I was divested were continuous visions of the eyes of indigenous people. I believed that this was a sign that Spirit would be leading me south, possibly to learn from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Friends recommended that I study Spanish in a Mexican pueblo called San Miguel de Allende. A scholar of Mexican culture recommended that I seek indigenous healers to study with in the state of Oaxaca. Now I had a skeletal plan. That is when I received the second audible message from Spirit:

If this is truly your path, give everything away.

After wrestling with Spirit over this latest and very extreme vocation, I surrendered and sought counsel from my Lakota medicine men before preparing my give-away. Having completed my give-away, I said good-bye to my extensive community, friends and family and boarded a bus for San Miguel de Allende. I arrived at La Central with my day pack and ritual drum, walked to Centro, checked in and pre/paid for a three-month stay at the hostel. I began studying Spanish and meeting both Mexicans and American expats. One expat, Owen Thomas, was creating a reading room for group dialogues above Juan’s Café Etcetera. Owen was very interested in my path and offered me use of the reading room to provide healing and earn a small subsidy so as not to deplete my very limited funds while I was studying Spanish. He knew that I would eventually be leaving for Oaxaca to seek indigenous teachers of healing.

One month into my time in San Miguel, a friend told me that she had heard of a curandera named Dona Paulita who lived about an hour east of San Miguel, and asked if I would like to find and meet her. The following morning, my friend and I drove an hour east of the pueblo to a small modern village where my friend had heard that La Dona lived. I explained to my friend that I wanted to be anonymous with La Dona as I would be scoping her out as a potential teacher. I did not want La Dona knowing anything about my vocation nor my gift of healing. If I perceived that La Dona was a charlatan, we could simply leave. In a small tienda, I asked a woman where I might find Dona Paulita. “Ah, la curandera? Dos cuadros y izquierda pasa la taqueria.” Past the taco stand and down a little lane I came to a dead-end where children were playing. I asked the children where I might find Dona Paulita and a young boy responded, “Es mi abuela – viene conmigo.” The boy lead us through a closed gate and down another dusty lane. He pointed to a metal door, “Es la puerta de mi abuela – pasale.” A very old Mexican woman greeted us and told us to sit with the others who were seated on benches and waiting to see La Dona. She explained that Dona was resting but would be out shortly. When Dona came out, she looked at all who were waiting and signaled my friend and me to come with her into her altar room. It was like a garage with concrete block walls, a dirty cement floor, and a tacky looking altar at one end of the room.

Despite the cheap candles, burned-out Christmas lights, plastic crucifix and dusty images of Guadalupe, I felt a thick, sweet energy and warmth wash over my chest. It brought tears to my eyes. My friend explained that she would like a limpia (energy cleansing) and asked if her friend Lobo could observe. Dona agreed and proceeded to perform a limpia on my friend with grain sugar, holy water and prayers in the native tongue. When finished with my friend, she said that she would also like to do a limpia on me. I agreed.

As I was brushing the sugar off my body, Dona pulled my friend to the other end of the room and asked her if it would be appropriate to ask Lobo to provide healing for her granddaughters whose father had abruptly left the family and who were anxious and unable to sleep. Surprised by her intuitive knowledge of who I am, and honored by her request and humility, I agreed. Dona left the room and returned with her two small grand-daughters. Individually, I brought them before the altar, knelt down and gazed into their eyes. When I sensed their trust, I began the invocations and healing. The ritual completed, the girls went and lay down on some cushions on the floor and slept. With tears in her eyes, Dona stated that this was the first time in months that she had seen her preciosas at peace. She then asked if I would see their mother, her daughter, as she suspected a curse had been sought on her from the family of the estranged husband and father of the girls. I agreed. Dona left again and returned with her daughter. In front of the altar, I scanned the daughter’s chakras, performed the native knife ritual with invocations, scanned her energies again while receiving impressions and images from Spirit. Though I did not have any knowledge of what had transpired within the family, I shared the impressions with Dona. By her response, I sensed that I had confirmed some things which she had suspected: her daughter had not been telling the truth about her husband and his estrangement from the family. Having completed our visit, I gifted Dona with a bag of white sage and a few hundred pesos. Dona invited me to come back so that she could teach me las curas that her grandmother had taught her, craftily smiling as she asked, “Es porque me visitaste?” Distracted by life in this new culture, I didn’t return.

A few months later, another friend told me where I could meet another curandero. The following day, I entered Don Pablo’s equally tacky altar room located in an old, defunct community center in a poorer area of the pueblo. The room was lined with shelves filled with jars of herbal concoctions and labeled brown bags filled with dried herbs and dried animal parts. The altar was dusty and piled with sacred items, a crucifix, icons of Guadalupe, the Holy Mother and Baby Jesus. I expressed that, exhausted and weary after a string of friendships that ended in theft, betrayal and slander, I was in need of healing. He invited me to remove all metal, shoes and belt, and sit in a chair against the wall. He lit a candle on his altar, placed a cassette tape of outdated new-age music in a dusty, old boom box, turned out the lights and sat in a chair on the opposite wall. In the darkness lit only by the altar candle, I felt a heavy sweetness and compassion wash over me and proceeded to sob uncontrollably for thirty minutes. Encouraging me to focus my breathing, Pablo left the room. His assistant, Dona Rosa, entered the room, told me to stand, opened her arms and with pure compassion embraced me. Again, I collapsed in deep sobbing and tears. After this second wave had passed, Dona brushed through my aura with her hands, had me sit and encouraged me to focus my breathing before she, too, left the room. Don Pablo returned and sat. After a period of silence, he began to reveal what he saw. “Someone has reversed your energies. It was two years ago. You were around the fire with the wrong tribe. There was a woman with you. She is in her early sixties. She is not good because she plays with magic that she does not understand. She, or some entity working through her, reversed your energies and your gift is now compromised.” I asked what could be done to correct this. He stated that I needed a cambia as limpias are not strong enough. I asked if he could provide the cambia (an energetic correction) but he declined saying, “I am old and tired. I have three young girls waiting outside who were raped and are now suicidal. The little energy I have must be used to help them. There is a woman who can help you. She lives about an hour out in the country in a small village.” I asked, “Dona Paulita?” “Yes. You know of her?” “Yes, Don Pablo. I know Dona Paulita.” “Go see her. She is the only one who I know that can help you. In the meantime, go lay on the stones in the canyon and breathe. You have been spending too much time traveling in the stars. You need to spend more time receiving healing and grounding from Mother Earth. Come back and see me when you have done these things.” Walking home under the moon and stars, I contemplated all that Don Pablo had said. I knew exactly who he had referred to, and who had reversed my energies. An important lesson learned, wisdom received and healing from a humble curandero.

A few days later, a friend drove me to see Dona Paulita. The day of my return was unannounced and was not a day of the week that she performs her curas. As I approached the metal gate, and before I could even knock, the door opened and there stood Dona dressed in purple with talisman and crucifix hanging over her heart. “Regreso! Pasale Usted!” I passed through her door, gave her a big hug and responded, “Si, Dona. Yo regrese. Esta buen verte!” “Igualemente!” she responded, leading me into her altar room. Holding a candle, she performed the cambia, singing the invocations and prayers, then brushing holy water over me using green fronds from a plant. I visited Dona a few more times and we shared our knowledge with each other. I decided to make San Miguel my home.

After all of these experiences, I received one last audible message from Spirit:

I am the teacher you seek.

The next morning, I went to Juan’s Café for breakfast. Owen was sitting alone and invited me to join him. We sat in silence as we stirred our cappuccinos. Owen broke the silence. “I believe that your pursuit of a teacher is in vain. I believe that Spirit is your teacher.” I shared with Owen the audible message that I had received the preceding evening. He smiled. We said nothing more and enjoyed our breakfast in silent contemplation.

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Gray Wolf holds a B.S. in pre-medicine from Lipscomb University; is certified in traditional massage therapy from the Florida School of Massage; is certified in Ericsonian Hypnotherapy from the Institute of Integrative Healing Arts; is an initiated Reiki master; is a graduate of the Stillpoint School for Spiritual Direction; an initiated neo-shaman (International Foundation for Shamanic Studies) and initiated shaman (Lakota tradition). Gray Wolf currently resides and practices in San Miguel de Allende.

Gray Wolf Healing

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