ANDEAN RITUAL CLEANING – From my monthly column in Keene, NH

I am writing this article from Otavalo, Ecuador, after a visit with the shaman Jorge Tamayo who recently carried out a ritual cleaning for me.  Don Jorge, as he is known, is a gentle spoken man of an indescribable age who speaks Quechua and a spotty Spanish.  About five feet tall, he lives with his wife in the nearby town of Carabuela, where all the houses have front lanws of corn in various stages of gestation.  I first met Don Jorge and his son Esteban when they visited a healing center in central New Hampshire several years ago and I helped out with the translation.

           This is my second visit to his home, which also serves as  a cermonial center.  Since I am in the area, I figured it would be good to check in and get a ritual cleaning.  While I have not had any health problems of late, nonetheless I have felt my energy a bit low due to various concerns.  We all go throught these periods, as they are part of the warp and woof of all human cycles.
            Just as we need to keep our physical body clean, so too is it a healthy practice to keep our energetic body in good resonance.  Since our energetic body – which recent advances in science increasingly acknowledges – functions in a manner of speaking like a first line defense, its role is critical to our well being at the mental, emotional and physical levels.  All of the spiritual and religious traditions of humanity have their own practicies for clearing stagnant energies from our being.  These practices can include water, incense, fire, the use of stones, chants and sound, and much more.  Of course, it is the intention behind these rituals and ceremonies that are key.
            Don Jorge follows the Andean indigenous practices that date back to before the arrival of the Inca and, later, the Spanish.  We begin with a discussion and reading through the use of a white candle.  Don Jorge himself is seated at a rustic wooden table filled with balast stones of various shapes and sizes as well as numerous clear crystal balls.  After this initial consultation, I am instructed to remove my clothes and stand in the middle of the semi-darkened room as he and his son Esteban proceed to guide me through the passing of stones on my body, the spraying of herbal liquid, the blowing of fire, tobacco smoke, and the spitting on two eggs.  I finish up passing a refreshing liquid along my body, head to foot, and am told that the ceremony went well.  And that I can dress.
            During the clearing, or limpia, as it is called in Spanish, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from me, and I envisioned a person close to me who I am concerned about being well tended and cared for by the figure of Jesus.  This Jesus, for me, is the great healer, and is beyond any religion or creed.
            Don Jorge finished by telling me that I should not bathe for 24 hours and for four days can not drink caffeine or alcohol or eat pork, seafood, avocado or hot pepper.
While not everyone who feels drawn to having such a limpieza has the chance to experience what
              I am honored enough to have been able to be part of, there are ways that we can all take care of our own energetic body and give ourselves limpiezas.  One simple practice taught me by a shaman in Brazil is to once a week after shampooing your hair put a small amoutn of gin (yes, gin) on the top of your head.  This area is key for our energetic well being, and the gin helps clear and refresh energies there.
              Partaking of baths with certain essential oils, working with healing stones, using sound to help clear negativity, spending time connecting to nature and the elements, lighting incense and-or healing herbs (such as copal, sage, tobacco, palo santo and others), and other practices are all ways we can take care of our energetic bodies.  Such tending is as important as taking care of our physical selves.  Especially when we are feeling stressed and rushed, taking time out to take care of ourselves is one of the best gifts you can give not only yourself, but to those around you as well.
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