The Magical Realm of Curanderismo

Curanderismo is the name for the conglomeration of techniques used in traditional Mexican healing. It originated in the native people of Mexico, most notably the Aztecs, Mayans, and Zapotecs, and when the Spanish arrived and colonized the land, the Spanish herbs and Catholic traditions fused with the already-present native methods of healing. Curanderismo includes massage, acupuncture, and medicinal plants, as well as prayer, spiritual cleansing, magic, and ceremony. The reason for this range of therapies is because the root theory behind it states that illnesses have both physical and supernatural causes, the latter referring to evil spirits and/or witches. A curandera (or curandero, referring to the male counterpart) is the person who demonstrates these techniques on a subject.


Altun Ha, a Mayan temple in Belize. Source:

When we think of medicine, we usually think of pills, or a syrup, taken orally, or perhaps a cream, spread topically for skin infections. However, curanderismo is used to cure not only physical illnesses and infections, but also physical and mental harm believed to be caused by spirits or witchcraft. As it is with most traditions of the medicinal kind, curanderismo steers clear of the lab-engineered pharmaceuticals of today, and utilizes objects such as eggs, crucifixes, candles, herbs, incense, lemons, saints, holy water, and prayer. These tools are usually used to commission spiritual assistance or perform a cleansing using the properties of the item. For example, a curandera may decide to use a raw egg, rubbing the unbroken fresh egg over the body, before breaking it open to analyze the person’s energies and condition. A cleansing may be done by sweeping a feather, a bundle of herbs such as sage, or holy water over the body in order to dissipate the negative energy.

A small space used by a curandera. Source:

The kind of magic done in curanderismo is considered “white magic,” in contrast to the “black magic” of brujeria, or witchcraft. The distinction is made in the uses and methods of the magic. White magic, if a spirit is involved, will usually summon an angelic, sacred, or holy spirit, and will serve the purpose of ridding a person of a curse, or simply negative energy in general. Black magic, on the other hand, may dabble with summoning non-holy spirits or necromancy to achieve a desire that a person has, namely love, money, and sex. It is important to realize that this distinction was made when Catholic beliefs merged with the native traditions, which originally made no distinction between “white” or “black”, or good and evil magic.
An illustration of a necromancer found in the book: Astrology, A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences by Ebenezer Sibly. Source:

An illustration of a necromancer found in the book: Astrology, A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences by Ebenezer Sibly. Source:

Now, our Desert Oasis garden will simply focus on the medicinal herbs subsection of curanderismo, for multiple reasons. One reason is because it would take a lot of explaining and space to include all of the aspects. Another, and perhaps the more important reason, is because we are located in a school. Curanderismo is heavily religious, and it is best to not affiliate ourselves with one certain religion, in order to keep our diverse population happy and tension-free.
Sources and Useful Links

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