A Gathering of Traditional Medicine and Healing in Albuquerque – Saturday September 29/2007.
After saying goodbye to Masauke, Linda and all the other healers I had been working with, learning from and sharing information with over the past months, I sadly left San Antonio and the wonderful community of people that had become family to me. I made my way to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico to collaborate with Karen and Antonio, who I knew from the Sundance, and who are starting a healing centre with many of the elements of the centre I want to start in Toronto. I arrived in TorC just long enough to unpack and drop off my luggage at their house before I headed off to Albuquerque where Karen and I had been invited to take part in a gathering of Traditional Medicine and Healing.
The gathering was organized by Kalpulli Izkalli, a community organization that is a grassroots intergenerational action and resource centre dedicated to transforming the health and environment of the local community, Their motto, Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth is one of the concepts I have used for years in the courses I have taught, so I immediately resonated with this wonderful organization and their incredible event. Kalpuli Izkalli was started as an effort to create an alternative institute that could serve as a model for “integrating strategies to educate, advocate, and take action on those changes necessary to protect human life and the earth, and her resources with proactive alternatives that promote traditional knowledge and ethics of behaviour that celebrate the intrinsic value and sacredness of the natural world and its interdependence on humanity.”
“Kalpulli Izkalli are Nahuatl words meaning Kalpulli (Community) and Izkalli (House of the Light/Resurgence). Kalpulli Izkalli was formed in 1996 to promote, preserve and protect cultural and traditional practices. They are dedicated to community healing through these practices which include agriculture, medicine and traditional healing, ceremony, as well as the use of art, music, dance, writing and individual creativity to enhance personal, family, community and general human development. Kalpulli Izkalli exists to strengthen the capacity for individuals and families to create positive changes in the way we live that foster healing and renewal for ourselves and Mother Earth.”
The health fair took place in the parking lot of the Topakhal Clinic. The Topakhal Clinic (House of our Medicine Clinic) is one of the projects of Kalpulli Izkalli. It is a family practice clinic which combines Western and Eastern medicine, allopathic and naturopathic approaches. It has a beautiful community garden and a well designed clinic with treatment rooms, a small community kitchen and even an altar room for ceremony! What a progressive community health centre. I have been involved in the community health centre movement in Toronto for many years and have yet to see one with such an incredible integration of traditional and Western medeicines.
The gathering began with a Danza Azteca ceremony which honoured Mayahuel, the Guardian of Medicinal plants and healing and dona Predicanda, a local curandera or traditional healer, who had been healing the community for more than 60 years. Dona Predicanda was born with the ‘don’, the healing gift and grew up learnig from her grandmother, an indigenous curendera from Chihuahua, Mexico. Dona Predicanda and twp other curanderas were presented with plaques and honoured in the ceremony.
All the healers who had volunteered their services, myself included, were called into the centre of the circle of Aztec dancers to stand in front of the curanderas who were being honoured to be blessed with copal, prayers and agua de flores, flower water. After our blessing and the presentation of the plaques of honour to the curanderas, the Aztec dancers continued their dance into the early afternoon. The large group of Aztec dancers and drummers dressed in colourful clothing and elaborate feathered headdresses occupied most of the large parking lot. Information tables and healing tents had been set up around the perimeters of the parking lot. There was information on pregnancy and childbirth, breastfeeding, services for people who had been physically or sexually abused, and information on local environmental justice projects.
In the two tents close to ours there were massage therapists, Reiki practitioners and curanderas offering limpias or spiritual cleansings. There were three practitioners in our tent, Karen Ferreira, a homeopathic doctor who was providing information on healthy natural foods and homeopathic consultations; Dr Miguel Ortega, an iridologist from Cuernavaca, Mexico, who was staying with the same people who were hosting our little group, and who was examining eyes/doing iridology consultations and I was doing energy work and bodywork, incorporating some of the techniques I had learned from Masauke and company despite the fact that I had left my feathers in San Antonio.
We had a large number of people sign up for all of the different therapies when we first set up the tent but we were following Sundance rules and waiting for the ceremony to be over before we began the treatments. It was only some time after noon, when the woman who had been the first to sign up came over to find out if I would work on her that we found out that the tradition in Mexico was different from the Navajo Sundance tradition and that treatments were common while the dancing was going on. With that information in hand, I started working on her and from that time on wards there was a steady stream of people coming to our tent all afternoon. The treatments continued even when high winds suddenly began to blow and the tent almost came down around me and the woman I was working on. Karen and the husband of the client Miguel was working on grabbed the tent poles as the wind picked up, and along with the small group of people who quickly jumped in to help, they saved the day. We continued to work even after many of the information tables had been packed up and other practitioners had left. Miguel closed up shop finishing his last consultation under a tree as a group of volunteers came to take the tent down around him. Like at the sundance our services were voluntary.
It was a beautiful event which for me really demonstrated the integration of traditional and western medicine, as the regular Family Practice clinic was going on inside the Tophkal clinic. The waiting room was full of clients while the fair was going on and periodically the practitioners and interns from the clinic would come out to watch or take part in the ceremony. Many of the traditional practitioner who were practicing in the healing tents also provide services in the Tophkal clinic. All in all, the day was an amazing example of a community based model for integrative wellness – integrating traditional medicine, natural healing with ceremony, wonderfully healthy food and western clinical services. Bravo Kalpulli Izkali for a job well done!
For more information on Kalpulli Izkali and their annual gathering of traditional Medicine and Healing visit www.kalpulliizkali.org
For more information on Homeopathy or the Gaia Sophia visit www.gaiasophia.com