Healing Rituals of the World

Chicken soup is a traditional cold remedy in many American households. In China, it’s lizard soup. In Spain, it’s not a soup at all but tea – garlic lemon tea with a dash of honey to be exact. In Japan, they will just let you get a whiff of cut onion to clear your sinuses. In Jamaica, they will make you sweat your misery out with overproof rum and lime juice.

These are just a few interesting takes on simple home remedies for the common cold. These simple practices were passed down from the traditions of old, and there are many more where these came from, full-blown healing rituals that reflect the region and the culture.

India Healing Rituals

While healing with crystals has roots in many ancient cultures like the Egyptian and Greek civilizations, the spiritual and healing powers of crystals were most recognized and developed in India as documented in their Vedic scriptures. Gemstones were used to realign energy patterns and balance emotions. They emit specific vibrational frequencies that affect the different parts of the body. Specific stones may simply be worn to touch the skin or ingested (taken internally). To remove the harmful effects of the gems before being ingested, they are either heated, crushed and burnt into ash or made into gem tinctures. To make gem tinctures, the stones are soaked in a 50-100% alcohol solution. The harder the gem (diamonds, rubies or sapphires), the stronger the solution and the longer the soaking period (up to 1 month). Gem tinctures may be ingested alone or mixed with herbs. Gem tinctures are more expensive than just herb tinctures, but the healing is faster.

Philippines Healing Rituals

The suob is a traditional postpartum care ritual performed three weeks after a woman gives birth for the first time (2 weeks if for subsequent births). Prior to the suob ritual, the woman receives daily massages during these 2-3 weeks to help her body recover and hasten the healing of her wounds. She is not allowed to bathe during this period. On the 18th day, the albularyo (from the Spanish “herbolario” or herbalist) boils ten indigenous herbal ingredients in a large wok with water enough for bathing. The wok also contains an indigenous rock large enough to sit on. On the 19th day and only if the sun is shining, the mother will sit on the rock, and the albularyo bathes her with the herbal concoction while the husband takes what’s left of the boiled herbs and places them in a crossroad somewhere. The suob ritual will be performed on the afternoon of the same day. On the same wok, insenso kamangyan (incense and alum) is placed on top of some embers to generate smoke. The mother, wrapped loosely in a blanket stands above the smoke while straddling the wok, catching all the smoke into her bare perineal area. This will last from 5-10 minutes, after which the wok, while still smoking will be placed by the headboard in the couple’s bedroom or the crawlspace under the bedroom (if any). This ritual will drive away evil spirits that might prevent or delay the woman’s recovery. A variation to this ritual is when a faith healer uses chicken feathers instead of insenso kamangyan to drive away negative physical influences and evil spirits.

Australia Healing Rituals

For the Aboriginal Australians, the smoking ceremony is the ancient custom of flameless, slow-burning of various native plants to produce smoke that will cleanse a patient and ward off bad spirits. These smoking ceremonies are traditionally performed after childbirth, on the mother and the newborn child and on a boy just after circumcision. A healer would heat the leaves of the dogwood or Berrigan emubush until sufficient smoke is produced to envelop the patient. This is only one of the plants favored by Aboriginal people for their antimicrobial properties that would aid the patient in preventing infection.

Liberia Healing Rituals

Traditional medicine in sub-Saharan Africa often involves the use of the African oil palm (E. guineensis) or macaw-fat. In Liberia, heart ailments or rapid pulse can be treated by beating to a young pulp shoots of local medicinal plants and mixing it in a spoon with a little palm oil. The healer will heat three to four (3-4) small pebbles in a fire. The pebbles are added to the spoon with the oil and pulp until the concoction cools down. All of these are to be done in the morning before the patient has eaten. The patient then puts the contents of the spoon in his mouth, spits out the pebbles and swallows the pulp. The area over the heart is then massaged with whatever is on the spoon.

Nigeria Healing Rituals

In the ethnic group, Yoruba of Nigeria, smallpox pockmarks and scarring are treated with a mixture made up of the leaves of Kalanchoe sp. and Peperomiapellucida Kunth, powdered snail shells, shea butter and palm oil. While preparing the ointment, the healer recites a long incantation. The healer also makes a specific Ifa sign on the surface of the vessel (usually a calabash) containing the ingredients. Ifa is a religion and system of divination for the Yoruba people.

Mexico Healing Rituals

Curanderismo is the Mexican culture’s healing traditions, marked by a strong relationship between the patient and the healer. The many rituals of curanderismo all intend to bring balance back to the individual or family. One example for physiological, psychological and spiritual healing is the use of the sweat lodge or temazcal. The ritual itself is led by a shaman inside a hut that is heated and steamed inside by dousing hot stones with water. This ritual have many benefits, including cleansing of the lungs, clearing the pores or raising the heart rate. Curanderismo also includes the practice of white magic, energy work, ritual cleansing, spirit contact, prayer and divination. Tools of the trade include herbs and spices, limes, lemons, scents, massages, eggs, holy water, crucifixes, saints, candles, incense, oil, prayer and divination tools.

United States Healing Rituals

Historically, some southwest tribes have practiced Peyote ceremonies for healing, funerals, baptisms and other special occasions. For these ceremonies peyote buttons (fresh or dried) may be eaten or taken as tea. Some tribes only do these ceremonies for men. The rituals are guided by “road men” or healers and normally begin in the evening, lasting well into dawn. They begin by using fire and incense to cleanse the body and mind. Feathers from predator birds are used to protect the worshipper. Other ceremonial tools often include rattles and small drums. The experience has been likened to taking the hallucinogenic drug LSD and is believed to counter alcohol cravings. It is also believed to heal and teach righteousness. It also fights physical, social and spiritual ills.