Self-Help Saturday: Cleansed by an Azteca Shaman

Our heart like a flower
This is from a special exhibit on Señor de las flores

I started the day rather late. I stayed in bed until I felt like getting up, then took a shower. Thursday I chose to not.even.shower, so I had to. I decided to be a brave adventurer. So after cuddling with Socrate el gato de Francia (he’s here with his French mama, Paulette) in the sunny courtyard, I ventured forth to ride an actual Coyoacán bus and then walk to the metro. At first I rode the train the totally wrong way, but having had a history of this-I realized it quickly and got on the correct direction.

I got off in Chapultepec Forest and walked hopefully in the direction of the zoo. According to my naive research, I thought the insect museum stood by itself-but no. It is part of the regular zoo. I didn’t want to see lions and tigers and bears. I wanted to go into a solarium and let butterflies and moths land on me. Suspiré. It was not to be, because I got super overwhelmed by the loud hawking vendors and employees of the zoo on loudspeakers telling people who knows what. It was the loudest and most intense place I’d been, which is saying something because it wasn’t very crowded. I was more overwhelmed there than I ever have been in the Centro, so why not be in the Centro?

I left and went to the Museum of Anthropology, and while it had some cool stuff to see-very little was hands on and it was kinda dry. You can only view clay pots and bowls and fish hooks and jewelry and skeletons and fertility statues of pregnant women and giant phalluses for so long. I mean-I suppose I should have been all in awe and stuff-but I wasn’t. It’s cool how old it all is, and I admire the craft of everything, and I love history. BUT. I was kinda bored. I know. I’m rarely bored in museums, so maybe it was my mood…

I did enjoy the parts about Tenochtitlan, and that’s where I spent most of my visit. This artifact is NOT the Aztec calendar, as the museum instructed, and as many people joked about when we got to what was it-2012? It is a scrifical emblem. I wish I’d taken a picture of the writings. But it’s not the calendar. It just has some representations of time and seasons. Also, it was unfinished due to a huge crack in it. Due to the earthquake last fall, a lot of the museum is closed. In fact-a lot of the city is torn up and injured due to the earthquake. There are barricades around a lot of monuments and visitors can only enter part.

National Museum of Anthropology

I walked and walked. I went to the Palace of Fine Arts-it was closed except the lobby. So no Diego Rivera murals for me. I just kept walking and decided to go the the Constitution Plaza to people watch. I got there and saw some clowns and took a picture, and then they heckled me and when they tried to get me to join, they made a joke about me being American to the crowd and everyone laughed. I kept walking, embarrassed and laughing at myself, waving to them and saying, “no, no!” I didn’t care about the teasing. I had broken the cardinal rule-take a picture of a street performer and don’t tip.

I heard drums and headed directly toward them. I was amazed by what I saw.  A group of Azteca Shamans were in the plaza, doing healing rituals on people from the crowd. People were watching. I immediately knew I had to do it. I sat down and watched and just felt. I did not take a picture-it felt to solemn.

When the shamans were finished with the people they had cleansed, I walked over and said in Spanish, using Google translate, that I wanted a cleansing, and that I was nervous but excited to do it. They were kind and showed me where to put my bag. I took off my glasses and jacket and placed everything in the center of their circle where they had incense, herbs and conch shells on cloths. It felt very sacred. Some of the Shamans were very old, some were quite young, like my Shaman.

She cleansed my hands and told me to cleanse my shoulders, too. She got some kind of fern and lit it on fire with her incense burning and blew it in my face. She asked me to breathe it in deeply, over and over. After this, I closed my eyes and tried to not get too emotional.

Right before she was finished she took my hands and put the incense in them. She closed her eyes and prayed with her head down, praying for me. It was beautiful.

I paid her what she requested-20 pesos, and I gave her a little tip and asked if she would consent to a photograph. Another Shaman took this picture of us, and he teased her the whole time about how short she was in comparison to me. She was laughing pretty hard the whole time, so this picture doesn’t capture how good natured she was. Her boyfriend was also a Shaman, and I know this because they kept smacking each other’s asses with ferns while I watched before joining.

This is probably the best thing I’ve done while being here. I left feeling completely restored from my tired walk. I walked away toward more drumming, where I watched a lot of Aztecas dancing. I only took a picture after I put money in their tip bowl. At the end the leader talked to the crowd about their work, their dance, their politics. I didn’t understand barely anything, but the sentiment was obvious and powerful.

Indigenous cultures are amazing and should be celebrated and respected as the spiritual and cultural leaders of the land.  This was much more meaningful to me than looking at pottery and sculptures of the Mexicas cultures. This made it real and I was very humbled.


Azteca shaman


Video of a Cleansing

This is another video of a cleansing

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