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Lesson Transcript

Culture File: Mexico - Lesson 16: Shamans
Hello, and welcome to the Culture File: Mexico series at SpanishPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring essential cultural information about Mexico, Mexican Culture, and Mexican People. In this lesson, we will talk about Mexican folklore and traditions. I’m Michael, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 16 - Shamans
Even though Mexico is a highly Catholic country, there are a number of minorities that practice less orthodox spiritual beliefs, such as Shamanism, or in Spanish "Chamanismo". It isn’t common to find Shamans in most parts of Mexico, but Catemaco, Veracruz is famous for Shamanistic rituals, or "rituáles". Catemaco is an isolated town surrounded by a dense forest and lake. The town’s first train was built in 1912, and its first modern highway constructed in 1955. Considering the city’s late development, it's not surprising that many traditional customs, particularly those related to shamanism, have taken root so strongly, much more so than in other regions.
It isn’t clear where shamanism first originated or how it reached the American continent, but some researchers believe that this kind of mystical discipline was the forerunner of the organized religions we practice nowadays. The word “shaman” or "chamán" comes from a Siberian word that literally means “man-god-medicine” or in Spanish, "hombre-dios-medicina". Just as its name indicates, being a shaman involves possessing the ability to diagnose, cure, or even cause health issues.
The healers, or Shamans, in Spanish called "curanderos" or "brujos", are thought to be able to cross over to and manipulate the spiritual world, either for good or for evil. It is believed that diseases are caused by a disequilibrium, and that in order to heal them, shamans have to enter into a trance in order to travel to the spiritual world.
During the healing ceremony, or "limpia", literally meaning “cleaning” in Spanish, a variety of different objects are used, including sacred arrows, drums, stones and minerals, such as quartz. The ceremony often also involves sacred songs and dances.
The "temazcal", a type of pre-hispanic sweat bath that originated during the Aztec era, is also a common part of these ceremonies. It is said that during this bath, the spirit, or "espíritu" is able to exit the body. The temazcal is made of volcanic rocks and cement, and has a circular shape, resembling an igloo. It’s common to place medicinal herbs and herbal powders into the water to create an aroma that is then inhaled.
So listeners, how did you like this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Do you believe in the spiritual power of shamans?
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