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Archive Latin American Folk Magic

Date: Sun, 7 Jul 2002 22:26:58 -0500
From: "E Bryant Holman" 
Subject: Spanish Roots of Mexican Curanderismo

I would like to point out to people that the notion that the
practices of [Mexican] curanderos and curanderas might be based
primarily in the practices of Native Americans is actually a myth. 

Although Native American cultures have made important contributions to
these arts, the fact remains that the bulk of these traditions come from
Spain, where these practices survive even up to today, and that
which is practiced there, and throughout the Spanish speaking world,
is not that much different from what is practiced in Mexico. 

It was not hard, actually, during the development phase of
curanderismo, when Old World practices were blending with those of
the New World, for them to find common ground, due to the simple
fact that they had many common roots. Here are some examples:

1. In "Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids", by Peter Tompkins, the
author makes what I consider to be a very good case for the
influence of the Phoenicians in the development of mesoamerican
civilization, and these people had their roots in Canaan, as did
other Semitic peoples whose roots are the same, and who developed,
not only the Bible, but more importantly, sets of occult bodies of
knowledge that later formed the basis for the type of magic
practiced throughout the Mediterranean during the last two
millennia, such that when the Spanish reached Mexico, they found a
civilization rooted, ultimately, in many ways, in the same
foundations as that of their own, particularly when it came to topic
of the occult. It should be pointed out that runes and other
hieroglyphic writings have not only been found throughout the
Americas, they have been translated, and dated, even.

2. The "Black Legend of Malinche" and other such tales were actually
invented by political writers in the first decades of the 19th
century, with a view to propagating a myth that vilified everything
Spanish and mystified such people as Cuauhtemoc, for instance, who,
as we know, insisted that the Mexica fight to the death, but then
tried to escape with a load of treasure and save his own hide. These
myths were ostensibly promulgated by persons who were allied with
the Jacobin cause, but it has been shown that they were actually
members of Masonic lodges. Their motives were simple: they were
attempting (and they were successful in this) to generate a
political climate that would lead to the expropriation of Spanish
and Church goods, including most of the mines and plantations - the
major sources of income in the country - so that these goods would
then go up for auction, where they were almost all snapped up by
banking houses in Boston and New York for pennies on the dollar. It
turns out that the sponsors of the Masonic lodges where the Mexicans
who participated in these scams (Hidalgo, Morelos, Iturbide and
others) were members, were the lodges in Boston and New York, where
the grand masters were the same heads of the banking houses that
benefited from this scam. Besides being left with looted economies
and the ensuing misery (no more schools or hospitals, for instance),
the Mexicans also have the baggage of these improbable myths, which
people continue to take on as a cause celebre down to the present,
which practice steers investigations into Mexico's past into all
sorts of fallacies and blind alleys. I would suggest, just as a
start, that people read "La Malinche in Mexican Literature: From
History to Myth" (Texas Pan American Series) by Sandra M. Cypress,
which you can find at 

3. I was talking with a producer at the Galavision TV network,
because I am probably going to do some consulting for them for a
piece they are doing about curanderismo, and we discussed a lot of
the items that I just mentioned. This woman is from Honduras, and it
is generally believed in Mexico that brujos and brujas from Honduras
are the most powerful, and that is why narcotraficantes who use
brujeria as part of their "work" employ them so often. This producer
agrees with me that curanderismo is pretty much the same throughout
the Spanish speaking world - with the exception of places where
other arts, such as Cuban Santeria, clearly have their roots in West
Africa -  and that most of the practices involve Catholic Saints,
and the curanderos consider themselves to be orthodox Roman
Catholics in every sense, and that their roots are in classic
Catholic traditions. In addition, she agrees that the place to look
for a link between the roots that lie all the way back in ancient
Egypt, Canaan, Syria, and Mesopotamia, is Andalucian Spain, which
was a remarkably tolerant society that lasted for over five
centuries, until it was finally overrun by the armies of Isabela the
Catholic; and its inhabitants - Jews, Muslims, Eastern Orthodox
Catholics, and practitioners of Magic, were all forcibly converted
to Latin Catholicism, and their practices driven into secrecy.
However, just as it is known that there is a rich tradition in
Mexico of the "crypto-Jews" - people who practice Judaic rituals in
secret and have done so since the time of forcible conversions of
their ancestors from 1492 on - there are also other practices that
were brought surreptitiously under the aegis of Catholicism, and
curanderismo and brujeria (white magic, and the other three colors
of magic as defined in the "Tesoro del Hechicero"), being counted
among these.

4. Other than the practices kept alive in Andalucia and then
surviving on a surreptitious basis afterwards, there were also
certain practices that survived in Latin territory at the same time,
and this was mainly through the existence of all manner of secret
societies, some of which operated inside monasteries, and others
within various groups which survived unmolested for periods of time
and may have suffered repression later - such as the Cathars and the
Knights Templars, for instance. A very important example in this
vein is the cult of San Cipriano and his book, the "Tesoro del
Hechicero" (the Treasure of the Sorcerer), which was released into
the publication by a monk, Jonas Sufurino, around the year 1000, and
then was actually printed in 1510. San Cipriano is enjoying a
tremendous revival today, as curanderos and curanderas around the
world begin to recognize him as their true patron saint. His cult
was displaced in a blatantly political move by the successors of
Isabela the Catholic and their cabal, with that of San Ignacio, who
can hardly be considered to have been a saint. He was more like the
forerunner on Benito Mussolini, in fact, and so were some of the
other so-called saints, like Santo Domingo, who was an officer of
the Spanish Inquisition, and burned a lot of people at the stake at
the "autos de fÈ".

San Cipriano is now reclaiming his place in the pantheon of true
curandero saints. He was, in fact, one of the most powerful
magicians who ever lived, and he had in his possession occult wisdom
that was passed down from certain other powerful magicians who had
preceded him in that part of the world - namely, Moses and Solomon.

5. Like most occult knowledge from Mexico, these items are not
readily available to Americans, but rather, it takes a lot of
dedicated research to access these facts and put them into
perspective. It is my practice to cross-reference material of this
type with the curanderos and curanderas that I know when I interview
them, or just when I am talking with them, and as time goes on, I
become more and more affirmed in my beliefs.


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