Saturday, August 23, 2014


You're sick. You're losing weight. You're unable to hunt. A hollowing of life has invaded all your perceptions. While the tribe sleeps, you lay awake. It began when you dreamt your soul was wondering in the jungle and you, alone, encountered a jaguar. As the night bit into your flesh you awoke, terrified. They call this state Susto. Fright. 

Mom has told the Shaman, Making-Alive. At sundown he will go retrieve your soul. 

The ceremony begins with a curandera performing the Shokma. She rubs a guinea pig over every inch of your body. You can feel the small animal's bones cracking. She does it in such a way that the animal must die at the end. She proceeds to skin the sacrifice and read the patterns its pooled blood makes as it mixes with water. Now she begins to press a variety of leaves, flowers and grains upon your body while chanting incantations. 

You are overwhelmed. Nothing has prepared you for this. As a young mediocre hunter, your life lacks such magic and psychic power. 

They send you home. You are told to sleep. Do not wake up, Making-Alive warns. Death will be waiting. 

Making-Alive begins the journey. He takes the collected rub from your ceremony and wraps it in your shirt. It is midnight. You are sleeping. Your family is told to leave the hut and to not return until morning. Alone, you await the return of your soul. 

Making-Alive allows a stream of the mixture to trickle out of your bundled shirt, allowing a trail for your lost soul to follow home to you. Once Making-Alive arrives at the spot your soul encountered the black cat, he draws a cross and there he calls into the darkness. Five times he beckons for your soul and upon the fifth call he hears the sound. 

With your soul trailing him, he carefully follows his track back to your sleeping body and lifts the blanket covering your feet. 

You are dreaming. You see your soul sprinting back to you. Awakened by the convergence you see Making-Alive, through the darkness you can still see his eyes ablaze and a smile that is both knowing and mischievous. If you had any reference, it would remind you of the Cat from Alice's Wonderland. 


Dr. Sal y Rosas studied 176 cases of this healing ritual observed in the Quechua Indian’s tribes. His own words, 

"I have personally observed many cases of typical or even atypical Susto abruptly improve or recover completely after one or two sessions of Jani...Such a success achieved by a humble rural curioso or by a peasant woman, with their primitive and savage psychotherapy, contrasts with the failure of graduated physicians-- among them the author of this article -- in the cure of Susto." 

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