Early last fall, the University of New Mexico offered a 100% free online course on Curanderismo. Curanderismo is the tradition of Mexican, Latin American, and indigenous folk magic, medicine, and healing practiced by many throughout the Americas. UNM offers an intensive class every summer on this same topic at its Albuquerque campus, but 2014 was the first year it offered an extension of the class online.
It was a great class, and very informative. We learned about cupping, juicing, herbs, shawl massage, the sacred uses of tobacco, and many other interesting and enlightening topics. Even though I spent a good deal of my youth in New Mexico, I was (unfortunately) very disconnected from the culture. It’s something I regret now that I’m an adult, but to make up for lost time I make a point to study and appreciate the culture and heritage now, even though I took it for granted then.
My friend, The Feisty Witch, created a study group for us on Facebook, to help us work through the material and share extra resources. What started as just a few dozen of my friends and family quickly grew to friends inviting friends, strangers finding their way to our little group and strangers inviting their friends. And then suddenly, the group had exploded and I had no idea who any of these people were. But that’s okay! Because as soon as the class got underway, we shared thoughts and insights, asked questions, and reminded each other of due dates and deadlines for the online course.
Since then, the group has grown in ways I never could have imagined. What once was a small group of friends has grown to a group of over five thousand people from all over the world. Some of us are witches and Pagans, others are Curanderas and Curanderos, healers and helpers, nurses and mystics, teachers and students. The group is active with questions, links, articles, pictures, and videos. I’m a bit amazed by it, to be honest. I’m not at all a Curandera. To be honest, I’m not even a healer and I’m certainly can’t claim Hispanic or Latin American heritage! I’m just a kid who spent some time in New Mexico and likes to meet others.
That’s been my favorite part of the group, to be honest. Sure, I love the information about herbs and magic and medicine. But really, I’m in awe over the great people I get to interact with each and every day, people who help one another and love one another, people who have wisdom and experience to share, and are more than happy to do it. Our little study group has grown, and while it’s nearly 5.5K strong, it’s still intimate and familiar. It still feels like a family.
Recently, one of the members from the group sent me a little care package from New Mexico. One downside of the Curanderismo study group is that I sometimes get a little nostalgic for the South West. Sure, I adore living in North Carolina, but New Mexico has its own special charm. I was so happy when I opened my package of wild-gathered desert sage (and other goodies!). The scent brought me instantly back to New Mexico, and even further back to my childhood as a kid in Montana. Holding these lovingly crafted bundles in my hands, I remembered wide open skies, the Milky Way, epic sunsets, rolling prairie, flat and colorful deserts. I was in, just for a wonderful, brief moment, the places that I once called home. Because no matter how much time has passed, no matter how far away I am, that soil and those waters are part of me, tugging at my roots in that place.
So, despite not being a Curandera, or Hispanic, or a healer, I still very much enjoy our little (growing every day!) study group. I enjoy the friends I make and the wisdom that is shared. I enjoy the gifts I am given – gifts of all types. The sage is just wonderful and very thoughtful, but the gift of such vivid memory is priceless. I hope I have been able to adequately share my gift of gratitude for the herb bundles, and all of the other blessings this group has given with me.
Folk Medicine and Magic Marketplace - buy/sell/trade
Arts and Crafts of the Southwest - My friend Andrew, who gathers and crafts beautiful and powerful sage bundles
Curanderismo Class at UNM