Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Mexican Voodoo Market... Mexican Memoirs Con't


The day before we were to visit the site of Teotihuacan, our guide Monica offered to take us to the Sonora Market in the heart of Mexico city. It was explained to me that this was one of their most popular markets and it was dedicated to healers, and voodoo magic. I was curious and intrigued. As we weaved through the heavy traffic, I looked out the window of our car and watched the blur of colors, people and buildings passed by in a kaleidoscope of dizzying color. It was all I could do to take in all the sights and sounds of this busy city. It reminded me of Cairo, but it was cleaner, and although probably equaled it in the amount of people and traffic, it somehow seemed more laid back, and a bit less chaotic.

Despite a strong adherence to Catholicism, most Mexicans are very superstitious. In the market's inside displays, one can find just about anything related to magic or voodoo. One could explore both Mexico's pre-Hispanic roots and Afro-Cuban witchcraft at the Sonora Market. Animals such as rabbits and snakes, mysterious potions and brews, medicinal herbs, potent candles and other voodoo remedies can all be found here.

Known locally as the "witchcraft market," the Sonora Market in Mexico City undoubtedly has the cure for what ails you. Sonora has rattlesnake skins, desiccated hummingbirds and dried fox skins as well as the live articles like iguanas, frogs and squirrels.. It houses what is arguably the highest concentration of shamans, santeros, voodoo and natural remedies in the world. Stalls are flooded with a seemingly infinite variety of powders, sprays, soaps and incense that claim, through bright colors and delightfully kitschy illustrations, to help one find a job, money or love, to ward off evil spells or help children do well in school.

Walking through it had a hypnotic effect on me. I was fascinated, repelled, and yet strangely drawn into this strange world of light and dark. Healing is in my blood, it is what I know personally, and how I work in the world today. Here was a world dedicated solely to the creation of ceremony, ritual, and magic. Statues of saints, and different religious icons crowded the street as well, as herbs, live animals and all kinds of miscellaneous items one could use in a variety of ways to heal.

We were looking for traditional Mexican items for a fire cleansing ceremony we were planning to do at Teotihuacan the next day. Once again, I felt as if I were walking through some fabled adventure movie. I imagined what Harry Potter may have felt the first time he walked through Diagon Alley. The utter disbelief of a world that is rarely seen let alone understood. Here you stepped into a world of enchantment where healing took on a whole new meaning.

We finally found our way to the place where we would find the items we needed to purchase. The huge barrels of medicinal herbs were a sight to behold. I was drawn to one particular bark looking mixture, and when I asked Monica what it was, she said, "that cures Cancer". The truth in her words resonated with me, and I could feel the void plant medicine has in our 'civilized' modern world. As if someone somewhere was playing a sick joke on humanity by having us believe nature doesn't provide the cures we seek for diseases. They would rather have us believe the cure has to come from a lab somewhere in the form of a man-made pill. There was a life force emanating from the bark, it had a light to it. It offered itself in true form. Yet when most people are offered something like this, they do not trust it. They trust the prescription medicine that is given out like candy and have lost the connection between themselves and true healing. We have become dependent on a world filled with advertising, consumption and spending. The average person is a worker ant for a machine that operates on money, lies, manipulation, and control. The Mexican people are overall very healthy. I wondered if this was because of a long held belief in true 'traditional' healing, that of medicinal herbs, oils and other naturally made remedies.
The women healers, sometimes called witches, were once hunted down and killed centuries ago, and with them much was lost about natural healing, plant medicine and one almost has to wonder if it was an intentional way to disconnect people from nature and all it has to offer in the form of medicine. Antibiotics and medicine for profit have since taken over the world. Leaving people dependant on drugs, bankrupt from medical expenses, and void of any chance of true health and vitality.


Hanging from the side of her booth was a piece of Mandrake root which I was curiously drawn to because of its shape. The mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn ("djinn's eggs"). A djinn is a supernatural creature which occupies a parallel world to that of mankind. Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as hyoscyamine and the roots sometimes contain bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures, their roots have long been used in magic rituals, today also in neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism (source wikipedia). Some say mandrake will help you contact and communicate with other dimensions, spirits or djinn's.
I wanted to buy it, but decided against it. Instead above me hung a rattlesnake skin. I immediately knew I had to buy it as an offering to the Apache Snake Clan. I would add this to our fire ceremony and honor my Apache teachers, and my Snake Clan family. The woman carefully wrapped the snake skin in newspaper, and eyed me curiously. I wasn't a typical tourist and she knew it. There was a moment of understanding between the three of us. Each of us respected each other for who we were, and our sacred work we each did in the world out there.

We added copal, and other fragrant incenses to our order, and she wrapped each carefully and we walked away with our things. There was a strong smell of urine at the end of the walkway out to the street, from the live animals that were inside. As we walked out it was as if we walked out of a portal back into modern day. We were ready for our ceremony tomorrow. I held my wrapped snakeskin close, and felt thankful for finding such a perfect addition to our sacred work here.

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