This essay explores how some contemporary curanderas/os (“healers”) in the American Southwest, in concert with North American New Age clients and interlocutors, have incorporated neo-shamanic techniques into their healing practices. Curanderismo, a religious and folk healthway, emerged from the colonial encounter between Spanish Catholics and indigenous North and Mesoamericans and did not typically involve the ecstatic dream states characteristic of shamanism. This makes the emergence of neo-shamanic dream journeying, trance states and use of “power animals” all the more surprising in contemporary curanderismo. This essay traces the history of how shamanism first entered the New Age counterculture in the 1970s by way of spiritually curious and enterprising anthropologists and later influenced contemporary Mexican American curanderas/os. Mexican American and other Latino/a healers using neo-shamanic techniques continue to heal, teach and achieve wholeness for themselves and others even as their metaphysical knowledge and ritual practices are valorized by multiethnic, metaphysically inclined clients.
- © 2015 by The Regents of the University of California