Ecuador

“Las Mujeres de las Plantas de Herbes”

On Tuesdays and Fridays, “las mujeres de las plantas de herbes” cleanse and energize the children of Cuenca.  Maren and Andie were introduced to this ritual during our Spanish class excursion last week.  The indigenous women set up a puesta under a tent in a nearby square.  They each have a small stool/crate/chair where the child sits and they literally whack the child with a bushel of herbs for several minutes.  Afterward, they rub an egg all over the child’s head, stomach, back and arms.  The next step is to spray water on the head by spitting (really gross) and then they mark the child with ash on the forehead, stomach and back.  The final step is the cracking of the egg in a plastic bag.  The woman then tells you what is wrong with your child by examining the egg (bubbles present or not).  Typical diagnoses include, the child is nervous, scared of ghosts/demons, scared of other people.  We were told the cleansing ritual will re-energize our children and cleanse away any ailments.  So far, both girls seem slightly re-energized!

Maren was brave enough to go first and smiled during the entire “whacking” stage.  When the woman brought out the egg, we were very worried she was going to crack it on top of Maren’s head.  Maren was worried as well.  She was not prepared, however, for the spitting over the head.  A shower was in order after Spanish class.  Andie enjoyed the ritual as well and was a good sport.  The woman told our teachers that Maren and Andie were both scared of other people.  Perhaps that can happen when visiting a foreign country.

Maren getting a whacking!

Andie getting the “egg treatment”

After Spanish class, we spoke with Nielsen’s teacher Fredy about the experience and he related that his mother took him to see the “las mujeres” frequently when he was a little boy. We saw a similar process when we visited Mexico City last year.

Posted by Ingelise Guy

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