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HEALING RITUALS AROUND THE WORLD Many of today’s healing rituals draw from the

tried-and-true wisdom of our ancestors. by Debra Bokur


and mental burdens. Today, guests symbolically place their cares and bur- dens in the basket. The therapist then removes it from the room and empties it, leaving each guest free to garner the maximum healing benefit from their therapy.

Caribbean, Coastal Mexico, West Indies and South America

rom acupressure massage, Ayurvedic facials and Shiatsu to hot stone massage, seaweed treat- ments and the use of herbs and botani- cal oils, many of today’s healing rituals share a vital component. Each has a firm foundation in an ancient, respect-

ed healing modality that’s recently made its way back into our collective awareness. Thanks to migrating popula- tions and the efforts of world explorers, a glorious overlapping of regions and practices has occurred. Along the way, these traditions have gained renewed respect in today’s forward-thinking wellness com- munities.

Native American Wisdom

As recently as the mid-1800s, nearly 80 percent of all medicine in Europe and the United States was derived from native plants. Native American populations have a long history of tapping into the healing world of botanicals, awarding great respect to plants and recog- nizing the life force within them as integral to healing. Cleansing sweat lodge ceremonies, for example, as well as the use of such natu- ral elements as sage, clay, willow, agave cactus and honey, have become staples in spas throughout Mexico and the West. Recently, another tradition has been rediscovered: burden baskets.

These small, woven baskets are used in an adaptation of an Apache custom, in which they provide a physi- cal receptacle for worries, concerns

40 Hudson County

Healing traditions within every part of the world share common elements. In tropical locations, local fruit crops of papaya, mango and coconut provide an abundance of natural, antioxidant- rich ingredients for facials and body treatments. On islands throughout the Caribbean and other coastal areas, seaweed, sea water, volcanic mud, sea salt and marine algae provide the same detoxifying and exfoliating benefits today as they did centuries ago. Mayan-themed rituals available along Mexico’s east coast include medi- tation in the shadows of area ruins and seaside purification rituals. During one intense ritual, guests are blindfolded and guided through a series of experiences that involve and awaken every sense. Further south, in the Amazon re-

gion of Venezuela, shamanism revolves around the practice of calling upon the spirits of native plants during healing rituals—a respected method that has helped to maintain and restore human health for centuries. Indigenous peoples in this rainforest environment believe that demonstrating proper respect for each plant is essential to the heal- ing process. This respect ranges from asking the plant’s permission before removing it from its source and thank- ing it for bestowing its healing powers, to guarding against overharvesting and acknowledging that the plant’s spirit is every bit as important as its chemical components.


In Hawai’i (native spelling), kahunas— traditional healers and holy men—have provided a solid basis for modern island spa treatments. Centuries-old lo- milomi massage, with its long, stroking movements, helps stimulate and drain lymphatic glands, while easing the sore muscles of countless visitors.

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