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Ancestral Andean Medicine: Insights into Traditional Healing

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Traditional Inca medicine still lives strong today, but by delving into the past we can see that there is much that’s been lost. By looking at the many types of healers that existed, and the many roles that they played, we can see the richness of these traditions.

Photo: Scott Montgomery

What can we learn from traditional Inca Medicine?

People often believe that traditional Andean medicine was backward, and not effective. But in looking into accounts of the past, and by exploring what is at the essence of traditional Inca medicine, we see that that traditional Inca Medicine was actually more advanced than that of most ‘developed’ societies at the time. Embodied within this approach is the recognition that spirituality, connection with nature, and healing are interrelated. The Inca knew well that we heal by connecting ourselves to higher powers, within ourselves, and into the world at large.

Spirituality and traditional Inca Medicine

Ancient healers knew that the healing they gave to others didn’t come from themselves, but rather was something that they allowed themselves to be channels for. It was by concentrating within themselves that they connected with these healing energies, and sent them to others.
According to the historian of traditional Andean medicine, Lorgio A. Guibovich Del Carpio, “Traditional healers would enter into a meditation in order to speak with spirits and protector gods about a patient’s illness, and in this way, they practiced a very advanced form of parapsychology.
One of the fundamental ways that healers would diagnose illnesses was by looking to animals, plants, and rhythms of nature to find signs for what was at the root of a patient’s illness, and what the remedy would be. For many of us in the Western world, this might seem like a far-flung concept. We are used to thinking about medicine in terms of objectivity, such as through testing and proven procedures. But the fact still remains that Inca healers were very effective in treating illnesses.

The many forms of traditional Inca healers

Photo: (Flickr)

Moscoc, dream readers:

Those who read patients’ dreams in order to give a prognosis of their illness. Fire symbolized a grave sickness, turbid water represented death or a family disgrace and dreaming about children signified losing something important.

Curicucuy:
The ones who healed with the guinea pig. This usually involved rubbing guinea pig across the patient’s body, and then killing the animal and dissecting it to find out about a patient’s illness.
Camasca:
Those who healed with their knowledge of herbs and roots.
The Yacaracas: 
These healers worked with fire. They would blow various plants and metals into a flame in order to watch how it morphed and changed. From this they diagnosed illnesses.
Guarcarimachic:
Healers who opened a conversation with the sacred sites in order to diagnosticate illness.
Ayartapuc:
Those who opened conversations with the dead.
Rumatingui:
Love doctors who often made love potions, and worked with herbs in order to bring lovers closer together.
Callparicuy:
Those who could read your lifeline, usually by looking at the insides of sacrificed animals.
Rapiac:
Those who gave a prognosis to patients by working with a patient’s reflexes and the movement of their limbs.

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Scott Montgomery is a multi-medium storyteller and holistic creative, a travel guide and transformational coach, whose core mission is to help others to live authentically with purpose and intention in order to make an impact in the world. After earning his masters degree in creative writing at Arizona State University in 2013, he made the move to Peru in order to write about indigenous communities of the jungles and the Andes, and to explore what this might have to do with his own life path. These years of traveling and living across the country have helped him to embrace a more purposeful lifestyle that's guided by the values of collaboration, creativity, and transformation. To find out more about what Scott's up to and how you can get involved, visit his personal website www.voyagewithscott.com