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  • A Wixárica Cleansing Ceremony

    If you haven’t yet visited this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival, be sure to check out the daily Wixárica cleansing ceremonies. The Wixárica (pronounced wee-HAR-ee-ka) people, also known as the Huicholes, come from the Mexican states of Jalisco, Durango, and Nayarit. They are an indigenous community known for their brilliant beadwork and their highly ritualized ceremonies and shamanistic practices.

    This year the Wixárica are offering Festivalgoers a traditional limpia, or cleansing ceremony, in which the maracate (shaman) searches the body for pain, bad energy, or any other malady in hopes to expel it.

    The maracate begins with a quiet prayer to the gods and spirits, and then takes a handful of white candles and eagle feathers, both of which are considered to be sacred and are frequently used in such ceremonies. He searches for pain—first at the crown of your head and then down to the face, the shoulders, the chest and arms, and finally the legs.

    As he brushes you with these feathers, he gathers all the negative energy and pain found throughout your body and concentrates it in your heart, considered to be the center of the body and soul. Once the maracate has gathered this pain he proceeds to suck it out through the feathers and candles. As he does this he spits to expel the bad energy and throws the remaining pain up towards the sun to be destroyed.

    After another quick prayer, the maracate beckons you to stand and shares with you the nature of the pain found within your body. Whether this negative energy stems from issues with family, work, or love, the maracate tells you "Ya estás limpia," or "Now you have been cleansed."

    Cleansing ceremonies typically last between two to five minutes and are open to people of all ages. The Wixárica will be offering cleansings every day in the mornings and afternoons in La Plaza, so be sure to stop by!

    Cameron Quevedo is a Mexico program intern for the 2010 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. 

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