The Limpia

Spiritual, Emotional, Mental and Physical Cleansing

We make art of life in the sacred hoop, a way of life inherited through a small slice of the Toltec tradition, via ancestral inheritance and the experience that provides. The Limpia is a foundational practice in the arts of healing we pursue.

By the time Cortez came to Mexico, my ancestors, the Mexica – more commonly known as Aztecs – were already keepers of a living Toltec tradition, embedded from earlier times, in the history and evolution of Mexico City, Tenochtitlan.

The Toltec way of life, philosophy and practice, has one defining characteristic. No matter what one does – lead armies or clean toilets – one does it with art, finesse, elegance and precision – art.

“Do it artistically” describes this belief, but the actual philosophy is more like “Be the act, be the art.”  This functional knowledge was and still is a foundation of our cultural and physical survival, because art, in all its many forms, makes true change, healing and evolution.

Indigenous history of the “conquest,” tells us that Cortez’s wizard, a man named Botello, was not killed, as the conqueror’s history reports. This, by the way, is the man who advised Cortez to burn the ships and march on to Mexico – that his success was assured. Cortez heard, and so here we are.

Indigenous account speaks of a fierce battle where only Botello’s horse was found. Botello’s body never showed up. One of our master healers/sorcerers, wizards, a nagual, we say, is said to have saved Botello from death with the intention of learning the European “medicine” that was hitting the Mexica so hard.

Apparently Botello, as have many a captured European man since then, became a part of the tribe and, in this case, faded from the conqueror’s history into the continuing indigenous story.

Indigenous and European healing methods, including sorcery and high spiritual understandings, along with the talent to use them, fused, while the fight for Tenochtitlan, Mexico City, raged on.

The result of our healer’s decision to save Botello is the mixture of Catholic and European medicine with Indigenous ways and medicine – found on traditional altars literally around the world, like this little altar.

From the long lineage birthed that moment, our altar emerged, a speck in the infinite number of “altars” that have birthed from that legendary moment.

From an early time in the evolution of that lineage, a standard practice also came from that moment: a healing pass that is practiced at 99% of latino/hispanic folk altars. Presenting, to wit, la Limpia, a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical cleansing.

From a Cuban dictionary comes this definition:

Superstitious cure that involves rubbing a person with certain herbs to free them from bad luck or some evil spell.

We obviously don’t agree with the superstition part. If it works, we have learned, it’s not superstition; it’s science, physics, chemistry. Many times it’s science we don’t understand, but we learn as we go, precisely, because it works. And while it’s true there can be some “rubbing with herbs” in our traditional medicine, here we see it more like a pass.

Before anything else, it’s important to know that a limpia ­– the actual work of making a person better by purification – can be done a million different ways. On this side of the world, this limpia with an Egg is among the best known for its effectiveness.

If the practitioner is more Christian/Catholic leaning you might hear an Our Father or a Hail Mary as the practitioner passes the Egg. A more indigenous leaning practitioner might pray, roll eyes or sing while holding the Egg at places around the patient’s body. Other elements that come in include rattling and drumming, fire and smoke, fans made of feathers or plants.

The part, in the definition above, about freeing the person from “bad luck or evil” is quite right, but it’s more accurate to say that the limpia frees them from the energy causing bad luck or evil in his life.

All of us know energy exists and now, from more advanced science, we know that even inanimate objects have energy of some kind, at some frequency, at some volume, with some effect. We know, in other words that energy affects energy.

If I wave a small feather in the face of a man aiming a rifle chances are good he’ll miss. Energy affects energy.  

John is our shooter today, trying to qualify at the range. He does miss and is now blowing steam because of “a stupid feather in the hands of an idiot.”

John, deeply affected, leaves anger and frustration everywhere he goes that day. Nothing direct at anyone, but around everywhere, thrown, slammed, by word or deed.

That night, after the kids are in bed, his wise wife suggests he see a curandero, a traditional Mexican healer for a limpia. John does listen to his wife sometimes.

The healer has smoke going. He’s waiting for John with an Egg, a dry Chile and a Lemon.

The Curandero passes the trio over the smoke saying a short prayer as he guides the Bundle in geometric passes around John’s heart, navel, up and down his spine, around his head, as if combing out invisible debris. Then he places the three foods – all sacred to human survival – at John’s forehead, his heart, liver, spleen, naval and finally, at his wrist and other joints.

John uses the moment to think about his personal spiritual condition, should he go to church more often or begin a more serious practice of spirituality? He worries he hurt his daughter when he said he didn’t have “time for this shit.”

New energies, right? Perhaps energies with a better future than the energetic events following his shooting range incident?

Energies changed, shifted. Crappy feelings and urges dissipated, and some clarity about more important issues came to mind. How?

We know the energy fields of foods affect the energy fields of human beings, right? The practitioner in our story intended those three food items a certain, unusual, way. He used their energy externally as opposed to digesting it.

The healer’s energy, the patient’s, and the food items, agreed and made something change. Our next Limpia article will tell you how you might do a Limpia.


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