Rosita Arvigo’s Quest for Ancient Home Remedies from
the Belize Rainforest
“The Maya Way to Heal Your Body and Replenish Your Soul!”
By Kay Walburger
The Quest for the Treasure of the Belize Rainforest was Rosita Arvigo’s magnificent obsession. She believed that if she could locate and train with a natural healer trained in the old ways, she could begin to unlock the knowledge that would help people the world over regain their health. Like most great adventures this is easier said than done and often takes half a lifetime.
Rosita’s healing career began in the USA where she became a Doctor of Naprapathy; this is a science of bodywork similar to Chiropractic manipulation. In the 70’s she went to Mexico and studied with traditional healers and enjoyed learning to work with potters for relaxation. In 1981 she went to Belize, Central America and searched for a “h’men” (one who knows). The h’men is the doctor-priest/priestess who has the ability to heal in both the physical and spiritual realms. After some time of not finding a healing mentor she was almost ready to give up when she met Don Elijio Panti, believed to be the last of the great “h’men” trained in the ancient knowledge.
“Don Elijio Panti, had received his training in the healing arts from Jeronimo Requene, a powerful “h’man”. He became a student in the oral tradition that had been passed from h’men to h’men for more than five thousands years. About thirty years old at this time, he learned in the shadow of the great Temple of the Jaguar at Tikal.”
“After two years of learning about medicinal plants and praying to the Maya spirits, Don Elijio received his ‘sastun’. A sastun is a stone or crystal that some healers use to communicate with the spirit world. His was a greenish, translucent stone about the size of a marble. Possession of the sastun marked him as a h’men.”
“Don Elijio spent most of the next six decades dispensing healing wisdom out of his tiny, ramshackle clinic in the small Maya village of San Antonio, located in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. His practice focused on medicinal plants, bodywork, and physical and spiritual healing. His reputation grew and although his clinic wasn’t easy to reach, people in need made it by foot, mule, and later car or pickup truck.” Don Elijio was 87 years old and had no student; it looked like his great wealth of knowledge could be lost forever. There was a conflict between the new ways and the old ways and young people didn’t always realize what was about to be lost.”
The Last Great Maya H’men
Rosita saw he had no apprentice and volunteered. He refused her offer. He said, “It would do no good to teach a ‘gringa’ “. He explained, “You must go home one day, it is only natural, and what I taught you would be lost up there.” She was persistent and spent the next year proving her worthiness.
“I spent the year assisting him and working hard to prove myself by sweeping floors, washing his cloths, chopping plants, and picking corn. I sometimes assisted his patients, and used my skills as a massage therapist to ease his aches,” reports Rosita. “I listened with enthusiasm for countless hours to his wonderful stories. Eventually he relented and agreed to teach me, on the condition that I would never leave his people with out a healer. I agreed.” “I was fortunate to have a husband and family that supported me through the ten years of training that followed. During this time Don Elijio and I became very close friends. He referred to me as his daughter.”
“I became his Boswell as I spent the first several years recording everything he did whether I understood it or not. I felt it was very important to preserve this vast wealth of knowledge by keeping accurate records of the plant names, its uses, and how it was prepared, dosage, contraindications, and all the myths and stories for posterity and planetary knowledge. It was seven years of hard work before I felt I knew enough to be competent in the Maya Healing Arts and I trained for more than ten years.”
Treasure of Belize Rainforest
“Like other indigenous cultures from Alaska to Brazil, the Maya recognize and honor the sacred within all forms of life. Plants, trees, stones, animals, and humans are all sacred,” records Rosita.
“Everything in creation is permeated with what the Maya call ch’ulel — a vibrant energy force that the Maya believe emanates from a divine spiritual source. The Maya see the entire cosmos as imbued with ch’ulel — houses, mountains, springs, sacred places, the sky, the earth.”
“The ancient Maya kings were called ch’ul ahaw, lords of the life force. Ch’ul is also the word for soul. Ch’ulel is akin to Qi or chi in Chinese medicine, the Indians’ prana, the Huna’s mana, and the Voodoo mojo and in Star Wars, the force.” “If all of nature is imbued with “life force energy”, it makes sense that Maya healers can use plants, stones, animals, minerals, water, and especially prayers. The Earth Mother is the great wellspring of medicinal power.”
“To the Maya the spiritual and physical realms are a continuum separated only by what I imagine as a translucent gossamer veil through which the h’men has the power to penetrate. Woven throughout the veil are human emotions, which are expressed in both physical and spiritual ways.”
“The veil is translucent because the two realms need to be visible to each other. They need regular contact to stay in balance. There are a number of ways in which humans can peek through the veil and communicate with the spiritual realm. Among the most important are prayer, dream visions, ritual, and ceremony.”
“What is on the other side of the veil? The Maya cosmology is complex and based on confusing sources, so I am going to explain it as Don Elijio explained it to me. He said the other side of the veil is where the Maya spirits live. He loved to talk about Maya spirits, which he called his muy buenos amigos, or very good friends. He believed they would be lonely if they were not actively involved in human affairs, and that they especially loved healing and healers.”
“Maya healers have a reverence for plants and natural cycles as in the sap that moves above the earth in branches and leaves, etc, and below the earth in the roots. Thus every plant is a sacred part of a living tapestry. That which springs from the earth has soul.
Maya healers believe that plants have duenos — akin to East Indian devas and Celtic elves and fairies. The Spanish word duenos means overseers or lords, and now means owner. The Mopan Maya word used by Don Elijio is canan. A canan is a guardian.”
“Plants are part of the web of healing, and their role is revered. Healing with plants has been an integral part of life on earth since the earliest times, and like other cultures, the Maya have their own vast body of plant knowledge.”
Healing begins at home in the old Maya traditions with the wise grandmother or mother who has knowledge and experience with home remedies. These are passed down generation to generation. If this does not work they seek out the healer. H’men ‘ask the blood’ by taking a pulse which reveals if it is a physical illness or a spiritual ailment. To confirm they ask probing questions about the symptoms and situations surrounding the illness. This often reveals spiritual or emotional upset that has affected the patient.
Perhaps a death or lost love has set the grief emotion in a downward spiral affecting the body as illness. The healer knows that medicinal plants alone will not be enough to heal this deep-seeded grief and begins with the ritual of saying nine prayers and herbal baths. Burning incense ceremonies are important to help the patient move past the emotions that are causing the ‘dis ease’. Maya Healers know that ritual and ceremonies are as vital to the patient as the herbs, teas, and tinctures or other recommendations.
Today in most parts of the world many modern medical practitioners are understanding the mind/body healing connections which Maya have understood for over five thousand years. The most respected institutions are conducting ongoing research on the power of prayer to heal and aid in recovery. The positive results confirm what spiritual people have always known.
Sharing The Wealth With The Weary World
Rosita Arvigo has begun to share the wealth! She is keeping her promise to Don Elijio Panti by teaching the children of Belize the Maya healing ways, stories and rituals at special 10-day summer camps at Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation. Rosita is a traditional healer, teacher, ethnobotanist, and Doctor of Naprapathy, Director of Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation and founder and co-director of Terra Nova, the world’s first and only biomedicinal rainforest reserve. Many visitors come to study and learn the natural healing arts as well as conferences and ongoing research into medicinal plants before they all disappear.
A new book written by Rosita Arvigo and Nadine Epstein, “Rainforest Home Remedies”, has just been published. This is a treasure of simple and safe home remedies with ingredients from your kitchen, garden, or local grocery store. Addressing over 50 common ailments, its purpose is not to replace good medical attention from medical practitioners, but rather to put more control and confidence in home remedies for minor or simple complaints. This has been a common practice for centuries all over the world. Our mothers and grandmothers knew how to use herbs and other non-toxic ingredients to prepare cough syrup with no side effects, etc. Many other simple suggestions are included in this book to help people who want choices. To not know you have a choice, is like having no choice! This book was written with the intention of restoring home remedies to their rightful place in the home and bestow confidence in self-help with tried and true information.
Rosita and Nadine have collaborated to provide the reader a good, fascinating story with practical information that can enhance the quality of everyday life. More and more women are looking for natural ways to help them through the aging process in a most comfortable way. They will be excited to discover the wealth of excellent suggestions. One example is that most women have been told they need more and more good quality calcium to maintain bone structure. Rosita says Amaranth greens are excellent to eat in soups, salads, made into stir-fry and are full of calcium. Another great source of calcium is sesame seeds — just one teaspoon a day is good. Just chew them well or sprinkle over other foods. Avocados help convert calcium into bone mass, just as vitamin D from sunshine does. This is merely a sample of all the great information you can keep handy for whenever you need it.
This is the second book written by these two. The first book “Sastun” is the life story of Don Elijio Panti, the last great h’men taught in the oral tradition. It has received much praise from healers the world over and inspired others to keep to the path of the healer.
Rosita is traveling more now con-ducting trainings to help women deal with feminine problems such as the wandering womb or tilted uterus in a natural way. There is a body massage she teaches that can be self administered to increase blood flow to surrounding vital organs, and some women have been able to get pregnant after learning about it. Rosita is always busy with her teaching and research projects. She feels she has received this precious knowledge to help all of humanity through books, students and plant research.
For more information: please write Ix Chel Farm, San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize, Central America or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also check out her website www.rainforestremedies.com
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