I have recently discovered that there are some types of body cleansing that may require one to take a shower afterward. Sound like a confusing form of logic? Keep reading and you’ll understand.
Recently, some of the Augie students here in Ecuador went on a weekend trip to Saraguro, a smaller town that has an active indigenous population. Our Saturday afternoon was filled with a long hike (unfortunately I was unable to join because I was feeling sick from lunch).
The evening was an adventure of its own as we attempted to last minute find somewhere else to eat dinner, and on the way got our bus stuck on an incline in the road, so then we all had to walk quite a ways to the restaurant. The people at this small, quaint place were so warm, inviting, and friendly…not to mention the food (eaten with wooden spoons) was delicious…and they played music for us!
The touching hospitality of these people continued into the next morning as we took part in a body cleansing ritual. While I appreciated the spirituality behind the ritual, to someone who grew up in the Western tradition it was, to say the least, interesting. Here was the layout on the ground that we stood around:
During the ritual, which lasted about an hour, they granted us protection through our professor, Dr. Dziadyk, and then they cleansed our bodies and spirits. How did they cleanse us, you ask? First, one of the women took each of 4 bottles filled with very strong alcohol and flowers, took a sip, and then sprayed it out of her mouth into the air. Then she went around the circle of students and offered each of us some of the drink from a shell as we gave thanks and they played music. (The drink was very strong, had a perfume-like scent, and burned in my throat for a while afterward even though I had only a small sip.) Following this we were each given a calla lily to caress over our bodies, then two of the women went around the circle and (with the flower-infused alcohol in their mouths) sprayed each of us, front and back. Incidentally, almost everyone got a face full. Then they brought around a bowl of burning incense and let the smoke touch every part of our bodies, and we rinsed our hands with some water.
This isn’t a full representation of the ceremony because it involved so many more details than what I’ve described, but you get the idea with the highlights. This was very memorable to most of the students there, mostly because it was so unlike anything we had ever experienced, but I greatly appreciated the entire experience. I can imagine that some will only remember that we each got spit on by some Ecuadorian women, but for me this helps to open up an entirely new perspective of the diversity of people throughout the world. This ceremony was something so personal and spiritual to these people that pictures of the set up were not even allowed until it had concluded. Having such strong beliefs, and on top of that letting us join them in this experience…it blew me away.