Track: Shamanism and Its Potential for Modern Man
Curación Ritual in Peruvian Mestizo Shamanism as a Transdiagnostic Healing Art
Shamanic practices of the Peruvian Amazon are increasingly popular among Westerners seeking transformative psychedelic experiences and alternative treatment for chronic physical and mental health conditions. This phenomenon represents a growing cultural reorientation from conventional biomedicine toward traditional ethnomedicine in optimizing wellness and addressing the existential nature of illness. Within this context, healing dictates that illness is not simply a biological problem to be solved, but a subjective perspective to be re-articulated with concern for the whole person and their functioning within sociocultural, psychological, and spiritual domains. A model for this holistic approach is found in the practice of curación, a ritual healing art from the Mestizo vegetalista tradition of Perú. As a therapeutic intervention, curación utilizes shamanic guidance, indigenous plant medicines, spoken invocation, music, and performance ritual to facilitate concentration, altered states of consciousness, and shamanic journeying. An effective curación facilitates novel interaction with symbolic content of the mind in the context of suspended social judgment and enhanced natural and spiritual authority, thus generating powerful psychological responses—including awe, catharsis, mystical experience, and memory reframing—with subsequent top-down influence on the biology of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, including potential downstream effects on intracellular gene regulation and a significant shift in subjective relationship to illness. We will describe the methods of the curación ritual, explore its rich transpersonal symbology, and discuss its effects as sociocultural, psychological, and spiritual therapy, with particular attention given to psychosocial genomics and the importance of respecting the cultural heritage of shamanic practices.
Kevin Simonson MD is a psychiatry resident at UC Riverside School of Medicine in California. He received his Bachelors of Science in molecular biology and psychology from Humboldt State University and his Medical Degree from UC Irvine. Kevin began studying Peruvian Mestizo shamanism in medical school and has conducted field research in the Peruvian Amazon each of the last three years.