What did the Tarahumara Medicine Woman tell us?

April 10th ~ Copper Canyon, Mexico

Karen, Alondra (Medicine Woman) and Joanne

I’ve had a fascination for Eastern and Alternative Medicine since my long ago college days. One of the classes I took was called “Posture and Relaxation” where we learned the basics of self-hypnosis. For a dozen years, I continued to use the techniques from that class periodically to help me unwind or fall asleep. 

Fast forward to the early 1980’s and my studies took a turn into the fringe of the medical field when I completed my education to become a Certified Hypnotherapist. During that period of study I read an extensive number of books covering many, many Eastern philosophies and modalities involving a variety of holistic practices.

I long ago left my practice before Tim and I started up our business together in the San Fernando Valley back in 1991, but the interest for “outside the box” medicine still intrigues me. So, when we had the opportunity to meet with a local shaman from the Tarahumara tribe, I was very curious.

I’ll do my best to describe how the hour went and you can be the judge…

When we first arrived at the Shaman’s home we were instructed to sit on benches in a horseshoe shape. Manuel was to be our translator and introduced us to Alondra. I was immediately taken by her beauty and her youth.

Appearing to be in her 20’s with the typical colorful flowing skirt and long shiny black hair. Her smile was infectious.

Manuel told us that Alondra had learned her skills from her grandmother. On the small wooden table in front of us were a variety of dried herbs. One by one, as Alondra picked up an item, Manuel translated and explained what the ingredient was and the normal illness or disease it was used to cure/heal/ improve.

Table with herbs

Then a small ceremony of cleansing was done. Alondra disappeared into her home for a few minutes and then returned carrying a dish with a mixture of seven ingredients that were giving off smoke. I wish I had written down what all was being burned but I do recall that both peyote and marijuana were mentioned as being used for “medicinal purposes” here.

Stopping in front of each one of us for a moment, allowing us to smell the smoke as she spoke a brief blessing.

Breath in…

We joked about taking a deep breath and holding it. Yes, most of us lived through the hippy culture of the 60’s and survived.

She next took a long wooden stick and drew a line from East to West in the dirt in the center of the open area in front of us and completed the cross with a line from North to South.

Drawing the cross symbol in the dirt

An egg was placed at the end of each arm, and one positioned where the lines intersected.

Manuel asked for four volunteers. Karen and I jumped up and raced forward as did two others from our group.

We were told to face the East and to each stand straddling one of the eggs at the end of each line. The egg at the cross-road was left standing all alone.

Standing at each of the corners of the cross with egg between our feet

Alondra approached the first woman from our group (she asked that her name not be used), so I will simply refer to her as Lady #1. The Shaman picked up the egg from between her feet and held it in her hands along with a couple different herbs.

She proceeded to lightly rub the egg up and down each leg, across the torso, chest, arms and then the backside of her. The head was not touched.

She then took the egg over to the wooden table and poured a small amount of water (perhaps a cups worth) into a clean glass. She then carefully broke the egg and allowed it to gently fall into the cup of water.

Cracking the egg into a glass of water

It was from the shape and color of the egg and yolk that she was to determine what, if any, medical illness or condition that Lady #1 had.

Studying the egg

I was fascinated by her facial expression as she glanced from Manuel to Lady #1 and back again. She was clearly disturbed and hesitant to say anything.

Speaking in Spanish, with Manuel translating as well as inserting some commentary, we found out that the yolk was broken and badly deformed. He had never seen one like this in the many times he had witnessed the ceremony.

As it turned out, Lady #1, spoke Spanish and Alondra was able to speak directly to her. She was told that there was a very serious illness in her body. As it turned out, this was no surprise to Lady #1. There were in fact three separate life threatening illnesses that she was battling.

Telling Lady #1 about her illness

SIDE NOTE: Later in the day when we returned to the bus, I asked her if she would be comfortable sharing about her illness, but she demurred, saying she really did not want to think about it. She also gave her permission to tell the story, just asking that her name not me used.

On to Lady #2, Nancy, at the top of the cross.  The egg routine was repeated with gently running it over her body, water poured into a second glass and the egg again cracked and contents carefully slipped into the water.

Standing now in front of Nancy, swirling the egg and staring into it, she asked if she had problems with arthritis. Giving an affirmative answer, Nancy held up her hands showing definite signs of knotted joints in her fingers.

Nancy hearing her results

I was not overly impressed with that, as it was clearly visible and did not take any divination to notice.

The next question was a little more of a surprise however when she asked if there was something wrong with her eyes.

Nancy replied, “Not any more. I had cataract surgery just a couple of weeks ago.”

OK, that impressed me a little more.

She finished up telling Nancy that she was a very happy person.

I was next in line and the anticipation was building. Tim had been taking pictures for me during the entire process and I could see him off to the side snapping away.

The egg I had been straddling was collected by Alondra and the now similar routine followed – herbs and egg passed over my body, from shoulders on down and front to back.

Rubbing egg over my front

When the egg was cracked into the third glass of water, the yolk appeared pristine!

It’s a beauty!

She again stood in front of me and asked if I had any stomach problems. I have been battling reflux for years, and that is the only ailment I mentioned at my recent yearly physical just before our trip. The Shaman then stared a bit longer at the egg, and looking at Manuel, said I was in very good health.

Telling me my good health news…

Good to hear, and my primary MD had also just given me that good news, confirmed by a legion of blood tests.

Then Manuel caught me by surprise, stating that the only thing wrong with me was my brain.

He caught me off guard with the “brain” comment

I think he was joking, at least he thought it was pretty funny!

On to Lady #4, our traveling companion and good friend, Karen.

It’s Karen’s turn

Over the front…

Around to the back…

Again Alondra studied the shape of the egg yolk and white and while concentrating, asked Karen if she had an issue in her lower abdomen. Karen shook her head no. Then passing around to her back she inquired about the lover back area. Karen again shook her head no.

Asking some questions

But the truth is that Karen had an enlarged spleen (abdomen area) as well as a tumor in her kidney (lower back).

But here is where it got even more specific and spooky. Alondra looked at her, and said that there was something wrong with her blood and that it was being “changed out” or “exchanged”.

Hearing some answers

What no one, including her children, knew is that just a couple of weeks prior to the trip, Karen had been diagnosed with a blood disorder called Polycythemia Vera.

“Also called PV, this a rare, chronic blood cancer where the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells. You may also have too many white blood cells and platelets (blood clotting cells) in your blood, but having too many red blood cells causes most of the problems associated with PV. PV is part of a group of diseases called “myeloproliferative neoplasms,” or MPNs.” ~ VoicesofMPN.com

Too many red blood cells can cause the blood to thicken. Thicker blood doesn’t flow normally through arteries and veins. This can lead to an increased risk for blood clots, heart attack or stroke. It is rare and incurable. The current treatment protocol is to drain blood via IV weekly.

She let Karen know that she would be doing a special healing/prayer ceremony for her.

And what about that 5th egg that was in the center of the cross?

To complete the ritual, all four of our eggs would be combined with the egg from the center and at the end of the day they would be burned with some form of healing ceremony performed.

Just before we departed, I asked her if she had any recommendation for reflux. I chuckled when she said, “Apple Cider Vinegar”, which is exactly what I had just recently started taking.

So, there you have it. Four women, four different experiences, four correct diagnosis.

And to add to my collection of souvenirs from the trip, I purchased two hand-made figurines from Alondra’s mother, made out of paper. One man and one woman, $6.00 each.

Native man and woman figurine

Would love to hear from you: What do you think of our experience? Have you had any interactions with healers, shaman, witch doctors, or anyone outside of the “normal” medical community? What happened? Are you a believer or think it is all a bunch of hocus pocus?

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that there are forces beyond our vision, and knowledge and wisdom to be learned from many. I remain open to the possibilities…

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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49 Responses to What did the Tarahumara Medicine Woman tell us?

  1. mpardi2013 says:

    Excellent post. As an Anthropologist, concentrating in Medical Anthropology, I’ve been involved in these issues since the 1960’s. There is far more validity here than the Western medical community wants to admit. Marco


    • Marco, thank you for sharing your insights from personal experience. By keeping an open mind and heart, I believe we can learn so much more. There is a wealth of knowledge about amazing healing plants and herbs that has been passed down from generation after generation. I’m completely stumped by how Alondra was able to “read” the contents of the chicken eggs, but remain fascinated by the results she shared.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mpardi2013 says:

        Thanks. I’ve taken the liberty of forwarding your post to a number of colleagues. Perhaps they will provide commentary as well. Marco

        Liked by 1 person

      • Glenda Odom says:

        This was a fascinating story with the shaman and the chicken egg. Joanne you do have such an open mind, heart and spirit. I enjoy your and Tim’s journey and wish you good luck. I wish I had known you as a hypotherapist and I am in need of one or maybe the shaman would do nicely.


      • Hello Glenda, and thank you for your kind comments. For whatever the reason, I hope you find the support you are seeking. Sending you a hug.


  2. Karen says:

    I don’t know why but I’m crying right now after reading your post.
    You did such a good job explaining everything — I was amazed.
    As always, you did a great job.
    Love, Karen

    Sent from Karen’s iPad


    • Thank you Karen. That means a lot to me, especially since you were there and experienced this in the most personal of ways possible. I was hoping to share enough details that would bring this to life without being morbid. Sorry I made you cry though. I continue to hold you in my prayers that your treatments will reduce and remove your symptoms and that medical advances will find a cure.


  3. Bernadette says:

    What a fascinating experience. The dolls will make fantastic keepsakes.


  4. Canuck Carl says:

    A very interesting read. The most I have ever gone outside the “normal” medical community is through a more natural lifestyle. In my own situation lowering my cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure through a lifestyle change and not resorting to statins and blood pressure medications normally handed out to people my age.

    I am a Christian pastor, so I have not really dabbled with any shamans and witch doctors. At the same time I have a deep respect for traditions of others. There is a lot we can all learn from the Tarhumara people! 🙂


    • Carl,first let me please wish you a Happy Easter. I’m so glad you were able to get good results without having to resort to prescription drugs.We too have worked to improve our health through eating healthy, whole and organic foods as much as possible. My weak point – I’m still definitely not getting enough exercise 😃 Totally agree with you that we have much to learn from others.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Widdershins says:

    A Wise Woman indeed. 🙂 … may the ritual bring benefits t you all.


  6. tippysmom2 says:

    A very interesting post. I have not had any contact with non-traditional medicine, but do believe that there is a lot to be learned from ancient cultures about what herbs and roots can be used for healing. How this lady was able to discern any of the things described from how an egg dropped into a glass of water is beyond me.


  7. Kim Gorman says:

    Fascinating story. I personally believe that it is her intuition that is providing her with insights, not the eggs themselves, but that the eggs are used as a sort of medium for connecting with the intuition. There are so many ways to tune into others’ energy, but the tuning in is all happening within one’s intuition. That’s my take on it, anyway. Thanks for sharing this!


    • Kim, you may be right about her using her intuition to “read” the eggs. I found it very interesting that the egg yolk for Lady #1 was so different and a mess. Karen’s yolk had string like tentacles formed above it with the whites. My yolk was perfectly formed. Thank you so much for sharing your impressions of all of this.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve long been a believer in alternative ways of diagnosis and healing. We spent time with a shaman in a village in the Amazon – he didn’t do a diagnosis, just answered all our questions about his practice. We also had a healing done by a shaman in a village in southern Mexico and eggs were used also. Fascinating post Joanne.


  9. Pat Kennedy says:

    I have been a Chiropractor and Acupuncturist for 35 years, and have not limited my studies to those fields but have explored many others, none “within the box”….homeopathy, hypnotherapy, native American healing, to name a few. My journey has taken me to the world of spiritual healing, that is, healing through prayer. It has literally nothing to do with material remedies of any kind, but a deep recognition of the absolute power of good, and the powerlessness of all that is unlike God. Your experience with the shaman was quite colorful, even captivating. My thoughts on shamanism and healers of that sort are that it is important not to see any power in them as persons, that would make them different or even better spiritually than anyone else. Also, the genuine ones have definitely refined their use of intuition, to say the least. But intuitive or not, on a truly spiritual level, they’re still dealing with or in, the relative world as it were. They are not dealing in the absolute, which is good and only good. That is where all true power is, to heal, to bless, to sustain.


  10. joylennick says:

    What an intriguing experience, Joanne. I am not religious but a Humanist with a very open mind. There is so much we don’t know about the brain and llfe itself. Plenty of food for thought. What a book you will be able to write about your fascinating experiences, if you so choose…Take care and thank you.


  11. Paul Finnell says:

    Joanne and Tim,
    We have been following your Copper Canyon posts “religiously” (pun intended), and have thoroughly enjoyed your documentation of this wonderful trip. I have to say however that this post totally captured my attention, and I would consider it to be the most fascinating and thought-provoking post of this entire journey.

    First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Karen. May she have the strength, professional care and perseverance to confront this challenge. She is an amazing person, and just as she demonstrated on El Camino, she will get the best of this also.

    I remember our last visit with you in California when you detailed some of your experiences in the hypnotherapy field. You certainly had some amazing and remarkable encounters. I fully understand your fascination with the entire “nontraditional” area. While I haven’t had a great deal of personal experience, I have done reading and know of others experiences, that have added to my understanding. I clearly believe that there is “something there”, and I wish that our traditional medical establishment could be more open to exploring and at times embracing alternative healing methods.

    Reading this post was so amazing! I have to concur that you really should consider writing a book. Perhaps not just about your travels, but about the fascinating journey that you have had thus far in life. Thanks for sharing all of this.
    Paul and Linda


  12. Hi Paul and Linda, what a sweet, kind and loving comment. We too enjoyed seeing your pictures from your recent trip. I just sent Karen a text to let her know of your good wishes for her health. I know she too will be touched. And you are right – she is a very strong woman with the right, positive attitude. I know she will handle this challenge with grace. Sending love and big hugs to both of you. ~ JJ


  13. Terry says:

    There are things that we should not question and accept as they have been proven over the centuries. Alternative Healing and Medicinal remedies is one. Wonderful trip you two are having.
    Off to Vancouver, WA with my 2 grandkids here for my youngest grandchild’s’ 2nd birthday. Should be an interesting drive. Have fun


  14. Interesting, Joanne. I have had a long interest in Shamanism as well… powered originally by Carlos Castaneda who I read in the 70s. I didn’t take it anywhere, as you did, other than spending lots of alone time out in the wilderness and reading extensively. I have always felt there is much more to the world than our Western culture suggests. Thanks for a very interesting post. –Curt


  15. curvyroads says:

    Completely fascinating! I too am very open to nontraditional health and well-being options and would love to participate in this kind of diagnosis! You explained it beautifully, and I repeat all the other encouragement for you to write a book on your travels!


    • I’m so happy to hear that you are open to trying this. It was a very interesting process and I am still pondering her methods. I appreciate your nudging me toward writing a book someday. I’m still having too much fun having the adventures, but perhaps at some point I’ll stay home long enough to give it some serious consideration.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. rolandclarke says:

    I have used alternative therapies most of my life and I am now 63. My mother and grandmothers were avid users of homoeopathy, which I have often found works well – best example was when I encountered horse sports people using Arnica regularly for bruises. They worked on horses so no placebo effect. I’ve used acupuncture and herbal treatments with mixed success and always wondered if the practitioner’s attitude was a key factor as the one that helped was more peaceful and centred. I have also tried to eat organic and healthy but not always. For some reason, I got multiple sclerosis for which there are few therapies of any sort – and the most obvious is illegal where I live.

    As for shamen, I am a staunch believer in their abilities, and I have two practising friends. I even incorporate shamen in my writing, as you may have noticed when you visited my A to Z blog post on Writing Wings. I sense that I am only scratching the surface.


  17. Sandy says:

    Like the many other posts, I found your telling of your experience very interesting. I have very limited experience outside of Western medicine, which leaves a lot to be desired. No room for intuition as one is shuffled in and out of a doctor’s office in 15 minutes 🙂 I did find my acupuncture treatments of interest. Also, I am so sorry for your friend Karen. I enjoyed the Gate 1 video on Copper Canyon. Would love to go myself. You are fortunate you have an open mind and can experience a wide variety of things like you seem to do in your travels. To me, the ultimate goal of traveling is not to feel so much a tourist, but one experiencing the culture, wherever that might be.


  18. chloejadeclub says:

    Fantastic story Thank you so much for enlightening me about the alternative medicine in your country. I am from australia and we have the equivalent tribal elders who practise similar techniques. Really great blog. Thanks again


  19. Elene says:

    I wrote a long comment in reply to my colleague Pat, but it would not post and has unfortunately disappeared. I wanted to say that we have a strong tradition of curanderismo here in New Mexico, similar to what you described Alondra doing here, because of course this used to be “old” Mexico. I am at a loss to understand why he thinks so little of the spirituality of traditional healers and somehow believes that it is inferior to his own. If he observed curanderas at work, he would find that they are deeply and fundamentally based in prayer and as much connected to “the absolute” as he or anyone. Also, no such healer would claim to have “any power in them as persons”– they would say that their power comes from the spiritual world and they are only instruments.

    After more than 20 years of doing acupuncture and energy healing, and having some shamanic training myself, I have to say that his words hurt my heart.


  20. Herminia says:

    In my family we were often heal by my grandmother or mother using an egg. Or some type of fragrant herb and a prayer. I also use this sometimes myself. May it be superstitious or not. Also when you have been traumatized by an experience a prayer and an herb calling your spirit to unite with the physical body. These are traditions passed on ..


  21. Susan Smith says:

    Hi, I know this was a blog done years ago. But I am curious about several things. I am a visual anthropologist, and I think I recognize Alondra. I may have met her years ago during my travels and documentary projects. Can you tell me more about how you contacted or heard about her? And is there any way to reach her or someone who can contact her? Thanks so much. Susan


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