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The Gift of Life
Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru
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Author(s) :
Bonnie Glass-Coffin
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University of New Mexico Press
This uniquely personal account describes the lives and healing arts of female shamans in northern Peru, alternating ethnographic description with the author's diaristic writings about her experiences of love, heartbreak, and childbirth. Analytical chapters explore the concepts of sorcery, shamanism, and witchcraft, case studies of Peruvian women and their ritual healing techniques, the healers' religious and symbolic space, and the healing attributes unique to women. Bonnie Glass-Coffin's personal essays recount her introduction to Peru as a high-school student, her traditional roles in her host family, the crisis that rocked her identity, her first ritual contact with a female healer, and her own tumultuous but ultimately rewarding healing journey under two female shamans. Male shamans, she concludes, sally forth into the spirit world to do individual combat with the sources of spiritual illness, where female shamans try to involve their patients more directly in their own healing.