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Eduardo el Curandero: The Words of a Peruvian Healer
by Eduardo Calderon, Richard Cowan, Douglas Sharon & F.Kaye Sharon
North Atlantic Books 
2000 (revised edition) 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 5/18/2007

Eduardo el Curandero is a fascinating book about a Peruvian shaman who performs (or performed) healing ceremonies employing San Pedro cactus as the sacrament and medicine. Evidently this book is a transcription of a filmed documentary that took place in 1978. Even with nothing but the black-and-white still shots from the film as illustration, the book sustains the reader’s interest from cover to cover. We follow Eduardo, fisherman and family man, as he goes to the town market to pick up his cactus sections from the local female herbalist. We “hear” him talking about his origins as a curandero (healer), and we have dinner with him and his family.

The focal point of the healing ceremony is Eduardo’s mesa or altar, spread out in three sections before him on the ground, and involving the placement of a total of 78 objects. These are catalogued in detail in the book’s appendix, and range from seashells, crystals, staffs, and herbs to carvings and the odd stone from Inca ruins. These objects are then “charged up” with prayers , and after the patient (and shaman) have drunk the San Pedro brew, the mesa acts as a focusing control panel to invoke various spirits and forces. Fully a third of this book contains Eduardo’s prayers and incantations, which are really quite articulate and poetic. Here’s a sample passage, the prayer he makes over his swordfish beak staff :

Play now, my beautiful swordfish beak staff!
Account the whale, the shark, and the dolphin,
Playing in the bays and ports, in the seas, reefs, good gulfs,
And among the great ships.
Account marine waterspouts and tempests,
Play hailstorms, great winds and fogs.
People who play on the seas,
Now their lost souls are being found.

This book would be useful for anyone considering setting up a ceremonial altar for whatever purposes, and for some possible guidelines for setting up one’s own shamanic practices. Despite being presented in script format, Eduardo comes across as a very likeable man of the people. It’s interesting to see him command such a forceful and yet poetic ritual, and still remain humble in relation to the powers that he invokes. A very intriguing and fascinating book. But I still want to see the film. Somebody tell me where I can find it!!

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