Network of Ancestral Healers
BY EMMA GÓMEZ
TRANSLATED BY GEOFF WATSON
Healing. This simple word, with a lot of meaning and strength, is for many women and men something complex. To deepen our understanding of the topic, in this article, we present Lorena Kab’nal, who founded the Network of Ancestral Healers of Territorial Community Feminism and who for more than 15 years has maintained the fight for the defense of the territory and human rights. The network is present in several territories of Iximulew (Guatemala) as well as in Euskal Herria (Basque Country) in coordination with the EntreamigosLagun Artean organization; an organization that cooperates in development and education for social transformation, and promotes equitable societies free of discrimination and violence. Ella kab’nal explains that the network addresses and accompanies communal healing processes. “Healing has a personal, political, and communal dimension,” she said. Personal or individual cases are not attended to, nor are self-care processes, precisely because the way in which Mayan women heal is in community; heal next to the river, heal next to the forest, next to the jungle, in the ceremonial centers, next to the fire, in the temazcal; Healing is how one can have the strength and vitality necessary in moments to recover and defend life and to face great complexities, says the healer of Q’eqchi Mayan origin. “For us, healing is like a cosmic political path, it is a name that we have given to our way of approaching things, according to the territorial community feminist proposal which means that we have taken plural wisdom from grandmothers, mothers, great-grandmothers, women wise about our territories, our families, Mayan women, and other peoples; so that its ancient wisdom, its cosmogony and its spirituality, strengthen us in this time when we live the effects of the patriarchal system of colonialism, capitalism, neoliberalism and all the effects of racism on our bodies and on the earth. This force is what has sustained our people in the face of so much genocide, in the face of a war against insurgents that has just passed, and that continues to sustain our people in times of neoliberalism, in times of pandemics, in these current times of conjunctural struggles,” she emphasizes. For the network, the people have sustained spiritualities, healing, communal strength, how ancestral spiritual healing is made political, and how it has a feminist intention, this is the proposal that they have been weaving throughout these 15 years from these territories.
Iximulew and Euskal Herria are two towns with similar times and ways of life. Each has its own cosmogonies and ancestral territorialities. Both languages are very old and beautiful. In both countries, situations have been experienced that have made bodies and territoriality more complex. History remembers that both towns were divided; The Mayans have part of the territory in Guatemala and Mexico, and the Basque territory is within the Spanish State and the French State. Pressures have been concatenated there and here, oppression on bodies and on the land. In Guatemala, there have been dictatorships, who with colonization have persecuted the plural wisdom of Mayan women, accusing them of witchcraft and heresy; A number of medical codices, plural, ancestral, and millennia-old knowledge in astronomy and astrology were burned. There was also a war against insurgents that lasted 36 years. And currently, we continue talking about political prisoners, brothers and sisters who today are politically deprived of their freedom for territorial defense. The number of arrest warrants is impressive at this time. In the Basque Country, there have also been historical struggles for the defense of the people, there is talk of political prisoners, Lorena explains, referring to the fact that the network works in both countries.
And let’s not stop talking about the “Sorginak” (Witches in Basque, the ancestral language of Euskal Herria), wise women who lived in rural areas and who were mostly healers and midwives, knowledgeable about the medicinal properties of plants, of menstrual cycles, the phases of pregnancy and even the influence of the moon on nature, in this case, also accused of being witches and heretics. “The truth is, people rise up against these forms of oppression,” she said. As part of the network’s commitments, prison visits are made, they seek to unite and support families through food, generate support in the economy for sustainability, and influence policies for the defense of life.
“For us as Mayan women who come from a rather complex context of multiple colonial oppressions, the war against insurgents, racism and its patriarchal forms affecting bodies and the land, it has been vital to gather and weave a proposal between women, from Mayan women, for Mayan women as well as women from other territories. For women who do not call themselves feminists, who will never call themselves feminists, but who embrace the proposal for healing by doing politics in everyday life. We indigenous women take action to avoid remaining in perpetuity as victims of all these systems of oppression on bodies and on the land,” she notes. From this territoriality, women have created a defense, recovery, and healing of the territory-body and territory-land because from this arose precisely the defense and fight against forms of sexual violence in women’s lives and against the patriarchal system. Guatemala has high rates of sexual violence against girls and women and defenders of territories. The system does not contribute and takes away the awareness of our existence and dignity for life, that is why it is key and vital to bring that memory of collective and personal healing, “we really like to talk about spaces of healing, of days of dimensions of deep awareness of spiritual, personal, political and communal conscious – ness,” she adds. In the Mayan language, there is a statement that translated into Spanish means; “You are me and I am you, when you heal I heal, and when I heal you heal, we all heal.” The strength is in the community to sustain itself and it is vital to heal. It is also in the spiritual as a protection measure for all the women who defend the territory. They do not talk about resilience, nor do they talk about self-care because they recognize that these are other ways of accompanying women in other contexts, but when they are Mayan women, healing comes from their own spiritualities. This is a proposal that recognizes the forms of oppression on women’s bodies because Mayan languages are spoken in the communities. Healings are paths that revitalize the different dimensions of existence; physical and spiritual. Do not be fearful or afraid to say what hurts in the body, where the pain, fatigue, wear and tear, and reconnection are located. For women it is vital to reconnect with the lunar phases, with herbs, with plants, with baths, and with ceremonies; They are different ways of ancestral healing. It is important to re-harmonize with the words of women to connect with plural wisdoms to sustain oneself in moments of very complex crises.
Pursuit and accompaniment
All the sisters are at political risk; The defenders of their territory are in imminent risk, there is a threat of death, attacks, risks of persecution, arrest warrants, there are even women who have been political prisoners and women who have experienced sexual violence in the context of territorial defense. “As peoples, we have a unity with life and there we recognize ourselves with the paths that Lagun Artean has been making in recent years in the K’iche, Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil Mayan territory, agreeing for many years: contributing from a proposal of the territorial community feminism and that has been embraced by several Mayan organizations such as Lanam Soloj Ya, Oxlajuj E´ which is an organization of Kaqchiquel women, the House of Women in Sololá, the Ceiba organization, among other organizations that are directing reflection, a process of healing with leaders, with women in the communities as beings, all Mayan women. “We call this territorial alliances for creating a healing path between peoples,” she concludes.