Saturday, March 26, 2011

Holy Cow, It's Holy Dirt!

America's answer to the healing powers of Lourdes can be found in Chimayo, New Mexico. Legend has it that, well before the Spaniards ever reached the area, the site had a hot spring used by the Tewa Indians for its healing powers. Nowadays, it's a sacred site for Catholics and other Christian pilgrims.

It's known as El Santuario de Chimayo, where you can take containers (or buy them in the gift shop) and fill them with holy water and holy dirt. Yup. Holy dirt. (One of my friends immediately texted me back when I told her I'd picked up some holy dirt for her, saying this was fine as long as it didn't have any holy shit. Ha ha.)

But seriously, apparently in Guatemala, there is a place where the clay is said to be sacred, having healing properties, so the idea of healing dirt isn't all that off the wall. Inside the church, off to the left of the altar is a small room called the pocito; you have to duck to get through the door. In the middle of the pocito is a small round pit full of dirt. The pit itself is said to have once held the crucifix of Our Lord of Esquipulas. He was killed by Indians and buried in ChimayĆ³. A flood of the Santa Cruz River (a small tributary of the Rio Grande) in the spring of 1810 uncovered the body and the crucifix. People who remembered the priest dedicated the shrine to the Christ of Esquipulas.

There's a scoop in the pit, and you scoop a little of the dirt into your container, and you can then take the dirt away to pray over, rub on an injured part of your body, etc (though it's not suggested that you eat it, apparently many have done so). The dirt is to help with spiritual, mental, or physical healing. Outside the pocito is a room with votives, photographs, discarded crutches, and even a wheelchair left or sent by people who have been miraculously healed after making a pilgrimage to the site.

It's estimated that about 300,000 people visit the site annually.

The energy of the place is incredible. Almost immediately I could feel the energy of the sheer devotion given to the place, much like you can also see the waves of energy coming off the Buddha in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. The church and surrounding grounds are covered with small handmade crosses, which pilgrims have tucked into the fences or into crevices in the stone crosses that line the creek (see photo above).

There was also a horse down by the parking lot, standing forlornly by a fence, and he gently nibbled my knuckles when I presented him with my hand.

Here is what the holy dirt looks like:

One thing's for sure. Never underestimate the power of prayer, or the strength of faith and conviction in the human heart and mind.

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