Spiritual Act of Healing; Modern Medicine Men Believe in Ancient Craft

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Spiritual Act of Healing; Modern Medicine Men Believe in Ancient Craft


Byline: Maxim Kniazkov, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

IGNACIO, Colo. - The shaman knew the software language of Java, felt at home in Windows Vista and spread his wisdom with the help of Outlook Express.

But his piercing eyes, traditional jewelry and a flowing silvery mane betrayed more than an Internet link to the past.

"How can I help you?" he asked as a curious smile brushed across his brown face.

The visitor, a middle-aged white man from the East Coast who asked that his name not be revealed, was hesitant, even shy.

What brought him to this tiny town close to the Colorado-New Mexico state line, on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, could be summed up in one word: desperation.

For years, he has been tormented by a nonfatal but socially devastating disease, to which conventional doctors have long since thrown in the towel.

He had chronic stomach cramps, a condition that has made him dash out of important business meetings, curtailed his travel and turned a simple night out into a risky venture.

After so many lost battles, he felt almost resigned, with just a faint ember of hope for a miracle, for an act of God, to whom he has not spoken in years.

Eddie Box Jr., a local IT wiz by profession and a Ute medicine man by calling, was recommended as a helper of last resort.

"Do you believe in God, sir?" Mr. Box inquired.

The answer came after an awkward pause: Yeah, sure. Don't we all?

There was his grandfather reading a prayer before dinner, a Sunday Bible school. Then events gathered speed like an express train trying to keep up with the schedule. Graduation, college, graduate school. Job interviews, paychecks, promotions. Money made, money spent. Houses bought, houses sold. Marriage, children, divorce, another marriage.

And through it all, diet and exercise - the modern-day mantra hammered home by everybody from public officials to media outlets.

All that has darted past like roaring race cars on the Daytona International Speedway, leaving behind just an acrid smell of exhaust.

The Indian healer's question had just made him realize, in awe, that somewhere among the hubbub of everyday life, there remained no place left for Him, his Lord and Creator.

Mr. Box listened, patiently and respectfully, and then spoke with softness but conviction.

"I don't know what God you believe in, and that is not important. But healing is a spiritual process first. If you believe you can get the Bad Spirit out of you, you will get it out of you."

He spoke of the never-ending struggle between good and bad, of the importance of soul-searching, of being at peace with oneself.

It was hard to believe that what some would dismiss as shamanism existed and flourished in an era of a deciphered human genome, quadruple bypasses and MRI scans.

But Mr. Box appeared to operate in a different dimension, where the scientific almost came into contact with the spiritual, and yet remained on a parallel course.

Never once has he tried to challenge the authority of licensed physicians administering professional help. Instead, he fans the spark of hope - often where none is left.

That seems to be the focus of other Indian medicine men, who live hundreds of miles away from southern Colorado. …

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