ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Could a shaman teach a surgeon?
Yes, say a doctor and an ecologist who claim that South American healers using 2,000-year-old fire ceremonies, trances and stones can heal the flu in 20 minutes, cure cancer, evaporate chronic fatigue syndrome, solve infertility and even stop your leg from being amputated.
They have seen it with their own eyes.
With shamanism, "you have to be comfortable in a world you can't explain," says Eve Bruce, a plastic surgeon and believer who traveled with 10 shamans from the Andes Mountains and the Amazon River Basin to appear before a medical audience recently at the University of Michigan Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center in Ann Arbor.
The shamans drew a crowd of 200. It was an odd event -- a mystical salvo in a clinical setting that illustrates how wide the gap is between alternative and western medicine.
First, Bruce and shamanism expert John Perkins purified the stage at Mott Children's Hospital by swallowing mouthfuls of 150proof Bacardi rum and spitting it onto a candle. Whoosh -- Opa! Big flame. (Both Perkins and Bruce are honorary shamans by virtue of spending years as apprentices in Ecuador.)
Meanwhile, the 10 shamans, seven men and three women, sat quietly in a row of black folding chairs.
Perkins, a tall J. Peterman-like figure in a white shirt and khakis, explained how he had been a Peace Corps volunteer and World Bank official in the Amazon until he quit in 1990 "to devote the rest of my life to saving the rain forest." He started an organization, Dream Change Coalition, which promotes "shapeshifting" our waking dreams to a more Earth-friendly world. Towering over the small South Americans, he introduced them:
Don Esteban Tamayo and sons Jorge and Jose diagnose and heal by blowing fire at people. From the northern Otavalo region of Ecuador, Don Esteban was destined to become a shaman when he "cried out three times in his mother's womb." The three wore green woolen ponchos, white pants, small fabric sandals and wide-brim hats.
Antonio and Maria Juana Yamberla, also from the Otavalo region. They heal with pendulums, flowers, dolls and sacred alcohol. She wore a stream of yellow beads around her neck; her husband clutched an Umbro bag on his lap. This was their first trip to the United States.
Daniel Guachapa, a Shuar shaman from the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador, a tribe with the fierce tradition of making shrunken heads. He uses tobacco and the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca in his healing. He became a shaman when he saw his destiny in a dream state brought on by drinking Datura tea when he was 11.
Alberto and Elba Taxzo, from the Cotopaxi region of Ecuador, heal with fire, plants and food. Alberto's father also was a shaman.
Ipupiara (Bernardo Peixoto) and Jenny Cley Toscano Zamota, live in Washington. Ipupiara speaks eight languages and has a Ph.D. in anthropology and biology. He is a member of the Ureweu-wau-wau tribe of the Brazilian Amazon region.
Following the introductions came the testimonials. …