Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer

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9780062502599: Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer

A sastun is a tool of the Maya healer, a kind of supernatural hot line to the spirits that tells a healer if an illness is rooted in natural or spiritual forces. Sastun is the captivating story of American herbologist Rosita Arvigos apprenticeship to Don Elijio Panti, one of the last surviving, and most respected, traditional healers of Belize. Set in the imperiled Belizean rainforest that serves as the pharmacy of ancient Mayan medicine, Arvigos story is an unforgettable personal account as well as a vivid reminder of the need to preserve both the rain-forests irreplaceable plant life and its ancient healing traditions. When Arvigo met Panti, the legendary healer was eighty-seven years old. Slight and sinewy, with failing eyesight and rheumatism, he still ventured into the forest to gather plants and ministered to patients from near and far each day. Arvigo was determined to become Pantis apprentice so that she could learn more about the native plants of Belize. What she discovered instead was her lifes work--the quest to sustain and study rainforest plants and bridge the gap between Pantis traditional wisdom and modern healing practices. Making regular, laborious treks to Pantis ramshackle home clinic, Arvigo slowly gains the confidence and respect of the cantankerous, compassionate, and deeply spiritual healer and of the community he serves. We follow the unlikely pair into the jungle to collect plants, listen as Panti teaches Arvigo about the physical and spiritual tools of the healer, and meet unforgettable characters including the mysterious Carib named Jeronimo who taught Panti the art of healing, a little girl suffering from an intestinal disorder unfathomable to the many doctors her frantic parents have consulted, a woman possessed and near death because of exposure to the black arts that are the flipside of Pantis white art of healing, and the visiting film crew of a Hollywood movie with an integral part to play in Arvigos initiation as a healer. Ultimately, Arvigos efforts to preserve and explore Panti's healing wisdom attracted the attention of the prestigious New York Botanical Garden and the National Cancer Institute. Today, in their remarkable joint effort, rainforest plants are researched as potential treatments for HIV and cancer.

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