The Cuddly Cuy Serves Ecuador Culture in Many Ways
The healing ceremony generally starts with a smudging, which is a cleansing of the patient's aura or energy field with herbs such as sage or sweetgrass. Sometime a container of water is set nearby to absorb any negative energy.
The shaman will then take a cuy and holding it tight, pass it rapidly over the torso, head, legs and arms of the patient. An egg may be used instead of a cuy and is rolled all over the patient's body. Both the cuy and the egg absorb negative energies.
Should you decide to participate in this kind of cleansing ritual, don't be too surprised or upset if the shaman thrashes you with the body or tail of the cuy or with a bundle of herbs or plants. This is not meant to be abusive to either you or the animal, but is considered an excellent means to remove any unhealthy or toxic energies that have collected and to balance the aura. The shaman may also blow cigarette smoke around the patient and spray a fine mist into the patient's face after taking a swig of liquor mixed with water from a bottle.
The animal at some point dies (or, some suspect, is asphyxiated by the shaman). The healer then cuts the animal open or breaks the egg and reads the insides to diagnose disease, ailments or problems the patient may be experiencing. Then the appropriate remedy is prescribed.
If after leaving the ritual, reeking of cigarette smoke and alcohol, you feel unsure about what took place, remember that this is a totally different environment, culture and hemisphere. These substances have a long history of sacred use, even in North America. The meaning and the outcome all depend upon the intention of the user. So check your inner and overall energy levels rather than just concentrate on the outer bodily effects.
Cuyes are also a favored food source in Ecuador. They are sold live at markets or cooked by street vendors, served in restaurants and prepared in many different ways.
The cute little animals sometimes run loose in local homes and are treated like pets. Others are raised in cages or pens. It can be disconcerting to foreigners to see the cuddly little furballs being scooped up and then eaten with relish after being broiled, boiled, fricasseed, roasted, fried or made into soup.
To be treated to a cuy feast is considered quite an honor in Ecuador culture. Cuy is often reserved for special occasions like christenings and marriages.
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