You need to lay on me for one year…

I will absorb your pain.

I will take it.

I need your pain

like a mother needs the pain

of her weeping child across her lap.

~ earth

According to Brett Hendrickson, in Border Medicine, even today “… a majority of Mexican and Mexican American healers are women (Hendrickson 2014, 3).” Temazcalli is the Nahuatl word for the sweat house and related ceremonies. The Mayan word for the temazcalli is zumpul-ché and refers to “a bath for woman after childbirth and for sick persons used to cast out disease in their bodies (Aaland 1978, 177).”

In a presentation at the 2002 Bioneers conference, Mohawk midwife Katsi Cook said, “In my vision… reproductive justice and environmental justice intersect at the nexus of woman’s blood and voice; at the very centrality of woman’s role in the process and patterns of continuous creation. Of the sacred things that are to be said about this, woman is the first environment; she is an original instruction… In this way we as women are earth (Cook in Nelson 2008, 156).” Cook refers to a woman giving birth as coming “to her own blood and voice in the creation of her reality… It’s about transformation and restoration (Cook in Nelson 2008, 163-164).” Woman’s body is our first environment, our first earth.

Woman is earth. She is therefore an original instruction, a source of knowing. The temazcalli, then, is also a woman’s body and a woman’s body is the temazcalli. It is an original instruction that can guide our way in constructing decolonial healing knowledge that re-matriates us back to our home-place on earth. This reality that the body and the earth comprise an inseparable non-binary duality is echoed in these words of Okanagan community member and scholar, Jeanette Armstrong, “it’s not just that we’re part of the vast system that operates on the land, but that the land is us.” In the Okanagan language, “the word for bodies contains the word for land… every time I say that word I refer to myself (Armstrong in Nelson 2008, 67).”

According to Frederique Apffel-Marglin, capitalism is the result of the enclosure of land (to construct property), and bodies (to construct labor), as well as the outright erasure of female sacred knowledge via the femicide of the witch burnings. She argues that the particular enclosing the female body, within the institution of marriage and the nuclear family, constructs free labor (otherwise known as slavery) specifically reproductive, domestic and emotional labor. Apffel-Marglin also articulates how pre-socratic mysticism / hylozoism was replaced by “Natural Philosophy” and how this all laid the foundation for capitalism to take root, grow and spread through colonialism. (Apffel-Marglin, 2014)

In Our Sacred Maiz is Our Mother, Roberto Rodriguez quotes Inés Avila’s Grandpa Raymond as saying, “The ceremonies, the language, the songs, the dances are not lost. We are lost; they are where they have always been, just waiting to be [re]called (Rodriguez 2014, 53).” Susy Zepeda outlines a process to “construct decolonized knowledge” and memory through enacting forms of remembering through “art to regain cultural memory and story. Often times, it is through collaboration and ceremony across generations and with sacred elements that the stories are formed and hidden histories are unearthed” (Zepeda 2014, 1). As an artist/re-searcher, I am interested to explore the emergent properties of this generative creative process as a method for recovering ancestral memory. The site of my research is at the intersection of all parts of myself especially those considered by the western mind to be parts of not-myself. In Euro-western terms I will be working at the intersection of my female-body, my psyche/mind/spirit, the poetic imagination, the earth as living maternal being, and those I am called to serve with this temazcalli.

we are going to enter the womb to provoke a rebirth

the darkness, each other, the plants and our breath will be our helpers

we are our own healers

by releasing the emotions attached to our patterns and pains

we will be free, liberate ourselves

so that we can live out our calling in and for the world

we can recover our belonging

our voice, our power, our compassion and our connection

we can be a gesture of love and justice

right now before we enter, think of a trauma, an obstacle or a pain or sickness in your body

think of the emotion that is connected to it

now we will enter the underworld where transformation occurs

hand in hand we help each other . . .

~ paraphrase of Rita Navarette, temazcalera