Print version ISSN 0185-3325
LAMBARRI RODRIGUEZ, Araceli; FLORES PALACIOS, Fátima and BERENZON GORN, Shoshana. Folk healers, discomfort, and sorcery: a social interpretation. Salud Ment [online]. 2012, vol.35, n.2, pp.123-128. ISSN 0185-3325.
From within the framework of social representations theory, this research sought to explore magical-religious thoughts on sickness among users of traditional medicine. Introduction Ever since the dawn of time, magic and religion have been human resources for facing issues of health and sickness. In traditional Meso-America, sickness was believed to have four different causes: the breaking of natural laws, the will of the gods, the dates on the calendar, and the actions of human beings. These traditional beliefs blended in with Spanish Christian heritage and with the magical-religious beliefs of the slaves, giving place to the traditional medicine practiced currently in Mexico. Representations of health and sickness determine the choices people make between different healing options, thence our interest in understanding the social representations of these categories among users of traditional medicine and folk healing. Method Ten traditional medicine users from the State of Mexico were interviewed in depth regarding five thought categories: health/sickness, traditional medicine and folk healers, detection and treatment, reasons for choosing traditional medicine, and contrast between traditional and modern medicine. The interviews were analyzed qualitatively using Ethnograph 4.0. Results According to these ten informants, health and sickness have to do with intra and interpersonal wellbeing and discomfort. The magical-religious thoughts of the interviewees are witnessed by the classification they make of ailments, which can be physical, psychological or due to curses and witchcraft -this latter undetectable by doctors. Other beliefs are that many people can cause their own ailments, that folk healers can practice white magic (for doing good) or black magic (for doing evil), and that they have a "gift" for healing and prediction, through dreams or otherwise. Discussion The ways of understanding health and disease are not universal, they depend on social representation or the meaning that patients attribute to them. Traditional medicine is based on magical-religious thinking that explains the disease and contrasts with the official medicine interpretation.
Keywords : Social representation; traditional medicine; sorcery.