Maya Medicine

Museum and Active Centre


San Cristobal de las cases, Chiapas, Mexico


* These notes are derived and adapted from the guidebook for visitors at the OMEICH centre San Cristobal, Chiapas. 


The Church in Mayan medicine constitutes a sacred, therapeutic spot on which the indigenous healer, by means of prayers, candles, burning and copal offerings, cures the sick. The saints and altars relate to the places where OMEICH has its working agents.


 Mayan Cosmology


On Display at the museo is the following scene:

Prayer Healer


" This person sits in front of rocks and a pine tree. He is dressed in traditional clothing from Chenalho. A number of sufferings are attributed to divine justice, caused by the transgressions of social and moral rules of the community.


These illnesses are suffered only once in a lifetime and appear in a cyclical manner. Among these are measles, chicken pox, small pox and whooping cough. This type of suffering may be prevented by having a healer pray for you three times a year in the church, in the hills or at a spring. The healer also goes to pray in the hills where the spirits and gods are.

Flocks of cattle, horses, pigs, chickens or turkeys may accompany him and he asks the gods to tolerate what these animals do. The prayer healer asks that the animals be liberated from evil and illness. In June, when the corn begins to grow, the healer goes to the cornfield offering candles, music, and fireworks to the spirits of the earth. "


There is also a mural depicting a traditional scene:


"In front of the healer is a mural which represents the village and Mother Earth. In the middle of the lake there is a fetus, representing the birth that comes from Mother Earth. For the indigenous, the earth is highest deity, seen as the supreme fountain, life and death. She is the goddess of the harvest. Good or bad happen according to her will. The earth is where our bodies return where we die, where we become equal with all that exists. For the indigenous people of this area, all things in existence have souls. Mother earth gives us food such as plants, water, and air. At the end of our lives we return to her, to return the favor of feeding us."



Therapeutic Resources used by Indigenous Healers



Candles help to reverse or stop soul damage, and aid in liberating the patient’s spirit. The number, size and colour of the candles used may vary according to the illness being treated. The candles, which are used in almost every healing ritual, have to burn out completely because they are what God and the saints live on.


The Cross

The cross is the representation of God on earth. It is a covenant between God and the people. It is made of pine and may be of any size or colour.



Prayers may be said in any place where the patient lost his or her soul, or the illness was acquired: by the river, on top of a mountain, at a crossroad, inside a cave or a church or in the middle of a cornfield.



Incense, called “incencio” or “copal”, is burned in a Yabj ak’ad (incense burner). The smoke is God’s food, as corn is ours.



The tips of tender Pinns Toocote branches are used in altars. Each branch represents the person or persons for whom the prayers are being said. Flowers are also the food of God. Any kind of flower may be offered.



Posh (sugar-cane liquor) is blown over the patients to make them happy. This strengthens people and liberates their souls from evil spirits which damage them and make them suffer. Hence, posh is blown over those who are very ill.


Soft Drinks

A patient may be cleansed with soft drink (as with posh) and it may also be offered to the God by sprinkling a little between the candles. This draws out and seals the evil which is in the patient. Previously, when a traditional healer did not want to use posh, he used sugar-cane juice instead. These days it is easier to obtain soft drinks.





Prayer against fright

 Lord God

Father Saint Manuel

Lord Jesus Christ


I ask for your favor,

I ask clemency,

That you raise up

And you call to your child

Your descendant


Who is entombed in your flourishing face

Who is concealed in your blessed face


Why does your child,

Your descendant

Suffer in body

And in soul?


Your child suffers

From vomiting and diarrhea


But . . . Why did he fall?

Why has he collapsed?

Why has he become frightened?

In your blessed face, Lord?


But . . . you will liberate him

You will untie him

And return to him his soul

That he won't be your servant

Master of the blessed Earth, Lord.





Candle Production

OMEICH report that Candles play an important role in the curing ceremonies of indigenous healers. Different candle sizes and colours are used to heal a variety of diseases.


"In the early days. candles were made of beeswax, but now it is much easier to buy paraffin, The paraffin is melted in a tub. You can see a ring hanging from the ceiling on which the cotton strings are placed. After the paraffin has liquefied, the candle maker takes some of it in a gourd and pours it over the strings until the candles are the desired size. At the end of the process, colors can be added.

Today only a few people produce their own candles. most buy them in stores or in the market."




Significance of the Candles (Healing)


White - for mother earth, god & purity

Pink or Blue - to cure illness, for one's partner, or so that business goes well

Yellow/Orange - to get rid of bad energy, negativity, or envy

Green - to get rid of illness

Purple - to accompany other candles

Red - to return the energy of others who have bothered you

Gold/Rainbow - happiness, to accompany white candles

Beef tallow - to get rid of and dominate over any evil


Candles are used to:



Animals in Medicinal Use

Minerals in Medicinal Use



Medicinal Plants

 Outside of the Museo de medicine de Maya is a demonstration herb garden

these are some of the plants growing there along with a description of their names and medicinal uses:







 "Pilico is a compound of wild tobacco and limestone. Wild tobacco is a sacred plant for the indigenous. Pilico is used to protect people against envy or bad winds and in order to protect them so that nothing will happen to them when they go out at night or walk long distances. It also helps when one is suffering from stomach aches and nausea.


It is prepared by mashing a handful of wild tobacco with a little bit of limestone and garlic. When it is well mashed, the power is filled into a little pumpkin container to be kept with the person; either in his/her bag or with a string around his/her neck at all times.


Pilico is used the following way: Take a pinch of it with three of your fingers and put it inside your mouth or in between your teeth. Move it back and forth in your mouth, then swallow it slowly. Its flavor is spicy. "


The Mayan Temascal Steam Bath

The use of a temascal steam bath is recognized as a "resource, a hydrotherapeutic procedure, methods or technique" long prior to the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. The Mayans  typically used it for "curing bad temperament" that accompanies the "entry of cold" into the organism. 


"For the Mayan culture temascal is like the maternal womb; those who bathe in it experience the ritual of rebirth and purification. It is an intimate experience that has the effect of 'cleansing the body and the soul.' It pacifies and revitalizes the air that represents the fragile human soul.


The temascal is constructed to represent the world or earth. When you enter the Temascal, you enter the breast of Mother Earth. You then leave healthy and purified, like a newborn child due to the conjunction of fire and water. The union of fire and water create a purifying vapor."




"The roof of the birthing room is made of palm and bamboo, the walls of adobe, and the floor is dirt. There are observable cooking utensils, farm tools, and aspects of life in the community, although much is changing. Pots, jugs, spoons, axes, machetes, tables, chair, and the fire all have their place and significance in the home of a pregnant woman.




Birth takes place in the pregnant woman's house, with her husband and the midwife present. IF the father can not be present, another trusted family member or other individual might take his place to assist the birth. During labor, the woman kneels down in front of her husband who, sitting in the chair, support her on her arms and thorax. [Also present] the midwife, behind the mother, gently presses her belly downwards and gets prepared to receive the child. The woman may also hang from the midwife's arms during the process.


In the case of prolonged labor, medicinal plants are used to speed it up; midwives also use external maneuvers, either with the midwife's hands or the husband's knees. The midwife might also use the grinding stone passing it three times from the woman's head down to her hips. The woman's loose hair is a trick to help speed up the birth, it signifies that the woman is free to expel the baby. The midwife uses different objects in order to speed up the birth., such as the machete or axe, passing them three times over the stomach of the mother as a symbolic cesarean.

The midwifes do not offer their services, instead when women know that they are pregnant, they go to the midwife and ask for her support. From this moment on, the midwife will come to the woman's house when needed, no matter what time of what kind of weather.


When the child is older, he or she is given a piece of amber in the form of a doll or necklace. This is to protect them from the evil eye. Each child has a nagual, or protector, which accompanies them throughout their life. This may be an animal or other natural element. In order to live every person needs the energy given by his or her nagual. An average person may have three naguales during their lifetime, one is generally an animal, but for people of high supernatural status it may be a natural phenomenon such as lightning, a meteor or whirlwind."