05 June 2014


Theme Thursday 10

In yesterday's review of Butterfly People by Robin Lim, I brought up the Philippine tradition of hilot or "spiritual massage." Practitioners are known as manghihilot (or just hilot). In English, they are sometimes called "faith healers," which I think is a misnomer; I prefer Lim's term "witch healers." To help you understand why, I have included an excerpt from the novel which happens to fit an old Thursday theme from early 2011 . . .

This Week's Theme:

Her hands began with my head. She massaged roughly, nodding to herself and mumbling in her Ibaloi tongue, which I could not understand. She smiled and said, "Good!" very loudly in English, when she massaged the area around my heart and breasts. As the hands found their way to my belly, she shook her head in disappointment. One hand over each ovary, she looked at me, in what I perceived as anger. I felt her reprimand me for my youthful decision to have a tubal ligation. At the time, I had felt that there were too many children in the world already. A world made miserable with suffering. In a flicker of mind that became a blinding contract, I gave the old hilot permission to heal me.

Warmth washed from her hands, which sunk deep into my gut. I heard liquid sounds, and raised my head a little to see. Her hands were bloody and one was pulling out tissue, coming from inside of me. As I had no pain . . . I was not afraid. She worked on the left side, then entered the right side of my gut, fingers dancing deep into my flesh, until they found the ovary, the damaged fallopian tube. Her massage was precise, and I watched . . . the blood pooling in the bowl of my belly. When she lifted her hands from me, there was no sign of an incision, no scar.

Two paragraphs is hardly what this meme's regular participants liked to call a "snippet," but I wanted to give a clear idea of what a manghihilot is understood to do. Granted, the above is an extreme example, both for the novel and for real life. Most of the folksy remedies in Butterfly People and in all the real-life stories I have heard have involved salt, herbs, oils, and no blood at all. But a truly gifted manghihilot, folk memory insists, would be able to heal even the wounds that modern medicine and materialist science cannot. I'm glad that Lim remembers the old legends and dares to believe that they could be true.

If you like what you've read of Butterfly People so far, and would like to win your own copy, then feel free to enter the June 2014 giveaway . . .

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Image Source: Butterfly People by Robin Lim

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