"In my ‘farthest back’ culture, although we bridge the modern world, there is at the root, a timeless storyteller legacy, wherein one teller hands down his or her stories and the knowledge of the medicine in them to one or more las semillas ‘seed’ persons. ‘Seeds’ are people ‘who have the gift from birth onward.’ They are the future story-keeps whom the elder has hopes for. Those who have shown a talent are recognisable. Several old ones will agree and squire them, help and protect them while they learn.
The lucky ones will, with much difficulty, discomfort and inconvenience, enter a rigorous and many years-long course of work that will teach them to carry on the tradition as they learned it, with all the proper preparations, blessings, percussions, essential insights, ethics, and attitudes that constitute the body of healing knowledge, according to its requirements-not theirs- according to its initiations, according to its proscribed forms.
These forms and lengths of time ‘in training’ cannot be shunted aside or modernised. They cannot be learned in a few weekends or a few years’ time. They demand long periods of time for a reason, and that is so that the work does not become trivialised, changed, or misused, as it often does when in the wrong hands, or when used for the wrong reasons, or when appropriated with all good intention coupled with ignorance. No good can come from that.
How ‘seeds’ are chosen is a mysterious process that defied exact definition except for those who know it well, for it is not based on a set of rules, nor imagination, but rather on time-honoured relationship, face-to-face, one person to another. The elder chooses the younger, one chooses another, sometimes they find their way to us, but more often we stumble over each other, and both recognise the other as though over eons. Desire to be like this is not the same as being this.
Typically those in family who carry this talent are called in our childhood. The elders who carry the gift have their eyes peeled, often looking for the one who is ‘sin piel’, the skinless one, the one who feels so much and so deeply and who observes the larger patterns of life and the smaller details as well. They are looking as I, now in my fifth decade, look for those who have come to certain acuities from having, for decades, and for a lifetime, lived in careful listening.
The training of curanderas, cantadoras y cuentistas is very similar because in my heritage, stories are considered to be written like untatuaje del destino, a light tattoo on the skin of the one who has lived them.
It is believed that talent in healing derives from the reading of this faint writing upon the soul and the development of what is found there. Story, as one part of a five-part healing discipline, is considered the destiny of one who carries such inscribing. Not all carry such, but those who do have their own futures written upon them. They are called ‘las unicas’, those who are one of a kind.
So, one of the first questions we ask when we meet a teller/healer is, ‘Quienes son tus familiares? Quienes son tus padres?’ Who are your people? In other words, from what family line of healers do you come? This does not mean what school did you go to? This does not mean what classes did you take, what workshops have you been to? It means literally, from whose spiritual lines do you descend?"
Clarissa Pinkola Estes — Women who run with the Wolves