Cover image for Maya medicine : traditional healing in Yucatan
Maya medicine : traditional healing in Yucatan
Kunow, Marianna Appel, 1958-
First edition.
Publication Information:
Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
vii, 152 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F1435.3.M4 K86 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This account of the practice of traditional Maya medicine examines the work of curers in Pisté, Mexico, a small town in the Yucatán Peninsula near the ruins of Chichén Itzá. The traditions of plant use and ethnomedicine applied by these healers have been transmitted from one generation to the next since the colonial period throughout the state of Yucatán and the adjoining states of Campeche and Quintana Roo.

In addition to plants, traditional healers use western medicine and traditional rituals that include magical elements, for curing in Yucatán is at once deeply spiritual and empirically oriented, addressing problems of the body, spirit, and mind. Curers either learn from elders or are recruited through revelatory dreams. The men who learn their skills through dreams communicate with supernatural beings by means of divining stones and crystals. Some of the locals acknowledge their medical skills; some disparage them as rustics or vilify them as witches. The curer may act as a doctor, priest, and psychiatrist.

This book traces the entire process of curing. The author collected plants with traditional healers and observed their techniques including prayer and massage as well as plant medicine, western medicine, and ritual practices. Plant medicine, she found, was the common denominator, and her book includes information on the plants she worked with and studied.

Author Notes

Marianna Appel Kunow holds a Ph.D. in Latin American Studies. She teaches Spanish at Southeastern Louisiana University

Table of Contents

List of Tablesp. v
List of Illustrationsp. vi
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Chapter 1 Introduction and Settingp. 1
Chapter 2 The Yucatecan Sourcesp. 6
Chapter 3 Portraits of the Curersp. 12
Chapter 4 Acquiring Curing Skillsp. 32
Chapter 5 Exploring the Spectrum of Curing Specialties: Common Practicesp. 42
Chapter 6 Common Treatments and Traditional Concepts of Disease and Its Causep. 59
Chapter 7 Relation to Colonial Sourcesp. 74
Chapter 8 Conclusionp. 98
Illustrationsp. 100
Appendix A Plant Catalogp. 109
Appendix B Plants with Uses Similar to Roys (1931)p. 139
Glossaryp. 141
References Citedp. 143
Index of Plants by Familiesp. 146
Indexp. 148
List of Tables
Table 1 Common Treatments and Usesp. 71
Table 2 Comparison of Common Names and Uses of Plants with Similar Scientific Binomials in Both My Collection and in Roys' Ethno-Botany (1931)p. 80
Table 3 Twelve Plants Identified to Genus Only in My Collection, Compared with Similar Species in Roys (1931)p. 87
Table 4 Plants with the Same or Similar Common Names as in Roys (1931), but with Differing Identificationsp. 89
Table 5 Comparison of Thirty-two Plants with Similar Common Names and Uses in My Collection and the Second Volume of the Kaua Manuscriptp. 91
Table 6 All Similar Common Names of Plants in Both the Second Volume of the Kaua Manuscript and in My Collectionp. 94