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Excerpted from Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil. Copyright 1995 by Andrew Weil. Excerpted by permission of Fawcett Columbine, a division of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  Web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"This shaman, so difficult to reach, was said to be a powerful healer."

Andrew Weil, Spontaneous Healing, Part 2

This was a new experience for me. In the hinterlands of Colombia I had always found Indians to be exceedingly hospitable. It was the inhabitants of the rough frontier towns, the mestizo fortune hunters, who were unfriendly and intimidating. Once I passed through them to Indian territory, I always felt safe, assured that the native people would take in a stranger, help him find his destination, and certainly give water to a thirsty traveler.

The five Kofan men were young, handsome, and, obviously, vain. They wore simple cotton tunics, had long, glossy, black hair, and were intently devoted to their cosmetic art. After one would apply new markings to forehead or cheek, the recipient would spend long minutes evaluating the additions in a broken piece of mirrored glass, grunting approval or requesting further embellishment. This was clearly going to take all afternoon. My presence held not the slightest interest for them, and after half an hour of being ignored, I put on my pack and continued down the trail,. until, several hours later, it disappeared in a dense thicket at the edge of the big river, leaving me stranded.

It was strikingly beautiful there, although I was inclined to view the river and forest more as obstacles than as sources of sensory pleasure. Big, billowy cumulus clouds floated above the canopy of trees. The river was swift and clear. There was not a sign of human presence, no sounds except those of insects and birds. Were it not for the sandflies, small biting pests that are out in great numbers from dawn to dusk, I would not have minded camping there. I had a hammock and mosquito net in my pack and could have spent the night if necessary, but I felt anxious at the prospect of being lost, and discouraged by the fruitlessness of my quest.

This shaman, so difficult to reach, was said to be a powerful healer. In a year I spent wandering in South America, most of the shamans I met were disappointing. Some were drunks. Some were clearly out for fame and fortune. One, when he learned I was a doctor from Harvard, was interested only in persuading me to obtain for him a certificate from that institution testifying to his powers so that he could one-up his rivals. I had plenty of adventures during these travels, but in the end, none of them had taught me how to be a better doctor. Pedro was my last hope. He was unknown to the outside world. I would be the first gringo to visit him, and I had high hopes that he would teach me the secrets of healing I had so long been searching for.

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