By Suzanne Rouge

Costa Rica has the greatest diversity of plants on the planet, many of them with important medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, the number of people who understand their medicinal purposes is disappearing daily. In fact, the population of the Maleku, the largest group of indigenous people in the country, has dwindled to 636. It is a number small enough to qualify them as an endangered species.

Majima, a shaman from the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, is passionate about sharing the wisdom of his ancestors with anyone interested in learning. It is clear that he takes the medicina they offer seriously, as he strives, through education, to create an appreciation for native plant medicines.

There are 85 medicinal plants in the area where he lives and Majima offers classes on the plants to the tourists. The two-day, 10-hour workshop includes hands on experiences with 30 of the samples he is cultivating for his outdoor classroom. These medicinas address almost every illness we encounter in the modern world.

Walking through the forest with a forager makes one aware of the bounty and blessings of the earth. From the clothing they craft out of a tree bark called burgio, to the bowls they use for food on the table, the rainforest provides for their needs. When one considers plant leaves, sources for food and medicines are to be found with every step. Flowers, which offer vibrational healing, are ever emerging in magnificent displays. Harvesting roots and tubers and munching on a variety of leaves can satiate your hunger and optimize your health.

The most sacred of these plants is Cacao, or Caju in Maleku. Its seeds were once used as currency. It is mixed with two other plants to create a sacred drink used in ceremony, called Khuli. The Maleku use it to clear negative energy and cleanse the body and spirit. People around the world covet this seed as the source of chocolate which is often regarded as the best medicine.

Other medicines considered sacred to the Maleku are: Cats Claw, Naked Indian, mangosteen, Tabacon and Challhui. The Challhui root must be harvested at 3:00 a.m. because that is when the tree is sleeping and the medicine is found in the roots. The people prepare tinctures, salves and teas from the medicines harvested. For example, Chilillo bark is mixed with Indio desnudo (Naked Indian) to cure diabetes. They also use the medicines as spices and wrap their fish in anise leaves for flavoring.

I had the good fortune of visiting with Majima and his family on a few occasions, returning often in order to sit with each of the plants and render a painting. The language barrier was an entertaining challenge and they proudly rummaged up a report their son had written in English. They appreciated my interest in the stories of their people and I was able to make simple commentary by looking around at their environment to identify new vocabulary. Humor transcends boundaries and we laughed in the places where we bumped into each other metaphorically.

Together we offered three ceremonies for the Equinox from the Eagle, Condor and Quetzal traditions. Majima taught us how to plant a sacred tree with prayers and offerings. The sacred mangosteen tree was offered as a world tree dedicated at the Land Ceremony at their Nuevo Arenal location.

The Maleku once populated an area that is home to three volcanos, one still active, and a man-made reservoir called Lake Arenal. Although many live in government houses, there are those of the pueblo who still live in caves and primitive huts that are adequate for their needs. When you look out across the landscape you can see the waves of settlers that gradually eroded the pristine beauty of their sacred space. Most of the Maleku have retreated into the hills away from the ever-expanding array of lights and cell towers. In the space left behind are young visionaries setting up shop to explore an array of possibilities for sustainable lifestyles and solutions to avert planetary crisis.

And in the backwoods of the heart-shaped Lake Cote, where the ancestors still thrive, fires burn through the night, while drumming and dancing tell the stories of the Great Lizard Woman who once protected the people from the giant cocodrillo.

More information on the Maleku can be found in the e-book from the collection: Ancient Wisdom: Modern World Maleku Medicina

Suzanne Rouge, BSE, is an educator and spiritual mentor, who has studied with a variety of indigenous medicine people in the U.S. and abroad. Suzanne facilitates opportunities for transpersonal growth through Moon Circle events, ceremony, presence practice, aromatherapy, reflexology, Ilahinoor energy work, medicine wheel readings, breath work and art.



Sandra G. Malhotra is the Owner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Regenerate Magazine. She is just a little bit passionate about health and wellness being our birthright.