“I have wreathed round the wounds the best of healing wreaths”: Ritual and religious healing in early modern Europe and present-day Peru

Plan Author

  • Nicole Haeger, 2013

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Tutorial: Ethnography of Peru
  • Tutorial: Ethnographic Writing; European History Plan Seminar
  • Tutorial: Latin American Healing Practices and Plant Use

Plan Description

An exploration of the relationships between human and plants in Latin America and Europe, and the role these interactions play in traditional healing methods that could be described as shamanism or witchcraft.

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Abigail Adams: Central Connecticut State University


Societies around the world have long relied on ritual healing and folk medicine for their physical and spiritual health. From “werewolves” in Northern Europe to the shamans of the Amazon, ritual healers have served their communities as both councilors and doctors for centuries. Though most ritual healing traditions were suppressed by the spread of organized religion and modern medicine, many societies continue to rely on them today. This Plan examines both the history of traditional healing and the specific methods healers use to aid their communities.

Traditional healers often induce altered states of consciousness in their patients to treat their spiritual maladies. Several methods exist to induce these trance states, including chanting, inflicting physical trauma (such as fasting or self-flagellation), and ingesting psychoactive plants. Many of the world’s most-used psychoactives belong to the Solanaceae family, which has species on every continent (including deadly nightshade and tobacco). To further study the use of ceremonies and psychoactives in healing, the author participated in a six-week study abroad program in Lamas, Peru, where ritual healing is still widely practiced.


“There are a number of methods that are used to induce a trance state. Possibly the easiest is to take a psychoactive substance. Other methods are light manipulation, such as strobes or extended periods of the absence of light, repetitive sound manipulation, such as chanting or drumming, or trauma, physical, emotional, or mental.”

“Although they grow entire continents apart, many of the 2,900 existing Solanaceae species are important ritualistically or economically. Those that are used ritualistically are administered in very similar ways to one another – either smoked, chewed, or applied topically.”


“My favorite part of my Plan was studying ecstatic practices in early modern Europe. I remember how much I enjoyed researching, and my tutorials with Adam Franklin-Lyons – I didn’t want Plan to end!”