Sickness and other problems
All of the interviewees found curing illnesses an important task in their work. They would normally tell me that people would come “because of illness and other problems.” When I then asked them which problems that would be, they had a large variety of answers.
The sick [can visit], those who have problems with work - now, we’re not an employment agency - but we help people get work. We help to solve their health problems, and the health is the most important for working.
Sometimes, there are people who have legal problems. So I help them to solve these problems as fast as possible.
Well, people visit, like now, like you are visiting me now. And, God bless, like you, others are visiting too. [...] And so, we are helping them with loving God, to stop bad luck, to cure illness. And also, to ask God for one’s life, to ask for one’s food, to ask for protection for one’s animals . well, anything.
If a person is sick, they can come to the ajq’ij to find out why they are sick and how to solve it. The ajq’ij is therefore often referred to as a curandero, ‘curer.’ Some people are curanderos without being ajq’ijab. To Martin, it is important to clarify that in reality, it is not the curandero or the ajq'ij that cures people, but the sacred, or God, does. The ajq’ijab are needed for their ability to communicate with the sacred.
That’s the important thing to realise, that an ajq’ij doesn’t have the power to save someone’s life or to cure an illness or help them with their economic situation. We can only appeal. Obviously, if one’s hiring a lawyer and what have you, you want a lawyer who knows the law. You want an advocate who is eloquent enough to defend you before the authorities, and is skilled enough to know what resources to bring into play, and to know what strategies to use, and to know how to appeal to the authorities. But it’s not the ajq’ij him- or herself who decides the outcome of the case.
In addition to help people with illnesses, ajq’ijab with certain nahuales can help receive babies. These traditional birth attendants are called comadronas, ‘midwives.’ As with curanderos, it is possible to be a midwife without being an ajq’ij, but a person is often both.
We, as ajq’ijab, have two gifts. If the ajq’ij can be a midwife, she has to be a midwife, a midwife and a curer. So, say, if a baby is being born, and if the ajq’ij is a midwife, then the person can ask the ajq’ij for help to have her baby.