Getting a “Limpia” Spiritual Cleansing in Cuenca, Ecuador
In the second month of our trip, we found ourselves rooted in Cuenca, Ecuador for a month. We instantly fell in love with this city; it is quaint enough to feel like a small town but has plenty going on to stay entertained. One of the most memorable experiences was getting a traditional Limpia spiritual cleansing.
Arriving in Cuenca
To get acquainted with the city, we took walking tours, Spanish language lessons, and started working at a co-working space in town. We were given suggestions on what to do and see in Cuenca from all the locals we spoke with and one thing kept coming up; we had to see the “Limpia” spiritual cleansings take place in the famous market 10 de Agosto.
Finally we inquired further after we had heard about these spiritual cleansings from a few people. We learned that the indigenous people in the region have been performing Limpia spiritual cleansings for many years; the aim of the cleansing is to try to diagnose the problems that you are having in your life and cleanse you of these. People get a cleansing when they are having bad luck, want success in their careers, want more money, have bad love life, etc.
Once we heard that anyone could get a Limpia in 10 de Agosto on Tuesdays and Fridays for $3, I was sold. I didn’t just want to witness the cleansing; I wanted to experience it firsthand.
When we arrived at the market on a Friday, I was nervous. I had no idea what I was about to get myself into or what the Limpia entailed. The only details we had gotten from those recommending the cleansing was that an indigenous woman was going to spit on me at some point during the process. The idea of getting spit on wasn’t exactly thrilling, but for the sake of the experience I found an open seat and settled in for the most unexpected 9 minutes of my life.
Getting a Spiritual Cleansing in Cuenca: the Diagnosis
The Limpia started with the indigenous woman hitting me with a bundle of plants all over my body. The plants were firm and very aromatic; I’m very aware of the smell due to the amount of the times she hit me on the face with the bundle. She hit my neck, my arms, lifted my shirt to hit my stomach and my back, and she even had me roll my pant legs as far as they would go so that she could hit them as well. The plant beating lasted for around three and a half minutes.
After the plants, she grabbed an egg and started rubbing it all over my body in the same places that she had hit me with the plants. At this point I was a little nervous; I was really hoping that this experience wasn’t going to end with an egg cracked on my head. While I’m not exactly sure what the significance of the plant beating was, she told me that the egg was absorbing my bad energy as she rubbed it across my skin.
After two and a half minutes of rubbing the egg on my skin, she thankfully cracked the egg into a cup, not on my head. She showed me the cracked egg, and since it had absorbed my bad energy, she was able to read my ailments in the cup. She told me that I was very nervous and stressed. She wasn’t wrong, I was very nervous and stressed; after the last six minutes I had endured, who wouldn’t be?
After the diagnosis, the cleansing part began. She started by taking a spray bottle with mystery liquid inside and spraying me in the face, my stomach, my neck, and my back. She had me start rubbing the liquid on my stomach, and then she had me cup my hands and rub it on my face. It had a very strong odor to it but I have no clue what it was.
Next came a bottle of green liquid that she poured on my head, down my back, and into my cupped hands. Once it was in my hands, she pressed my hands to my face and told me to breath deeply. The smell was so intense that instinct took over and my hands left my face. She quickly corrected me and pressed the aromatic green liquid into my face again so I had to breathe it in deeply. After the breathing, she had me rub the green liquid on my stomach just like the spray bottle.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but after the green liquid she had some sort of soil on her fingers and she shoved some up my belly button. That was a strange surprise to find later in the shower.
Lastly, she grabbed flower petals, took some in her mouth and spit them into my face. For a second I thought I was let off easy. Then she grabbed a bottle of liquid, took a big swig, and spit all over my face. It wasn’t a minor spit either; it was like a shotgun shell exploded in my face. After, she spit on my neck as well.
The Aftermath of a Limpia Spiritual Cleansing: Shower Time!
The Limpia had finally come to a close. Once it ended, she offered me a plastic bottle filled with mystery liquid that she claimed would cure my ailments. The bottle cost an additional $2 so I graciously declined, paid her the $3 and then ran home to take a shower as quickly as possible.
I’m happy I was able to experience a tradition that many locals in Cuenca still practice on a regular basis. We saw a wide range of people including children, adult women, and eldery men lining up to have their turn at the cleansing. While it’s a strange experience to undergo as an outsider, I highly recommend a visit to 10 de Agosto to at least witness the Limpia with your own eyes.
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