The senior anthropologist on the project explained that Voodoo was originally a healing practice from sub-Saharan Africa, and that in Haiti it was also used to harm one’s foes, particularly the ruthless slave masters. The techniques were identical, he explained. The same practices that were used to stimulate the immune system to eradicate a cancerous tumor could be used to lay waste to the immune system so that your victim would die from pneumonia in a matter of weeks.
At that age I was convinced I knew better and placed a small wager that black magic could only work on those who believed in it. Upon being introduced to a local Voodoo priest we all agreed he would prove to me how his magic worked and he would do his work on me the following week, after I returned to California. Suffice it to say, I ended up so sick that death would have been a welcome relief! When the senior anthropologist called me on the appointed day to see if I felt anything, I groaned into the phone and told him to go back to the Voodoo priest and ask him to undo whatever it was he had done.
I learned that just as you can help people through energy medicine, you can also hurt them. I would later learn that energy healing from a poorly trained practitioner is often tantamount to black magic, regardless of how well-meaning the healer is. Black magic happens not only in Haiti and the bayous of Louisiana but anywhere well-meaning but poorly trained individuals lay their hands on others, attempting to perform healing, and unknowingly transmitting toxic energy to them.
Students will sometimes comment that this can’t happen if you are sending love to another person, as this energy is supposedly pure and holy. I remind these students of the pain that we can inflict on others in the name of love. In time, I discovered another kind of black magic we do to ourselves: the negative thoughts and beliefs that keep us from our personal power and wreak havoc on our immune system.
The most important lesson for me though, was the crucial role of the healer’s ethics and intent. Much of the shaman’s training is dedicated to developing a high ethic, a value system founded on a deep reverence for all life. Only then can the techniques be properly mastered.
This is the quandary for Westerners who take a quickie class in energy healing or shamanism. If you have a calling to practice energy medicine, take the time to train with teachers whose integrity, wisdom, and technical experience will assist you to develop your own spiritual gifts.