'Closing The Bones' - please step back for a few moments to think.
Most doulas, once we become birth workers, quickly learn of a postpartum healing ritual quickly named in the uk as 'Closing the Bones' or ' Cerada' in Latin America, and we want to understand more about it, naturally, as it's wonderful. Our culture lacks understanding and knowledge of many deep spiritual traditions that we once would have known, so to find closing the bones is like discovering gold again to us. Our bodies and souls yearn for these healings because our ancestral matriarchial lineage has lacked in women's healing treatments for too long.
Cerada is a treatment that is hard to describe on some levels. It means closing the body, the energy field, hips, muscles...and reconnecting everything, fascia, tissues, and the energy body to the physical body after the 'separation' and movement of tissues and energies around the hip area during childbirth. I first learnt a bit about Rebozo use (the Mexican name of the cloth used in Cerada) third hand from a local uk doula, weeks after I trained as a doula in 2016, she also spoke of 'Closing The Bones' ceremony. I looked it up, and found a lady that had learnt part of the ceremony from a Healer from Ecuador who taught Cerada in the UK. So I looked up her next training in Sussex and booked on it. I absolutely loved it, it was wonderful, a beautiful experience and my body felt as new in the days following the practise. I used the practise treatments on me as a way to close my body after my four babys but to seal the ideas of becoming pregnant again and to look to the next cycle of my life. It was powerful! I did however walk away a bit confused about what we'd done, what I was missing, what we were learning, and how I could bring it to clients, or if I even should? I was assured by the teacher on this course I could use it after some practise, and I could get insurance cover. I still felt something was missing. I had learned spiritual healing and trance healing, and had been aware of shamanic practises since I was 22 years young, and felt that it was the shamanic understanding likely lacking in this training and practise. I began to use the techniques as a safe holding for mothers, but incorpated the healing knowledge I had already learned and Shamanic drum healing as way of aiding healing, almost to fill what I felt inside was missing from the aspects of the ritual I had learned from the western teacher. I knew I wanted to meet the healer that these western ladies had learned from to find answers to my questions, of which I knew only someone of that culture or at least with deeper understanding could answer. I was lucky to meet the healer from Ecuador that my teachers had learnt from eventually, and I was blown away, her first words spoken were; 'Hipping' as she called it, ' is a shamanic practise'. You are shamans when you do this work, it is ancestral knowledge'. She spoke of the maternal lineage and how each of us is affected by our maternal lineage. Part of this work is to cut ties and heal ancestral wounds, so a mother can heal and not pass it to her baby, ideally before the mother is even pregnant. The Healer showed us how to see the energies in a woman's body, and how to help the body move it round, to clear it, then help the body close itself, and heal following birth. With the aim to have beautiful firm hips that can dance and make love. There was so much information she kindly and generously shared with us all (there were four ladies in this group) over the two days I spent with her. It was sacred teachings from her grandmothers. I was blown away. I knew also that this was a lifetimes work, not a series of techniques to learn in a weekend and practise on others without deeper understanding.
I also met another beautiful woman, a Partera (midwife) from Mexico this week with Cerada traditions deeply rooted in her cultures ancient past, she held unique deep knowledge passed through her family. I left after the gathering with this wise woman I was reminded again that it is such a huge practise, a cultural practise, one you can only fully understand with full emersion into the culture and teachings from the source. The biggest lesson I have learnt these past six months after spending time with these two indigenous wise women is the absolute importance of always learning any spiritual, or shamanic healing, or treatments from other cultures directly from the source and to keep learning from source if you want to practise. It was also brought to my awareness through this learning the importance of going to a practitioner for treatments of rebozo, cerada, postpartum healing or fertility treatments with people who had learned from the source and update their on going training. A good healer, or shaman recognises they never stop learning, they will go through extensive training before they practise on people. Its common knowledge that when people become massage therapists in the UK, they also do extensive training, so it should be so for other therapies. Massage is also one of the shortest courses one can do to learn treatments before practising on clients. To become a physiotherapist, or person with deeper knowledge it often takes at least three years commonly before we are qualified enough practise on others. A doula with North Native American roots says her grandmother says it takes 20 years to learn, 20 years to practise, then after 40 years, 20 years to teach. It makes so much sense. I am writing this blog because I can no longer sit with a feeling of the potential risks to mothers, and doulas/ birth workers careers knowing there are many doulas out there without deeper knowledge learned from the source, practising superficially, or practising without a good recognised massage qualification (you don't need one but good knowledge of anatomy is wise). Without training with an experienced indigenous Curandera, Healer or Midwife who knows the teachings deeply, learning second or third hand, or even from a teacher who learned via you tube videos (i am told this happened too!) in a quick weekend we are not learning and understanding properly, we risk practising poorly, we risk damaging women's bodies, and we are dishonouring deep cultural wisdom. Having done a small amount of research I have found similar postpartum healing ceremonies and treatments seems to have roots in many cultures around the world, and very likely had roots in the UK too, as some simple traditions still exist in Holland, and other European countries. So find a good teacher, honour them, credit them to your work with every treatment. A big question that has arisen from a few people who have trained with a traditional Healer is ; 'What if something occurs to a woman using a 'technique' dangerously which has been taught by a western 'teacher' with no true teaching. One technique many doulas do is use a stick to tighten the cloth, as it will tighten more than hands can do, which might be very dangerous. Imagine something goes wrong? Imagine insurance companies delving deeper into what 'Closing the bones' is (as that's the term it's insured under in the uk). A beautiful ancient ritual will be explored and not understood by 'the powers that be'. This ritual could even be banned through mis teaching, which would mean even the Partera/ traditional midwives, or healers who visit or live in our country can't practise their own traditions. I have sat with the uncomfortable feelings around this situation for six months, since my first workshop with the Healer I met from Ecuador. I see new workshops pop up by western people a lot, I feel a scream inside wondering if it's safe and how many doulas will learn something that's not true to the source, or dangerous. I feel an urge to help my colleagues learn well, and protect new mama's from being practised on by people with little experience or full understanding. We have plenty of wonderful courses in the uk to learn postpartum massage to help women, maybe this is the best route for a western woman to explore before learning Cerada?
I have learned from the two indigenous women I have met in the past six months who practise and teach Cerada that say they have not given permission for anyone else to teach. Meaning that it is likely that many UK courses using cloths/ fabric/ rebozos/ manta for healing, fertility work, pregnancy, birth work, and postnatal care are not true to the original roots and have not come from a rooted source. Thats big!! Think of all the courses and workshops that pop up! I also feel its important to honour and protect indigenous knowledge if we are lucky enough to have the honour to spend time with someone willing to teach their ancestral knowledge. Postpartum healing known in the uk as 'Closing the bones', 'Hipping', or Cerada in south and central America is a beautiful, extremely important practise for all women to experience. I recommend everyone experiences it, no matter how long it's been since you have had your children, or if you haven't had children, it is a wonderful healing ceremony. The wise indigenous women I have met want people to learn, but properly, wisely, consciously, and respectfully. If you are a woman thinking of having a treatment I strongly suggest to be conscious of who your therapist is; • research who they trained with, • find out when they trained, • how long for, • If they've returned to update their training, • ask whether they have a massage qualification perhaps too. If you want to learn this practise, do so but please, please find an indigenous midwife, or Curandera/ Curandero / Healer who can and is willing to teach you their ancestral gifts and knowledge. Please honour and respect the knowledge, the gifts, and the person who taught you. It is an truly deep honour to learn this wisdom.
By doing this you also honouring and respecting not only ancient wisdom, and the person who gifted you their ancestral wisdom, but you are respecting and honouring yourself, and your clients too. We are indigenous women of the UK and Europe, we have lost much of our knowledge but can look to sources here, delve deeper and we will find our wisdom.
Blessings, Aho 🙏 Gratitude for reading this far. **I am not writing this blog to upset anyone, cause harm, I am a doula, a mum, like many reading this, I write it from my heart to yours. I am aware it's not my battle either. I am deeply upset and embarrassed by our perseved Western privilege. It hasn't been easy to write this, but something inside me keeps making me do it to clear my discomfort, and heart felt hurt of seeing wise women, Healers, Elders, cry over their heritage being misused. I write this also to honour my truth and help honour this deep wisdom.