Several shamans will present their knowledge of alternative medicines at the Fourth Conference on Global Medicine this weekend, beginning tonight in Campbell Hall.

Hosted by the UCSB Global Medicine Project and the Four Winds Society, “Gathering of the Shamans: Healing Arts of Indigenous Peoples” kicks off with a keynote address by Four Winds Society founder and conference co-creator Albert Villoldo tonight at 8 in Campbell Hall. A sold-out weekend retreat at El Capitan Canyon Resort will follow from Saturday morning until 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Although the weekend retreat is sold out, interested parties can still purchase tickets for the Campbell Hall lecture at the door for $8.

At tonight’s event, Villoldo will discuss his experiences studying the healing practices of the Peruvian Q’eros – an indigenous tribe he lived with for over 20 years. Villoldo said shamans’ medical practices, including “energy medicine,” affect people’s “luminous energy fields” – which is analogous to a blueprint for the body.
“Energy medicine doesn’t work on the physical body, it works on the luminous energy field that envelopes the physical body and organizes the body the same way a magnet organizes iron on a piece of glass,” Villoldo said.

Instead of prescription drugs or surgery, Global Medicine Project Director Dan Smith said, shamanism involves the healing and empowerment of people through personal transformation and direct experience with the powers of the earth.

Smith said Villoldo will discuss the traditions of the Mexican Toltecs and other American Indian tribes as well as those of the Q’ero.

“Not very many people understand these cultures from the inside, but people like Alberto do because of his immersion into their culture,” Smith said.

Religious Studies Dept. Chair Catherine Albanese said her department is sponsoring the keynote speaker, but not the weekend retreat. She said the conference allows people to broaden their knowledge of themselves and other cultures.

“We are a society that likes to have alternatives,” Albanese said. “Looking at alternative models for healing enlarges our own vision and sense of who we are in the world.”

Smith said the American Indian healing methods stem from their appreciation for the environment.

“There seems to be a fascination with indigenous people who find themselves on the brink of an environmental nightmare,” Smith said. “Environmental difficulties cause people to find new ways of self-sustainable life.”

He said 140 people are attending the sold-out weekend retreat to receive tribal teachings and healing energies from the Q’ero elders. He said the Q’eros are descendents of an ancient Incan tribe who lived at 18,000 feet in the Andes Mountains. The Q’eros preserved their ancient healing traditions when they fled to the Peruvian Andes to escape Spanish conquest.

On Saturday afternoon, participants will have the choice of meeting with various shamans, Smith said. The Saturday session includes dinner and will conclude at 9 p.m. with a fire ceremony led by Native American Indian shaman metis Brooke Medicine Eagle. Sunday will follow a similar schedule and will culminate with a sunset ceremony led by Maria Yraceburu of the Cherokee snake medicine lineage.

Smith said participants are not being inducted into indigenous tribes.

“At the retreat, we are not teaching how to become Indian,” Smith said. “We are teaching participants the way of the shaman, which actually means healer and wisdom keeper.”

The event provides attendees with the opportunity to learn the diverse healing cultures of the world, Smith said, which contributes to a global consciousness regarding different cultures and traditions worldwide. The conference examines the influence of belief systems on health, he said.

“Learning about cultures creates a bridge between cultures,” Smith said. “If you learn about the medical traditions of a culture then you are also learning about that culture’s system of values. If you understand the values of a cultures, then you can understand the meaning behind the actions of people in that culture.”

According to its website, the UCSB Global Medicine Project was founded in 1997 in order to expand people’s knowledge of alternative medicines, and according to the Four Winds Society website, the society is an alternative medicine research and training organization.