Bric-a-brac is everywhere in Isabel Silva’s North Philadelphia rowhouse. China dolls in lacy dresses. Carved candles. Indian sculptures. Horse and elephant figurines. Knickknacks accumulated over a very long lifetime, filling shelf upon shelf.
Given as gifts to the revered, 99-year-old matriarch of a large Puerto Rican clan, they are tokens of appreciation for her healing powers in the art of santiguar, a form of mystical massage practiced mostly in the Caribbean.
Using pure olive oil, herbs, incantations, and intuition, she diagnoses and treats friends and family by stroking their aching joints and bellies with the swirling, sign-of-the-cross motions of her perfectly manicured hands.
“It is a gift from God,” Silva said. “It just came to me. When I put my hands on people, with my faith in God, things just happen.” continue reading>>