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Posts Tagged → Sera Young

Eating Dirt and Terra Sigillata

“A cloak of loose, soft material, held to the earth’s hard surface by gravity, is all that lies between life and lifelessness.”

– Wallace H. Fuller, Soils of the Desert Southwest, 1975

El Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico. Credit: www.elsantuariodechimayo.us

Dirt is a paradox.

Children playing in the dirt all day are admonished to wash their hands before eating dinner. But eating dirt, or geophagy, has been pervasive throughout centuries and across diverse cultures.

I learned last week while at the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop that northern New Mexico is home to soils used for religious purposes. El Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic shrine and pilgrimage destination, is home to a small pit of soil called El Pocito. Legend has it that in 1810 a local friar saw light bursting from a hillside and found a crucifix when digging to identify the source. Since then the soil in the hole has been believed to impart healing properties.

The legend is so pervasive that Gerald Callahan used the story to launch a 2003 article in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But one needn’t make a pilgrimage: you can order your holy dirt of Chimayo here. Alas, one is advised today that the dirt is not to be eaten or drunk, although other information on the website indicates that has been on use of the soil.

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