Chimayo is the name of a hill in New Mexico believed by the Native Americans to have sacred healing powers within its soil. In 1816, as the indigenous area was settled by Christians, a wealthy landowner built a chapel on the site that stands to this day. Now run by the Catholic Church, El Santuario de Chimayo houses a room where the original holy dirt is accessible to anyone who makes the pilgrimage.
Hundreds of thousands of people come to Chimayo each year. It is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in North America. Attested to by the crutches and other physical evidence of healing left behind in the inner holy shrine, many people claim that by rubbing the dirt on their injured and ailing bodies, they have been miraculously healed.
Could the dirt at this holy site in New Mexico have mystical powers? And could those powers be so great they cured a young woman of cancer?
Indre visits Dr. Bruce W. Smith, PhD, at the University of New Mexico's psychology department. He is an expert in the power of positive thinking and the placebo effect. "I think it is really important for us to talk to someone who has studied the power of positive thinking," says Indre.
"When you get some kind of a treatment that doesn't have an active ingredient, but you think it does and it helps you, then that's what's called the placebo effect. Optimism has been something that's been associated with reduced stress response???your immune system might be working better. And then [you] get even more reinforced for that???this positive attitude that can help," says Dr. Smith.
Indre explains that although she does believe in the power of faith and prayer, she still feels there is something special about Chimayo, physically. She sets off to analyze the dirt. Geo-Analytical Chemist Mehdi Ali, PhD. arrives to take some samples for testing in the lab. In the meantime he performs a simple field test that returns a positive result: the Chimayo dirt is high in calcium carbonate, which is an element in medicines like antacids, which make people feel better for conditions such as heartburn.
While Indre investigates the dirt, Randall decides to unearth his own meaning as to what's going on at Chimayo. He arranges to meet with a local Shaman, Michelle Ama Wehali Rozbitsky, who believes in answers which lie in the natural world.
Michelle uses dowsing rods made out of copper to walk the Chimayo site. The rods act as natural conductors, "???and they cross when you walk over like a particular strong place where their waters cross, which all sacred sites across the planet, or most of them, are built on??? that's where the healing energy comes in, where they cross," she says.
Randall tries his hands at manning the dowsing rods, and inquires whether the dirt at Chimayo is a strong healing force. Seemingly unaided, the copper instruments answer him in the affirmative. "That, that was one of the strangest experiences I've ever had. Michele opened my mind to the possibility that there are a lot of elements here, historical elements, geophysical elements, spiritual elements," he says. "A larger and more complex picture than I brought to Chimayo".
Indre and Randall fly to Colorado to speak with Deseree Martinez, who was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 15. With over 20 different bone lesions on her body, she was given only a ten percent chance to live for three months. On an 8th grade trip to New Mexico, Dese rubbed some of the dirt on her skin at the site of her most painful lesion. After the trip, she seemed to be recovering. Scans showed signs of improvement. "Dr. Greffe stated one of the lesions just didn't show up anymore. And it happened to be the part that I put the dirt on."
Deseree has been in remission for over 15 years.
Watch the video of Deseree's emotional account,
then see what her oncologist had to say about her recovery
The results of the dirt analysis come back. Indre believes the power of positive thinking and the placebo effect are responsible for the miraculous healing power of Chimayo. That, and the calcium carbonate in the soil. "Beyond that, there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary about the dirt that would explain its healing properties," she says.
Even though I think your description of things is a truth, to me it's a truth on the surface. There's a deeper truth that is the one that Dese's embraced and I embrace it with her. She, in a moment of supreme faith, used the dirt to initiate a healing. To me that's a miracle that should go on the wall at Chimayo as testimony to the power of the place. I'm comfortable calling it a miracle.
What do YOU think? Vote in the weekly Miracle Detectives "You Decide" Poll and see what other people are saying on the blog.