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The contents of De Souza's home are like a three-dimensional résumé, of sorts, filled with the tools of her trade, mementos garnered from a lifetime of travel, and gifts from esteemed clients. Part shrine, part clinic, it seems she means to impress upon her visitors and potential patients her powers as a learned healer and sorceress.
"I grew up in São Paulo and Rio," she explains, "very much in the voodoo tradition. There we call it Candomblé or macumba and we have our own gods we call Orishas. I was raised from an early age to be an ialorixá, what you might think of as a priestess, for lack of a better term. Americans always think of Haiti when you say the word voodoo. It's not the same, but similar. In both cases, it came from the slaves imported to those countries from Africa."
One room of De Souza's house is filled with images of Candomblé gods, among whom Obaluaiye is dominant. He carries some sort of weird baton and is covered in strands made from raffia palm leaves, which hide his face. He is the god of disease and sickness, but he also has the power to cure illness.
"When I was 18, I fell in love with a man from France who had lived in China," explained De Souza, as she gives a tour of her home. "He told me about how le Chinois cure with needles better than any in Western medicine. I apprenticed myself to a Chinese herbalist in Rio de Janeiro who also had an acupuncture clinic. By the end of a year, I had my own clients, and a year after that, I had saved enough money to study in Shanghai."
De Souza obtained her doctorate in TCM, or traditional Chinese medicine, at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was the first of many diplomas she would acquire. In Tokyo, she earned a degree in Japanese therapeutic massage at the world-renowned Japan Shiatsu College in Tokyo. From there, she relocated to Berlin, where she practiced reflexology out of a small storefront clinic near the Alexanderplatz. A year later, during a stint lecturing at a conference in Vienna of the Austrian Association of Homeopathic Doctors (Die Österreichische Gesellschaft für Homöopathische Medizin), she first picked up the study of lithotherapy from an adherent of Rosicrucianism who claimed to be related to the acclaimed philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
Afterward, she traveled to India to learn Aryuvedic medicine, yoga, and aromatherapy at R.A. Podar Ayurved Medical College in Mumbai. There she was granted the title vaidya, the traditional term for an Aryuvedic doctor. Over her hearth is a golden Hindu swastika, the arms of which end in serpents' heads decorated over with turquoise. It was gift, she says, from one of her professors in Mumbai.
"You'll notice that the swastika is opposite from the Nazi version. Flipped, if you will," says De Souza. "The swastika is an ancient symbol of well-being, often associated with the Hindu god of wisdom, Ganesha. Alas, the Nazis were playing with concepts and symbols far beyond their spiritual knowledge. I think if I was able to go back in time and treat Adolf Hitler's various psychopathic disorders, using lithotherapy, magnet healing, and shiatsu, the world would be a far different place."
Following her studies in India, De Souza traveled through Egypt, where she read the Egyptian Book of the Dead, first in English, then translating the hieroglyphs into Portuguese for a version still studied at colleges and universities in her native country. De Souza mastered divination in back alleys of Cairo, learning from practitioners of heka, one of the oldest forms of magic known to mankind. In Cairo, she also became enamored of the works of occultist Aleister Crowley, renting a flat that was said to have been occupied by Crowley at one time. Using a pendulum — one of Crowley's favorite tools — and a flat map of the world, she swung the small, pointed weight, looking for a new home. The pendulum alighted on Sedona.
"I could tell you absolutely nothing about Sedona when I moved here," she said. "But I knew once I was here, this was where I was meant to be."
She arrived in the late '80s, shortly after excitement was generated in the red-rock town by celebrations of the Harmonic Convergence, a unique planetary alignment welcomed by adherents of New Age beliefs worldwide. Sedona was already a holy city, of sorts, for New Agers and for celebrities. But De Souza felt she was already far ahead of the local "healers," who were just picking up on many of the practices she had already mastered, such as channeling, interpreting auras, and the one she was most drawn to, the use of crystals and other stones to heal. She perceived the New Age practitioners of Sedona as hippie versions of country bumpkins.
"Let me give you an example," she confides. "I bought this place for a fraction of what it was worth. On my first tour of the property, I sensed a vortex behind the house next to a cement bird pond. The sellers, who claimed to be devotees of harmonic convergence, knew nothing of it. It just shows you how naive people are here. If they'd had any inkling of it, I'd never have been able to afford it. Stupid hippies!"