Good rituals past and present

Updated: May 4

The ancient art of self-quarantine (short story)


In the winter of 2018, while traveling with my daughter by bus from Granada to Cordoba, Spain, to the fortress town of Zahara de la Sierra in southern Spain high above the Andalusian countryside, I was in total awe how this small town had beautifully survived in modern times. We were visiting a sacred place that two years later would be revered as safe refuge during coronaviruses scourge on the world. Reported by CNN, The hilltop fortress town that cut itself off from the world -- and coronavirus--By Claudia Rebaza and Tim Lister) Thanks to the young mayor Santiago Galvans, fast action to shut off the small town to outsiders, allowing only one point of entry through a strict checkpoint, had created no reported cases of the virus. This made life sustainable within the walls of Zahara; restaurants could stay open, families could visit each other as long as no one left. A few brave women gather groceries and supplies for the entire community. They had figured out a way to self-quarantine quickly. Being self-sufficient was not new to Zahara citizens. They had fended off their enemies, the Moors, and Christians in medieval times. However, their smart architectural design into the mountainside gave them a leg up. I had seen firsthand peaceful solitude, and many of their descendants as talented artisans and culinary experts, while blissfully enjoying life overlooking the Mediterranean. It was mesmerizing, a fortress village removed from modern chaos.

A recent BBC reel, The ancient practice of self-isolation, talked about how in Kathmandu, Nepal, social distancing as a routine practice has been around for a thousand years and is nothing new. In Lhasa, Tibet, people were particularly vulnerable to infection. This old tradition was practice by Newar merchants while conducting trade along the silk road. Merchants bathed at the Stone Fountain in Thakuhiti were they went through ritual purification. The purification ritual helped to keep urban disease out of rural life so that people could thrive and be happy.

Today is not so far from our past. Before modern medicine, staying apart was the only way to prevent infection. We believe we are in unprecedented times when, indeed, we are not. Many of us just can't imagine a time without worrying about carrying a plague home. However, it was a reality for ancient civilizations and still exists in rural cultures around the world. Many of us are scared, and sadly some losing ground. Remember what our native ancestors taught, we are guests on this world and should respect the law of nature knowing it is dangerous to take more than we need.


Allowing modern technologies like tracing surveillance may be an intrusive necessity. We could relearn what our ancestors did to survive, and we can never forget and make sure generations after us do not either. When a vaccine becomes readily available, we will find our way back to a more stabilized new way of living.


The mayor was correct, like the sieges of Zahara's medieval times, this too shall pass.

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*Pictured: In January 2018 we visited the little town of Zahara de la Sierra nestled next to the Mediterranean Sea. We only had a day and one we wished could have lasted longer.

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