The Desert Pilgrim: En Route to Mysticism and Miracles

Swander, Mary

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Annotated by:
Donley, Carol
  • Date of entry: May-09-2005


An automobile accident left Mary Swander nearly paralyzed and coping with chronic pain. After several incorrect diagnoses, she saw a neurosurgeon who told her that a disk in her neck ruptured "at C6 and punched a hole in the spinal cord. The flu virus went into the cord and infected it." She had central cord syndrome (which can paralyze arms) and myelitis (which can paralyze legs).

Other than traction, the doctors said they could not do anything more for her. She went to New Mexico where herbal medicines of a curandera and spiritual healing by a Russian Orthodox monk helped her. She now walks without a cane.


This sensitive and thoughtful memoir traces Mary Swander's journey from pain and depression to a healing of her whole self--physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Two healers facilitate her recovery: Lu, a curandera, a folk healer, using herbal medicines and prayer; and Father Sergei, a Russian Orthodox monk of Jewish heritage, artist, gardener, whose inner city monastery is across the street from Lu's drugstore.


Viking Compass

Place Published

New York



Page Count