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Pagtatawas is a ritual in pseudomedicine in Filipino Psychology (but considered superstition in Western psychology) where an affliction or psychological disorder is diagnosed by interpreting the form produced in water by heated alum or molten wax droppings from a lighted candle.


Earlier and in some rural areas in the Philippines, alum (i.e., hydrated aluminum potassium sulfate or tawas in the vernacular) is ritualistically used by the albularyo or medicine man for diagnosis of a variety of health conditions: a child's incessant crying, frequent fatigue, or even failure to conceive. The tawas is used to 'cross' (sign of the cross) the forehead and other suspicious or ailing parts of the body as prayers are being whispered (bulong or oracion). It is then placed on glowing embers, removed when it starts to crack, then transferred to a small basin of water.[1] As it cools, its new form spreads on the water surface and assumes a shape that may suggest the cause of the illness, often one of several indigenous forces: dwarfs, devils or other evil spirits (na-nuno, na-kulam, na-demonyo). The water in the vehicle is then used to anoint the ailing part or parts of the body to counteract the evil forces or illness. The tawas is then discarded and thrown westward, preferably into the setting sun.[2]

Presently and in most areas, it is an albularyo who simply lights and holds the candle during the ritual. In some, it is the albularyo's assistant or the afflicted person who holds the candle, but almost invariably, it is the albularyo who interprets the vague shapes produced by the wax as it solidifies in the basin of water. An albularyo may see supernatural beings displeased as cause of the illness in the shapes and forms, and suggest some cleansing ritual or peace offering.

Modern variations have the albularyo use other materials for divination purposes, such as eggs, mirrors, plain paper, cigarettes,[3] chewing gum, chicken feathers, and the liver of a freshly-slaughtered chicken or pig (the last one classically known in the West as haruspicy).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SITO Artchive: '''Pagtatawas''' by Jose A. Fadul". Sito.org. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  2. ^ "Tawas (Alum): Miscellaneous Therapies in Philippine Alternative Medicine". Stuartxchange.com. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  3. ^ FMAdigest Archived July 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.

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