Spirituality and Healing in Portugal and Greece: a comparative approach of alternative therapeutics

Affected by multiculturalism, globalization, and the current socio-economic crisis, contemporary Portuguese and Greek religiosity has been going through a process of transformation in the last few years. In this context, spiritual practices that belong to the so-called ‘New Age’ phenomenon (Heelas 1996; Hanegraaff 1996; Sutcliffe 2003), including the performance of alternative therapeutics, are becoming more and more popular. From yoga and traditional chinese medicine to shamanic healing and tarot, the therapeutic pathways that people in Portugal and Greece follow during their everyday lives are multiple and diverse. Based on anthropological field research in Lisbon and Athens, the aim of this paper is to examine the diversity of alternative healing practices, by providing a comparative ethnographic account of the complex relationship between spirituality and healing in Portugal and Greece; in two countries where, until recent years at least, individuals were hesitant to transcend certain boundaries in terms of denominational religion and (bio)medicine. Through specific ethnographic examples of both ‘healers’ and ‘patients’, questions will be raised as to how individuals these days manage to surpass such sociocultural restrictions, by negotiating and ultimately challenging their belief systems, both in the field of religiosity and that of therapeutics.