Can guinea pigs cure cancer? That seems like a bit of a crazy question, but in the Andes region of South America, guinea pigs have been a traditional part of healing rituals for over 5,000 years. The shamans of Peru truly believe that guinea pigs cure diseases, even cancer. Peruvian guinea pigs are used in a ritual called shoqma, where a wriggling guinea pig is rubbed all over a patient's body to remove whatever disease they are suffering from.
As strange as it all may seem, guinea pigs have played a huge role in traditional Peruvian society, serving as a local delicacy as well as a religious animal. A lot of people see this tradition as problematic, claiming animal abuse. See why guinea pigs play such a large role in Peruvian culture and why animal rights activists are trying to put a stop to some of these practices.
The ancient tradition of shoqma is a healing ritual performed by a shaman. They take either a guinea pig or other materials, such as flowers, and rub down the patient's body. The patient stands completely still as the shaman basically flogs them with a squirming, terrified animal (or if you're lucky, just a bunch of flowers.) The idea behind the practice is that the guinea pig will take the illness that the patient is suffering from into its own body.
After the initial rub-down, the guinea pig is placed in a bag for almost half an hour to calm it down before the next step in the procedure - dissection. Although sometimes the guinea pig is left alive, most of the time its throat is cut and it is opened up to view the bones, blood, and organs. It's a gruesome process, but apparently the shaman can see in the guinea pig's body what is wrong with their human patient.
You only need to watch videos (like this one) to see that the guinea pigs don't particularly enjoy being rubbed all over strangers' bodies. The shamans have to grip the critter's squirming body hard to hold it in place, and they emit lots of high-pitched squeaks that can easily be interpreted as cries of distress. Because the guinea pigs are obviously terrified, animal rights groups have begun to take notice and question whether the process does more harm than good.
Guinea pigs come in a variety of colors: white, black, red, brown, and combinations of all of those. However, the black guinea pigs are said to hold the most spiritual power for healing. Black guinea pigs are believed to have come from the healers' ancestors, which gives them such great power.