duality is transcended. The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our languages, our thoughts.” " " " " -Gloria Anzuldúa
challenges, and their whole conception of health, can provide more wellness than all the herbs in the world. Not all story telling and shifting is entirely comfortable or pleasant. In order to shift perception we must often challenge assumptions and ask people to look at things they’d likely rather avoid. In stories from across the world we’re presented with characters in the roles of medicine people and witches. Very often, these characters both heal and frighten, usually the challenging aspects also serving as a deeper form of healing. It’s not unusual for these characters to initially reject, threaten, or even harm the hero or heroine of the story. Respect, acceptance, and even safety have to be earned by tenacity and services rendered.
Traditionally, healers not only providing herbs or massage or steam baths, but also comfort, counsel, ceremony, and common sense to the folks they help. Additionally, most healers acted as storytellers and lore-keepers to some degree. Speaking to experienced herbalists, curanderas and similar folks, I could often listen for hours to the stories they have to tell about the plants, people, traditions, ways of being, and ideas about health and healing. Beyond holding and retelling information and experiences, healers often help clarify, bring to light, and even change a patient’s personal stories.
While herbalists in the United States are unlikely to wear a full on Baba Yaga visage, we still present questions and challenges that often seem frightening or threatening, at least initially. This is part of the larger role of a medicine person, taking on more than just the temporary physical comfort of a client. In this way, we meet much deeper needs that could ever be addressed by a practitioner of conventional healthcare.
Medicine people are also myth keepers and myth creators to some degree, assisting the people they work with by helping to shift perspective. As herbalists, we need to be listeners, but we can also help adjust, and sometimes transform, people’s stories. This is its own kind of healing, and one of the most lasting kinds. Giving people new ways of viewing their life journeys, their illnesses and
Russian/Siberian Medicine Woman