Birth of the Crone –
© 2004 Durga Bernhard
Who are the witches, where did they come from?
Maybe your great, great grandmother was one.
Witches were wise, wise women they say,
And there’s a little witch in every woman today–
There’s a little witch in every woman today.
— The Voices of Gaia
Prior to the 19th and 20th centuries, most people would rarely ever meet a male physician. Instead, when faced with health issues – from birth, to childhood diseases, to pregnancy and fertility concerns, to the diseases of aging and infection – the village Wise Woman’s help would be sought.
Despite centuries of torture and death, thanks to the Church’s efforts to demonize women in general, but especially any women that were given honor and power because of their healing skills, the Wise Women continued to faithfully serve their communities.
In the migration to the New World, it was often the bravery and skill of generations of women healers that made the difference between survival and death. For instance, in a recent article about the history of the healing women of the Ozarks, Janet L. Allured reminds us that “Our great grandmothers were not the sole possessors of herbal lore, (many neighborhood “yarb, ”or herb, doctors were male), but domestic medicine was an almost exclusively feminine art, passed down from mother to daughter.
“Pioneer women,” she writes, “who brought their family remedies west, learned a great deal about indigenous plants from local Indians.
“Every family had its own favorite concoction. One Ozark woman’s recipe, which had been passed down in her family for generations, consisted of equal amounts of sassafras, burdock, sarsaparilla roots, blue burvene, wild cherry, dogwood bark, and mayapple root. This was boiled until a heavy liquid formed; whiskey was added as a preservative and the mixture was then bottled. She dosed all the adults in her family with one tablespoonful (the children got a teaspoon), two to three times a day for a month.
“Another woman recommended the following: “Boil equal parts Sarsaparilla root, Wahoo root and Dogwood bark for 1/2 hour. Strain. Add enough whiskey to preserve liquid: Add 1 cup rock candy to sweeten. Give three tablespoonfuls each morning before breakfast as a spring tonic.”
“These tonics achieved several different results. Made from botanicals rich in vitamins and trace minerals, they were prepared and drunk in early Spring, and hence provided much-needed nourishment after a nutrient-poor winter. Tonics also stimulated the appetite; thus, dosed with tonics, Ozarkers ate more, which helped them build strength for the grueling labor that greeted every farm family as the weather warmed.
“In addition to stimulating digestion, various chemicals in the tonics also stimulated circulation and liver and excretory functions. Thus fortified, these pioneers were far better equipped, psychologically and nutritionally, to fight off the warm-weather diseases of the months ahead.”
In a nation where our health care “system” is based on a factory industrial model, and is failing those in need, where access to medicine and healing arts is being controlled by the moneyed interests of insurance, manufacturers and government, perhaps it is time that the Wise Women returned, one by one, to skillfully, lovingly care for their families and friends.