The storms of time and medical hubris have erased her. Successfully tending the sick and injured in the back country, she held out in hidden pockets of the Ozarks well into the 20th century. Elsewhere she may have been called a wise woman healer or even denounced as a witch. Here she was humbly called, “granny woman”. Knowledge of plants and healing technique passed from mother to daughter for centuries. Memory stretching across the ocean to roots in Europe, she quickly adapted Native American know-how as she discovered new marvels in American landscapes.
Well aware that herbs alone cure only when blended with an expectation of healing, she was also psychologist, spiritual ally, carrier of ritual. She knew which plants to harvest in the full moon, what to plant when oak leaves mimic mouse ears, how to render bear fat into the best carrier oil for her ointments.
She brought children into the world and took them out again when all else failed. Steadfast for so very long, she faded in a whisper as we filled our ears with shouts of scientific discovery and its “superior” medicine. By the time we realized we still needed her knowledge, that nature cure has its place after all….she had taken her centuries with her — back into the earth. Now we comb our archives looking for clues. We ask her descendents what they remember. Not much. Why should they? She was dismissed as “backwards” wasn’t she?
At the recent Ozark Studies Symposium in Missouri I met with two academics involved in their own search for her. When I mentioned it was time for a granny woman revival they enthusiastically agreed. Is it even possible?
Yes. Many dedicated herbalists have traced the broken trail enough to begin to piece her back together. Mind you, she was adaptive, she would quickly embrace what we know today from our cross-cultural studies of therapeutic herbalism. She would draw it all in to weave her own pattern of vitalistic sacred touch to the weary and worn. She understood that good medicine is always creative application based on a firm foundation of reliable instruction. She was ever open to inspiration and insight.
Don’t you find that women are still open to inspiration and insight? Aren’t they especially hungry to take granny woman’s shawl off the rack, dust it off, and wrap themselves in its authenticity? As natural healers?
So friends…this blog is dedicated to the revival of granny women. Granny woman’s healing is for men and women so all are welcome. Our focus is on herbs found in the Ozarks, however, other important botanicals will be noted. In her spirit, we approach healing in a multi-disciplinary way…as a matter of body/mind/spirit in its natural relationship to the world.
This is a blog, which means this is a conversation. I’m eager to learn about your own healing successes and failures. A proper Granny Woman revival takes a dedicated community, this is OUR place to re-discover our dear old healer.