- the three healing traditions, © 2007 Sage Starwalker. All rights reserved.
Spirit and Practice of the Wise Woman Tradition
In these early years of the twenty-first century, herbal medicine is being integrated into mainstream medicine in the United States. Or is it the other way around? Are we in danger of adopting the limited, linear scientific view of a practice that is also considered an art? Are we abandoning the sense of delight that drew us to herbal medicine? Are we vulnerable to needing to be validated from outside because we don't value ourselves highly enough?
To answer these questions, we will use the model of the Three Traditions of Healing Scientific, Heroic, and Wise Woman. Knowing the differences among these three views allows us to become informed consumers of health care, to repossess the power of our health / wholeness / holiness in a new and uniquely functional manner, and to maintain our dignity as herbalists in a world dominated by scientists.
I want to focus on the Wise Woman Tradition, its spirit and practice,
because I believe it offers us a way to look at what we have as herbalists
and what society seems to be offering us, and to make a better-informed
choice as to the path ahead.
What Are the Three Traditions of Healing?
Each of us contains some aspects of each tradition. And these different aspects may want different things at different times or at the same time. The scientific aspect wants facts; the heroic aspect wants to be told what to do; and the wise woman aspect smiles and offers you a bowl of soup and some bread and cheese she made herself. As I define the characteristics of each tradition, identify the part of yourself who thinks that way.
The Scientific Tradition defines truth as measurable and repeatable. The whole is the same as its most active part. Herbs are reduced to standardized extracts; only the active ingredient is important. Healing is fixing. Linear thought, linear time. Good and bad, health and sickness always at war.
Nature is mechanized. Bodies are machines. Anything that deviates from normal needs to be fixed. Measurements determine deviation; drugs ensure normalcy. Plants are potential drugs, safe only in the hands of licensed experts.
The legalized use of herbs in Germany follows the scientific model. Herbs are available by prescription and paid for by National Insurance because they are viewed and treated as drugs. Herbs are available only to those with a prescription written by an MD, who has received little or no training in the use of herbs, so the overall effect is to severely limit the use of herbal medicine and its availability.
Ready access to a wide variety of manufactured herbal medicines is a freedom that many American herbalists seem to take for granted. It is due, in part, to the strength of the Heroic tradition.
The Heroic Tradition is the collective name for many similar traditions, not a unified one. Predating the scientific tradition, the heroic view sees that the whole is a circle made up of all its parts body, mind, and spirit.
Sickness is caused by pollution of the body, mind, or spirit. Healing is the removal of the corruption, the detoxification. Puking, purging, and bleeding. Removing curses. Cleansing the colon and the aura. Making everything light.
We are all filthy sinners. We have to pay for our fun. No pain, no gain. If it tastes bitter, it is good for you. Food is the first addiction, learned at the mothers' breast. Control yourself. Control your thoughts. Control your appetites. Control your desires. If you want to get to heaven, follow the rules.
If you are sick, it is your own fault. You were negative. You were bad. You ate the wrong food, thought the wrong thought, sinned. You stepped outside the charmed circle. You need a savior, purification and punishment. The Heroic healer saves the day thanks to rare substances, exotic herbs, and complicated formulae. Powerful, drug-like herbs (such as cayenne and golden seal) and vitamin and mineral pills are favored remedies in this tradition. Most books on herbal medicine, and many on nutrition, are written by men of the Heroic tradition.
Wise Woman Tradition is the world's oldest healing tradition. Its symbol is the spiral. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Life is a spiraling, ever-changing completeness. Disease and injury are doorways of transformation. Each one of us is inherently whole, yet seeking greater wholeness; perfect, yet desiring greater perfection. Whole / healthy / holy. Substance, thought, feeling, and spirit inseparably intertwined.
Good health may be freedom from disease, but it is also openness to change, flexibility, and compassionate embodiment, even when dancing with cancer or healing from a serious accident. Uniqueness rather than normalcy. Not a cure, but an integration; not the elimination of the bad, but a nourishing of wholeness / health / holiness.
Nourishment of wholeness / health / holiness is invisible, simple, grounded, holographic, both / and, ever changing, woman-centered, and compassionate.
Nourishment is Invisible
Nourishment is Simple
Nourishment is Grounded
Both / And Universe
No Diseases, No Cures, No Healers
The Six Steps of Healing