Here is an amazing piece of antique history in a painting..

Herbalist

I saw this on Casa de Cura – Rituals, Remedies and Culture of Sicily & the  Mediterranean which is a very informative website written with dedication by Cristala Mussato-Allen. She writes about her mother’s Albanian/Sicilian roots as well as her fathers Caddo (Spanish) traditions of healing.

It reminds me of my Bosnian grandmother and our own herbal tradition, one she practiced growing up in Central Bosnia and one she passed on to me.  As a child when we all lived together, healing common ailments with herbs rather than  pharmaceuticals was natural in our home,  though I can’t say I was even conscious of it.   My Baka, (grandmother) left Yugoslavia during the 2nd WW and eventually settled in Germany. She used her insight, experience and the folk medicine knowledge she had learned from the convent nuns, the village woman secrets, mothers’ home remedies and accumulated earth wisdoms perfected through centuries.  It was second nature to her. Bosnian women, as most women in countries with ancient lineage, used their folk medicine in daily practice, one because they had the knowledge and also because medicine, doctors and money were not always available.

Today, as for centuries, herb knowledge is respected and taught in all parts of the world, including of course my late grandmothers birthplace.

Paula, my Baka, learned from her mother, Anna Vukadin who was also born in Busovaca, Central Bosnia.   Baka, her father favorite, was sent to learn at the local Catholic monastery in Vitez , which was a privilege in those times. The nuns, who taught catechism, basic reading, writing and arithmetic as well as embroidery, also kept a large garden for the purpose of cultivating and studying herbs.  From these herbs they formulated tinctures and salves for the needs of the nuns and often, for the towns folk.

I know my grandmother did not think of her talent as anything special. She was modest and explained in a precise manner that it was natural to use the gifts of the earth.  It was quite simple she said; God gave us flowers, herbs and nature to use in order to clean ourselves of disease and also nourish our bodies.

Paula Welte Melinz

She crafted specia drops for specific aches, pains, complications and used modern medications sparingly.

Healing women are known in every culture. Rather than see them as distant from us we can remember that our mothers, grandmothers, aunties -who are sometimes seen as eccentric or odd, are fountains – reservoirs – of knowledge: our true link to millenia of successful experiments in  healing and solving problems of health.

Growing up, I didn’t know I was learning because I was so busy resisting. I made fun of Baka and her herbs, drying all over the house, on every imaginable counter, even fighting for floor space on the balcony, where she dried seeds, bark and flowers. She kept bottles, dark brown and blue  filled with tinctures set under lock and key in a  cabinet of the kitchen wall.

When I was sick though I never questioned her wisdom and certainly I didn’t laugh at her salves and drops. She was the wonderful ‘goddess of  cures’ and no longer my eccentric grandma. I think about her everyday, an try to use the knowledge I gleaned from her as often as I need.

Do you have a female relative or acquaintance who has influenced you in your own healing? What stories do you tell about her?