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Folk Healing and Health Care Practices In Britain and Ireland

Folk Healing and Health Care Practices In Britain and Ireland: Stethoscopes, Wands and Crystals

Ronnie Moore
Stuart McClean
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Folk Healing and Health Care Practices In Britain and Ireland
    Book Description:

    Folk, alternative and complementary health care practices in contemporary Western society are currently experiencing a renaissance, albeit with features that are unique to this historical moment. At the same time biomedicine is under scrutiny, experiencing a number of distinct and multifaceted crises. In this volume the authors draw together cutting edge cross-cultural, interdisciplinary research in Britain and Ireland, focusing on exploring the role and significance of healing practices in diverse local contexts, such as the use of crystals, herbs, cures and charms, potions and lotions.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-842-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Ronnie and Stuart
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: Folk Healing in Contemporary Britain and Ireland: Revival, Revitalisation or Reinvention?
    (pp. 1-21)
    Ronnie Moore and Stuart McClean

    Christ and Rasputin number among the many folk healers in history. The practice is both ubiquitous and unique. It is at once a familiar and shared socio-cultural phenomenon, but it also evokes something magical and other, distant and irrational, and it is seen as deeply antithetical to ‘modern’ ways of thinking and being. And therein we can locate the complexity of addressing a subject both familiar and alien in a modern society which is assumed to be in the process of shedding the ‘last vestiges’ of such non-scientific and premodern beliefs and practices.

    In sharing the topic of this book...

  5. Chapter 2 Folk Healing and a Post-scientific World
    (pp. 22-54)
    Ronnie Moore and Stuart McClean

    Indigenous medicine and folk healing extend back to prehistory and yet are practised throughout the modern world to a greater or lesser degree. Charles Leslie summarised the legacy of ancient medical customs thus: ‘The health concepts and practices of most people in the world today continue traditions that evolved during antiquity’ (Leslie 1977: 1). Archaeology and physical anthropology have uncovered evidence of skills in primitive surgery (trephining), bone setting and early apothecary with the magico-medical use of plants, herbs, roots and berries (Broca 1876; Finger and Fernando 2001). The Egyptian Ebers Smith Papyrus, for example, makes reference to the importance...

  6. Chapter 3 The Medical Marketplace and Medical Tradition in Nineteenth-century Ireland
    (pp. 55-79)
    Catherine Cox

    In 1895, the charred body of Bridget Cleary, a 26-year-old woman, was found in a shallow grave in County Tipperary in Ireland. The immediate events that culminated in her death appeared to originate in a cold she caught which necessitated bed rest. As her illness proved resilient to all forms of medical intervention, her husband Michael Cleary became convinced, or was persuaded, that the fairies had abducted his real wife.¹ In his attempts to establish the true identity of the sick woman he burned his wife to death. This gruesome story and the associated criminal proceedings have been ascribed multiple...

  7. Chapter 4 Folk Healing in Rural Wales: The Use of Wool Measuring
    (pp. 80-103)
    Susan Philpin

    Wool measuring refers to a particular type of folk healing described in Welsh folk literature from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but rooted in antiquity, which has survived in parts of rural mid Wales to the present day. Although the folk literature from earlier periods describes the practice in relation to a number of illnesses, the most common form of illness for which wool measuring is currently sought is the condition that people in the communities studied define as ‘depression’¹ or, to use the Welsh expression,clefyd-y-galon, being ‘sick at heart’. This chapter explores the ways in which...

  8. Chapter 5 A General Practice, A Country Practice: The Cure, the Charm and Informal Healing in Northern Ireland
    (pp. 104-129)
    Ronnie Moore

    This chapter discusses findings from ethnographic research conducted in 1995/6 in two small rural towns in Northern Ireland, Ballymacross and Hunterstown, the former predominantly Roman Catholic and the latter predominantly Protestant.¹ The discussion pays particular attention to the role of informal healing, handed down between generations as an oral tradition, and how this is juxtaposed and integrated into general healthcare practices in both communities. It focuses on a specifically Irish form of folk healing referred to locally as ‘the ‘cure’ or ‘the charm’, and looks at how this is embedded in local belief systems, how it impacts on the social...

  9. Chapter 6 Rescuing Folk Remedies: Ethnoknowledge and the Reinvention of Indigenous Herbal Medicine in Britain
    (pp. 130-155)
    Ayo Wahlberg

    If there is one thing that is agreed upon in the otherwise highly contested field of herbal medicine, it is that peoples and cultures all over the world have been using plants to treat their ailments for a very long time – the proverbial roots of medicine. This has certainly been the case in the British Isles and indeed there is a long history of organised herbal medicine practice which survives to this day.¹ Ever since the founding of the National Association of Medical Herbalists in 1864 (later the National Institution of Medical Herbalists, NIMH), around the same time that...

  10. Chapter 7 Crystal and Spiritual Healing in Northern England: Folk-inspired Systems of Medicine
    (pp. 156-180)
    Stuart McClean

    The World Health Organisation has claimed that people living in non-Western or ‘developing’ societies receive the majority of their health care from indigenous or ‘traditional’ medicine (WHO 2002). In such societies, drawing a demarcation between orthodox as opposed to ‘folk’ or heterodox medicine is unlikely to be meaningful. In common perhaps with Britain prior to the latter part of the nineteenth century, some of these societies have held to a plural system of healthcare. With the widespread proliferation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) one could argue that the situation in many of these societies is not completely dissimilar to...

  11. Chapter 8 Medical Pluralism in the Republic of Ireland: Biomedicines as Ethnomedicines
    (pp. 181-200)
    Anne MacFarlane and Tomas de Brún

    This chapter is concerned with the relationship between diverse medical systems as they co-exist in the Republic of Ireland over time. We offer an overview of the history of folk medicine in Ireland, as well as analysis of ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’ medicine use and the practice of biomedicine with reference to resistance and allegiances within majority and minority communities.

    We draw on research conducted during the 1990s about traditions of folk healing, their relationships with more recent alternative and complementary medicine and the positioning of Western biomedicine as the formal, sanctioned healthcare system. These empirical data are put in dialogue...

  12. Chapter 9 Born To It and Then Pushed Out of It: Folk Healing in the New Complementary and Alternative Medicine Marketplace
    (pp. 201-225)
    Geraldine Lee-Treweek

    Folk healers face considerable challenges in the British marketplace of healing. In many ways they could be said to be the poor cousins of other healers who have come to be known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners and many of whom are increasingly recognised by a range of professional groups and society at large. Folk healers, however, remain in the shadows of communities and yet, if we are to believe their accounts, fulfil important health and well-being roles for some people.

    These marginalised healers do not have the market position of their CAM counterparts. Often shunning certificated training...

  13. Chapter 10 Beyond Legislation: Why Chicken Soup and Regulation Don’t Mix
    (pp. 226-253)
    Julie Stone

    Folk healing in Britain has, with the exception of herbal medicine, been largely excluded from the realm of state regulation.¹ This chapter will explore why this has been the case and the ongoing feasibility of this situation, at a time when healthcare regulation purports to have moved away from professional self-interest towards a framework based predominantly on patient safety. Current developments include a major overhaul of the regulation of conventional healthcare practitioners,² and a significant professionalisation within complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including funding from the U.K. government to help develop improved systems of CAM voluntary self-regulation.³

    Having considered the...

  14. Chapter 11 Epilogue: Towards Authentic Medicine: Bodies and Boundaries
    (pp. 254-272)
    Stuart McClean and Ronnie Moore

    In Britain and Ireland, as elsewhere in the Western world, our appetite for texts, research, policy and public debate in the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) shows no sign of abating, and yet much of this activity has largely neglected the sub-field of folk healing and medicine. Folk healing still remains relegated to the status of either ‘traditional’ medicine, with spurious connotations of prerational and premodern thinking, or ethnomedicine, again with its own set of essentialist assumptions about regional ethnic ‘traditions’. The chapters that make up this volume highlight a rapidly changing picture. They have mapped out the...

  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 273-274)
  16. Index
    (pp. 275-278)