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Nahin, R. L., Barnes, P. M., Stussman, B. J., et al. (2009). Costs of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and frequency of visits to CAM practitioners: United States, 2007. National health statistics reports; no 18. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

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whom one can turn with what. Social Science and Medicine, 6, 673–679.




Chapter 6 HEALING Traditions

■ Objectives

1. Discover practices that were part of ancient forms of HEALING. 2. Distinguish ways that one’s religion influences HEALING. 3. Identify saints related to HEALTH problems. 4. Discuss the various destinations and purposes of spiritual journeys. 5. Discuss the relationship of HEALING to today’s health beliefs and practices. 6. Describe various forms of HEALING. 7. Differentiate rituals of birth and death among people of different religions.

The opening images for this chapter represent sacred places and shrines from selected destinations of pilgrimages or sacred practices. These are places where people may visit to seek HEALTH or HEALING. The images depicted here are locations that I have personally visited in the United States. Figure 6–1 is of the Kahuna Stones in Honolulu, Waikiki, O’hau, Hawaii. The ancient stones are part of the legends of Waikiki and the culture of the Hawaiian people. The stones are endowed with powers and are a source of HEALING. Figure  6–2 is the patio of a Santero in Los Angeles where a HEALING ceremony is be- ing performed. Part of the ritual is a cleansing in a ring of fire. The Shrine of St.  Peregrine for cancer sufferers, (Figure 6–3) in San Juan Capistrano, California, is a shrine people visit to pray for HEALING from cancer. Figure 6–4 is a gravestone in the Forever Hollywood cemetery in Los Angeles, California. A long lasting

Figure 6–1 Figure 6–2 Figure 6–3 Figure 6–4



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memorial has been placed there for the deceased person and is an integral part of the ritual mourning of survivors.

Are you having difficulties in your life that you would like to change? Are you seeking answers to questions that you cannot easily answer? Do you know about the HEALING traditions within your ethnoreligious heritage or the places you may visit to find the help you need? What are the HEALING practices within your family and ethnocultural heritage? What are the shrines, or sacred places, that are a part of your tradition or that you have visited? In the minds of count- less people, shrines such as the ones in the chapter opener are an invaluable resource. If you could pick four images from your heritage that are related to HEALING, what would they be?

What is HEALING? What is the connotation of this word from a magico- religious or traditional perspective? What compels people to travel to shrines in the United States or in other parts of the world? Could it be that people who experience the need to seek consolation and solutions for overpower- ing events for which they cannot find rational answers turn to sources such as these holy shrines? The phenomenon of seeking HEALING is observed world- wide, and every religion and ethnic group offers substantive beliefs and prac- tices in this genre. Are these examples of magic or of faith in a form of HEALTH care that is obtained from sources other than those that are conventional medi- cine? This chapter explores these questions by introducing a wide range of magico-religious and religious beliefs and practices regarding HEALING. It also discusses the traditions cross-culturally related to life cycle crises—birth, dying, and death—as these phenomena are closely linked to the beliefs and practices inherent in HEALING.

■ HEALING The professional history of nursing was born with Florence Nightingale’s knowledge (1860) that “nature heals.” In more recent times, Blattner (1981) has written a text designed to help nurses assist patients in upgrading their lives in a holistic sense and in healing the person—body, mind, and spirit. Krieger (1979), in The Therapeutic Touch, has developed a method for teaching nurses how to use their hands to heal. Wallace (1979) has described methods of help- ing nurses diagnose and deliver spiritual care. She points out that the word spiritual is often used synonymously with religion but that the terms are not the same. If they are used synonymously as a basis for the health care and nurs- ing assessment of needs, some of the patient’s deepest needs may be glossed over. Spiritual care implies a much broader grasp of the search for meanings that goes on within every human life. In addition to answers to these questions from nursing raised in the introduction to this chapter, one is able to explore the concept from the classical and historical viewpoints of anthropology, sociol- ogy, psychology, and religion.



122 ■ Chapter 6

From the fields of anthropology and sociology come texts that de- scribe rituals, customs, beliefs, and practices that surround healing. Shaw (1975, p. 121) contends that, “for as long as man has practiced the art of magic, he has sought to find personal immortality through healing practices.” Buxton (1973) describes traditional beliefs and indigenous HEALING rituals in Mandari and relates the source of these rituals with how humans view themselves in rela- tion to God and Earth. In this culture, the healer experiences a religious calling to become a healer. HEALING is linked to beliefs in evil and the removal of evil from the sick person. Naegele (1970, p. 18) describes healing in our society as a form of “professional practice.” He asserts, however, that “healing is not wholly a professional monopoly and that there are several forms of nonprofessional heal- ing such as the ‘specialized alternatives.’ ” These include Christian Science and the marginally professional activities of varying legitimacy, such as chiropractic, folk medicine, and quackery. He states: “To understand modern society is to understand the tension between traditional patterns and self- conscious rational calculations devoted to the mastery of everyday life.”

Literature from the field of psychology abounds with references to HEALING. Shames and Sterin (1978) describe the use of self-hypnosis to HEAL, and Progoff (1959), a depth psychologist, describes depth as the “dimension of wholeness in man.” He has written extensively on how one’s discovery of the inner self can be used for both HEALING and CREATION.

Krippner and Villaldo (1976, p. viii) contend that there is a “basic conflict between healing and technology” and that “the reality of miracles, of healing, of any significant entity that could be called God is not thought to be compatible with the reality of science.” They further contend that healings are psychoso- matic in origin and useful only in the sense of the placebo effect.

The literature linking religion to HEALING is bountiful. The primary source is the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments) and prayers. Bishop (1967, p. 45) discusses miracles and their relationship to healing. He states that the “miracles must be considered in relation to the time and place in which they occur.” He further describes faith and its relationship to heal- ing and states that “something goes on in the process of faith healing.” He also points out that healing “is the exception rather than the rule.” HEALING through faith generally is not accepted as a matter of plain fact, but it is an event to rejoice over.

Ford (1971, p. 6) describes healing of the spirit and methods of spiri- tual healing for spiritual illness. He describes suffering in 3 dimensions: body, mind, and spirit. He fully describes telotherapy—spiritual healing—which is both a means and an invitation. His argument is that full healing takes place only when there is agape love—divine love—and no estrangement from God. Russell (1937, p. 221) and Cramer (1923, p. 11) assert that healing is the work of God alone. Russell asserts that “God’s will normally expresses itself in health,” and Cramer focuses on the unity of human beings with God and claims that permanent health is truth, that healing is the gift of Jesus, and that it is a spiritual gift.



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■ Ancient Forms of HEALING ILLNESS was considered to be a crisis, and the people of ancient times developed elaborate systems of HEALING. The cause of an ILLNESS was attributed to the forces of evil, which originated either within or outside the body. Early forms of HEALING dealt with the removal of evil. Once a method of treatment was found effective, it was passed down through the generations in slightly altered forms.

If the source of sickness-causing evil was within the body, treatment involved drawing the evil out of the body. This may have been accomplished through the use of purgatives, which caused either vomiting or diarrhea, or by blood-letting: “bleeding” the patient or “sucking out” blood. (The barbers of medieval Europe did not originate this practice; bleeding was done in ancient times.) Leeching was another method used to remove corrupt humors from the body.

If the source of the evil was outside the body, there were a number of ways to deal with it. One source of external evil was witchcraft. In a commu- nity, there were often many people or a single person who was “different” from the other people. Quite often, when an unexplainable or untreatable ill- ness occurred, it was these people who were seen as the causative agents. In such a belief system, successful treatment depended on the identification and punishment of the person believed responsible for the disease. (Certainly, the practice of scapegoating is in part derived from this belief.) It was believed that by removing or punishing the guilty person from the community, the disease would be cured. In some communities, the HEALERS themselves were seen as witches and the possessors of evil skills. How easy it was for ancient humankind to turn things around and blame the person with the skills to treat the disease for causing the disease!

Various rituals were involved in the treatment of ILL people. Often, the sick person was isolated from the rest of the family and community. In addition, it was customary to chant special prayers and incantations on the invalid’s behalf. Sacrifices and dances often were performed in an effort to cure the ILLS. Often, the rituals of the healer involved reciting incantations in a language foreign to the ears of the general population (“speaking in tongues”) and using practices that were strange to the observers. Small wonder, then, as superstition abounded, that at times the healers themselves were ostracized by the population.

Given that another cause of ILLNESS was believed to be the envy of people within the community, the best method, consequently, of preventing such an ILLNESS was to avoid provoking the envy of one’s friends and neighbors. The treatment was to do away with whatever was provoking the envy—even though the act might have prevented a person from accomplishing a “mission in life,” and the fear of being “responsible” might have been psychologically damaging.

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