Medi03


‘Healing’ as harmonization of ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ cosmos? Conceptualizations and practices of ‘health’ and ‘healing’ in Europe and beyond 
Convenors:
Reda Satuniene (Vilnius University)
Anna Zadrożna (University of Oslo)
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Stream:
Health and Medicine
Location:
Aula 6
Sessions:
Monday 15 April, 11:15-13:00, 16:30-18:15 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This panel explores various beliefs, narratives and practices of ‘healing’ and conceptualizations of ‘sickness/illness’ and ‘health’ in Europe and beyond. We invite papers that focus on new multi-cultural formations, on ‘local’ and ‘global(ized)’, religious and secular traditions and inventions.

Long Abstract

‘Health’, ‘wellness’, as well as ‘sickness’, ‘illness’ or ‘disease’ can be understood not only as optimum functioning of the physical body, but also felt as an psycho-somatic, spiritual state. The latter implies a wide range of subjective understandings of ‘sickness’ and ‘health’, and consequent choices of healing practices. It can be argued that ‘wellness’ (and its synonym – ‘healthy’) as a concept implies the sense of ‘being whole’, in a harmony between the inner and the outer, the micro and the macroworlds and environments. Current understandings of healing strategies shift from the ‚healing of myself’ towards ‘the healing of the Planet’, and vice versa. Becoming healthier can be seen as an individual practice, but also as form of activism, where bonding exists between an individual, and the world. In what contexts do healing strategies and practices adhere to dominant culture, and when do they carry a character of ‘alternative’, ‘fringe’? What kind of knowledge, values, beliefs, and traditions are beyond healing practices? What cultural contexts do they come from or adhere to?

We invite papers that explore various conventional, non-conventional, alternative, traditional, folk, new-age, religious or secular understandings and practices of ‘health’, and ‘healing’. We welcome studies that trace changes, transformations and continuities, new fashions, invented traditions, imaginaries and images of ‘health’, and ‘healing’ in Europe and beyond. This includes (but not limits to): spiritual and ecological movements, New-Age, virtual communities, (new) religiosities, etc.

We invite panelists to share their insights on ontological and epistemological aspects of ‘healing’ and feeling ‘healthy’.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Ieva Paberzyte (McGill University)

Paper short abstract:

What is a 'healthy' birth for Cree mothers? I will present preliminary results of my ethnographic study on the continuity and change of Wemindji Cree (Northern Quebec, Canada) childbirth practices, which reveal Cree perceptions of 'healthy' birth.

Paper long abstract:

In the context of Cree concept of health - 'miyupimatsiun', which literally translates as 'being alive-well' (Adelson 2000), I will present Wemindji Cree (Northern Quebec, Canada) childbirth practices in the past and the present. Since time immemorial, Cree children were born in the bush, surrounded by their family and community. Colonization and eventually medicalization of Cree life resulted in the policy of evacuating all expectant Cree women to southern hospitals several weeks prior to birth. The full transition between birth in the bush and birth in the hospital took place between the 1940s and the 1980s and is still within living memory of Wemindji Cree. What was and what is a good, 'healthy' birth for Cree? How do Cree mothers and their families adapt to new circumstances, and how do they create environment necessary for a good 'healthy' birth? Based on the interviews with Cree Elders, mothers and their families, I will discuss Cree childbirth knowledge and practices that persist, transform and evolve in a current environment.

Author:

Asta Skujytė-Razmienė (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on two types of magical barriers that were used by Lithuanian folk during the outbreaks of plague and cholera as measures of re-establishing borders between illness and health.

Paper long abstract:

When facing the danger of falling ill, the folk tried to guard themselves with the means of individual protection (e.g. amulets) or count on collective defence measures. According to Lithuanian folklore material from XIX-XXI centuries, during the outbreaks of plague, cholera or other contagious illnesses, creating magical barriers in order to prevent disease from spreading was a known practice. There are two known types of these special barriers that were used in the traditional community: 1) encircling the village/town with a furrow or 2) cutting off the roads with the help of specially woven linen cloth. Although these two methods were seen as a countermeasure against raging epidemics, it could be also perceived as an attempt to stabilize the space that demonstrates a link between people-inhabited space and the concept of health, when breaching one could mean danger for the other. In this paper I will discuss how the usage of magical barriers corresponds to the concept of inverse world and how it re-establishes boundaries between the spheres of illness and health.

Author:

Peter Jan Margry (University of AmsterdamMeertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

This paper deals with the healing culture within the world community of Damanhur. It analyses how the 'alchimist' Oberto Airaudi, based on older practice and his own teachings and gifts, developed his 'pranatherapy', for which he then founded a university for spiritual healers.

Paper long abstract:

Around 1975 Damanhur was founded on and as a semi-closed spiritual and ecological community in the southern slopes of the Italian Alps. It is a federation of communities with new settlements not only in the Valchiusella valley but also elsewhere in the world. Its founder Oberto Airaudi stood already in his youth in connection to healers and gained himself paranormal powers and discovered that in the mentioned valley the energy lines of the World's 'nervous system' converge. Subsequently he built there the Temples of Humankind, in synchronicity with the worlds energy line system. This location facilitated the community in focusing on healing as a way of rebalancing energy. Their 'pranatherapy' is taught at their own 'university', where healing devices - selfica's - for improving the concentration and direction of intelligent energies, were invented. This paper analyses Damanhur's healing politics and its system of health practices.

Author:

Reda Satuniene (Vilnius University)

Paper short abstract:

Paper discusses understandings of 'health' and 'healing' in-between alternative healing and spiritual experiences ('alternative psychologies'?) as sort of ‚fringe' science therapies, practiced by people, seeking for their subjectively understood ‚health'.

Paper long abstract:

Since the spring of New Age movements and spiritual practices in 70-ies, despite of high development of fundamental sciences in general (and biomedicine, too), there still exist variety of alternative healing methods, and people seem to be quite keen practitioners of the latter ones. Alternative healing methods are being researched worldwide, but in Lithuania research is fragmentary, and more focused on traditional medicine (ethnological perspective) or new religious movements (sociological perspective).

There exists sort of healing strategies (methods), which are in-between alternative healing and spiritual, kind of 'alternative psychologies'. The closest concept to those 'alternative psychologies' could probably be used 'self-transformations', or similar. Here, it is meant such methods as B. Hellinger's (German psychoterpist) family constellation method, transessence (author of the method - american psychoterapist), hypnotic regression, and similar practices (re-birthing by Leonard Orr, etc.).

Presentation is based on research, conducted since 2015 in Lithuania (research continues). Up to date, there were conducted 17 interviews with a representatives - ethusiasts, active practitioneers, and healers. Age of the interviewees, in major part, is arround 35-45.

Mentioned ‚alternative psychologies' exist as sort of ‚fringe' science therapies, which are sometimes demonized, but are practiced quite significantly by people, seeking for their subjective ‚health': usually it is seeking for inner peace, psycho-emotional relief, etc.

It is important to study subjective understandings (and meanings) of ‚health', because, based on ontological perception, it depends, what strategies and directions of self-healing would be possibly chosen by ‚health/ transformation' seekers.

Author:

Evy Johanne Håland (Norwegian Council of Arts)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the authors fieldwork, the paper explores the Anastenaria, a healing festival celebrated mainly by descendants from refugees who fled to Greece after the Balkan Wars last century, its background and ambiguous relationship to the official Greek Orthodox Church which regards it as pagan.

Paper long abstract:

The Anastenaria is celebrated by the Anastenarides and the Anastenarisses. They descend from refugees who fled from the village of Kōsti in eastern Trace, nowadays Bulgaria, after the Balkan Wars, and had settled in several villages in Greek Macedonia by 1924. The Anastenaria is dedicated to the saints, Kōnstan¬tinos and his mother, Elenē, who are depicted on holy icons that the Anastenarides brought with them. The main ritual during the Anastenaria is the ecstatic dance over red-hot coals by the Anastenarides who are possessed by their saint. The festival presents a ritual, which in many ways is in opposition to the official Orthodox religion, and it has been persecuted by the Church. Therefore, it was performed in secret for many years last century. Officially, the uneasy situation between the Church and the Anastenarides has ended. But, the Church still states that the festival presents a combination of paganism and Christianity, and does not subscribe to the holistic view of the Anastenarides. The paper is based on fieldwork which the author has carried out in two of the villages populated by Anastenarides and other Greeks during annual festivals in 1992. The paper explores how the religious spaces surrounding the rituals carried out by the Anastenarides in the villages are copies of the original cultic space in Kōsti. Furthermore, their cultic apparatuses belong to "former days", thus constituting an ancestor cult located to their place of origin, since the "Thracians" or "Kōstilidians", celebrates their "Kōstilidian" community and identity through their religious rituals.

Author:

Natallia Paulovich (University of Warsaw)

Paper short abstract:

Often perceived as 'nice stretching' that allows middle and upper class people to demonstrate their social status through fashionable yoga clothes and comfortable yoga mats, among women with average incomes attending small fitness clubs on Warsaw's periphery yoga is becoming a therapeutic practice.

Paper long abstract:

Often perceived as 'nice stretching' that allows middle and upper class people to demonstrate their status through fashionable yoga clothes and comfortable yoga mats, among women with average incomes attending small fitness clubs on Warsaw's periphery yoga is becoming a therapeutic practice. It helps these women cope with everyday difficulties and is also a means of curing serious illnesses or supporting an interest in a healthy lifestyle. These women value not only the physical side of yoga but also try to investigate its additional aspects such as breathing exercises and guided relaxations which they often perceive as meditation practices. All these aspects of yoga, in their opinion, need verification through discussing the effects of practice and its influence on women's physical and mental health. At the same time, these women carefully separate, for themselves, the religious from the non-religious components of yoga and this rendering of yoga as purely secular allows them to remain faithful Catholic believers. Through detailed analysis of these aspects, the paper presents preliminary results of my research, as an anthropologist and yoga teacher, among women in the Warsaw area.

Author:

Vita Džekčioriūtė-Medeišienė (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses fright as a specific illness that has distinct corporeal traits (changes of the body, the transmission and elimination of fright) and its perception as a foreign body in traditional Lithuanian culture.

Paper long abstract:

Fright is a pathological state when an individual loses control over his/her physiological and psychological functioning. This paper, based on the material of Lithuanian folk beliefs, customs, and fright-healing practices from the end of 19th century to the first half of 20th century, discusses the physiological aspects of this pathology. This paper focuses on few of the corporeal aspects of this illness, namely changes of the body, the transmission of fright from one subject to another, and the elimination of fright from the patient's body.

The most important aspect of the corporeal concept of fright is its perception as a foreign body. This can be seen in Lithuanian folk beliefs where it was thought that the fright can be transmitted in two ways: through touching in stressful situations and through bodily liquids, namely mother's milk.

After catching fright corporeal changes manifest themselves as disability or various types of deformation in some parts of the body. Restoring physical symmetry is regarded as one of the aims when treating fright.

The treatment of this particular illness can be conceptualised in two ways: a) neutralising the illness by identification of its source or b) by elimination of fright as a foreign body through saliva, urine, vomit, by breathing it out and through specific parts of the body (e.g. armpit).

Author:

Anders Gustavsson (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

Examining how state-employed district physicians and pharmacists became established in rural Sweden in the nineteenth century. A rural culture was confronted with a culture from the towns. Folk healing had earlier not had competition. The doctors and pharmacists had to bring about a cultural change.

Paper long abstract:

This study examines how state-employed district physicians and pharmacists became established in rural Sweden in the nineteenth century. A rural culture was confronted with a new culture arriving from the towns. The new professional groups had higher education and medical experience, than the folk healers in the countryside. Folk healing had earlier not had any competition from qualified people. The doctors and pharmacists had to bring about a cultural change. They had to gain the confidence of the rural population. This study concentrates on cultural adaptation in the encounters between qualified and unqualified healers. How did the peasantry handle these two potential sources of help in times of illness? One category consists of physicians and pharmacists, and a separate category comprises folk healers. Alongside the folk healers, some priests engaged in rational healing. The folk healers primarily belonged to the lower stratum of the population and then healing could be an important source of income, which they did not willingly give up.

For this study it is important that the doctors were tasked with declaring any occurrences of quackery and mention measures they had taken to prevent it. It was no easy matter for doctors to change old established patterns.