December 3, 2014

Zine: Healer Huntress #2

Healer Huntress #2 unfolds both historical and contemporary healers.

The other morning I pinched back my rose geranium for winter so that it will grow back fuller in the spring. While my plant looked a little naked, my hands were full with green fuzzy leaves and magenta petals. Geranium is an excellent astringent, soother, and it smells divine, so I chopped up the remains and mixed them with sweet almond oil in a jar to turn into an infused oil.  I placed the jar in the window so the sun could do its magic over six weeks, right next to my desk so I can keep an eye on it. I sat down to sort through the tower of unread zines that seems to never get any smaller (not complaining) and I appropriately came across Healer Huntress #2

In the second issue of her zine, Molly Berkson presents us with a brief but significant history of witches and healers. Witch accusations were used against deviant women of Christianity and society as a whole, as well as queer folks. Malleus Maleficarum was written to spread fear of witches and the ignorance of women. Midwives and herbal healers were accused of being witches as the medical field progressed and became predominately male, therefore dismissing knowledgeable women from their positions. 

Without a doubt, witch accusations served as a way to control female behavior and sexuality. The low social status for women at the time of the witch-craze provided the groundwork for belief in evil women to occur. The witch craze was born of, and in turn contributed to, a culture of fear and hate surrounding women, femininity, and non-normative gender and sexuality.

Molly Berkson uses this history to sweep us back to contemporary times with her responsive drawings and herbal tips. Her ability to relate the past and present resonates and she honors the importance of these deviant women, whether they be ancient pagans or today's doulas who work on the fringe of the medical system. 

Lay-healers and midwives approached medicine from a different approach than that of professionalized medicine. Traditional medicine considers mind and body to be thoroughly connected. The restoration of an individual's health means addressing their emotional, social, mental, and physical state of being. Healing with plants is also different than healing with chemical drugs. A plant heals by producing physiological changes which then relive symptoms or heal ailments.

Healing Huntress #2 also contains an excerpt from an interview Molly conducted with radical doula and reproductive health worker Kate Palmer. (The full interview, published in her zine An Interview with Kate Palmer of the Chicago Doula Circle can be found here.) Molly describes a doula as "a person who provides mental and emotional support to a person while they give birth." They advocate for the person giving birth and their family, and often times they prefer that this practice remains outside of the professional medical field so that it is more accessible. Knowing this, and reading part of the interview with Kate Palmer and her patient-centered work, we are reminded of those midwives and healers who were rejected from the burgeoning professionalized medicine as well as society. 

In the end, the women Molly writes about hold care and compassion above all. They try to exist outside of a world where they are often made to feel outside of.  And us? We honor those rebels every time we read our horoscope, advocate for reproductive rights, accept our sexuality, or create herbal remedies out of house plants. We may never be witches, but we can sure get down. 

Buy your own copy of Healer Huntress #2 here.

Written by Cynthia Schemmer