Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blanzeheilkunscht: Deitsch Herbal Wisdom

When one thinks of "herbal medicine," what comes to mind? Typically, it is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurveda, Native American herbal knowledge, or modern, science-based Medical Herbalism. Of course, all of these forms of medicine are valid systems. Absent from the list, however, are the many folk traditions of cultures all around the world, including the practices of the Deitsch.

Deitsch herbal medicine has been present in North America since the time of settlement. Local Brauchers and Braucherins (folk doctors, sometimes called "witch doctors") utilized (and continue to do so) herbs as part of their healing practice. Some Deitsch include herbs in religious, spiritual, and occult practices. Many, particularly those of the Plain Christian religious sects, have always utilized herbalism as frontline medicine.

The very first botanical book of botanical healing was published by a second-generation Deitscher, Christopher Sauer. The English translation of the title of the book is The Compendious Herbal, and the first installment of the publication appeared in 1762; new installments appeared periodically after that for sixteen years. Although Sauer was very well known among the Deitsch population, his work and his fame were inhibited by the language barrier and also by his loyalty to the British Crown during the Revolution. We are fortunate that William Woys Weaver published Sauer's Herbal Cures in 2001, thus bringing new awareness of Sauer's work to later Deitsch generations. 

Sauer's work is not the only major source of Deitsch herbal lore. The Pennsylvania German Society has issued a few publications that are most relevant to the topic of Blanzeheilkunscht. Among them are Thomas R. Brendle's and Claude W. Unger's Folk Medicine of the Pennsylvania Germans (1935) and David E. Lick's and Thomas R. Brendle's Plant Names and Plant Lore Among the Pennsylvania Germans (1926). These are sources that will be used frequently on this blog. There are also numerous sources of Deitsch herbal knowledge, whether scientific, spiritual, or occult, and those sources will be included, as warranted.

My own experiences, including childhood exposure to herbalis, my Homestead Herbalism training at the Farm at Coventry, my practice as a Braucher, and my religious and spiritual pursuits in Urglaawe, will also be incorporated, as appropriate.

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