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Every cell in our beautiful and amazing bodies contains the whirling wisdom of the universe. This is the journey of one witch remembering that, and celebrating the sacred and divine in beings of all genders and manifestations.

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Viral Voice

      They started showing up in my mid-twenties, little patches of rash here and there on the landscape of my body: under my breasts, on the side of my neck, on the swell of my belly.  At first, I bought creams, with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, to get rid of them.  By the time I was in my early thirties, I found myself going from doctor to doctor, dermatologist to dermatologist, naturopath to acupuncturist, and even my gynecologist.  More creams, pills, a variety of tinctures and teas, but no explanation.

       By my mid-thirties, however, I realized my body was trying to communicate something. The patch on the tender inside of my left elbow only showed up in the spring as I fretted over an annual trip I led for a large group of high school kids to do volunteer work around the United States.  I tried to read the rash, like my grandmother read tea leaves.

       The wide strip on the small of my back appeared as the ministry I ran shifted from working directly with adolescents and children, which I loved, to spending more time recruiting, training, and managing adult volunteers.  As the program grew, the rash also grew in size, helping me know it was time to change my work.  Then there was the patch that showed up as my husband and I began dealing with his abuse as a child and adolescent and how that affected our relationship as adults.  That rash invited me to look at my own relationship choices and patterns.  Reading my skin had become a spiritual practice.

      In my forties, I went through a long and deep depression, descending, like beings in so many sacred myths, into my own underworld.  I traveled to the deep places in my body where the truth of my life was known fully before it swam its way up to the surface to give counsel to my cognitive awareness and understanding.  I eventually followed the flowing currents of that wisdom back up to emerge, changed, more integrated within myself, and more connected to The Whole.

      And then few years ago my mouth started to break out in cold sores.  A wonderful healer finally figured out the connection of it all, medically.  I, like 90% of humans at this point, have the Herpes simplex virus traveling the circuitry of my body’s nervous system, but instead of immediately surfacing as cold sores, it had spent decades integrating into the whole of my nervous system.   The virus surfaced at various times in various places to help me be aware of, and to understand, my own life.

      Since that discovery, I’ve done a lot of academic research on the Herpes simplex virus and how it lives and travels in our nervous system.  I’ve learned that foods with a high concentration of the amino acid, arginine, and low concentration of the the amino acid, lysine, make it go manic.  But the reverse of those amino acid levels in foods help the virus stay calm and in balance.  I’ve learned about its larger family of viruses, Herpesviridae.  I’ve learned that scientists have identified over 130 strains of that family of viruses that can affect mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mollusks.  I’ve learned that researchers are starting to to see benefits from the presence of certain viruses, helping their hosts deflect other more harmful viruses and other pathogens.  I’ve learned about how this virus merges with its host’s cells and that there are currently studies underway to see if that process can be used in cancer treatment.  I’ve learned that viruses may have been the beginning of life as we know it on this planet.  I’ve learned that viruses communicate with each other within, and between, hosts.  

       I’ve started a meditative practice of communicating with the virus living and traveling my body.  From that I’ve learned we share some common goals.  We both prefer it when the virus can happily lay dormant in my nervous system.  So we both prefer it when I eat well, take care of my body, dance, and meet stressful situations with clarity and grace instead of escalating them.  Recently, I was doing some healing work on a friend.  For the first time, I consulted with the virus in me to try and talk to whatever was causing the distress in her.  It was an interesting conversation, problem solving through translators. All parties ultimately yearning for health and balance.

       Why this virus didn’t show up in the most common of places, my mouth, until decades into our relationship is amazing.  I think maybe we were both waiting for me to be integrated enough, and wise enough, to be able to give it voice when it did.  Blessings on our bodies and all the organisms living in easy, and uneasy, symbiosis within us.  Blessings on every sacred cell in our bodies and the wisdom whirling around in each of them.  May we be able to hear what our bodies are saying, even when they speak with a viral voice.

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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger Friday, 16 August 2013

    This is brilliant! So many people still think that Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. My first outbreak was in my twenties during a long period of celibacy. I know my body/mind self well enough to know the triggers, but I love your intimate connection and listening to it. It rarely occurs within me anymore but this outlook is very helpful.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Friday, 16 August 2013

    Thank you Christine, blessings on your body.

  • Áine
    Áine Sunday, 18 August 2013

    This is such a wonderful post. I suffer from IBS, asthma, and a mild eczema-like rash, and all three are greatly aggravated by stress, if not caused by it entirely. I'm in the process of learning to treat myself more kindly, and I'm finding that meditation and my spiritual practice help immensely. I don't know if I'll ever find out that my problems are caused by something like this virus, but I too found this outlook really refreshing and helpful. Thank you.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Monday, 19 August 2013

    Thank you Aine - blessings on your body.

  • Paola Suarez
    Paola Suarez Monday, 19 August 2013

    Thank you for being so courageous and speaking up about Herpes! There are so many misconceptions about it especially associating it only to sex. A lot of us are infected as children from non-sexual contact. Thank you for sharing about your powerful communing with your body and the virus! I would love to hear more about the specific foods that have helped you. Blessings!

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Monday, 19 August 2013

    ...and here's helpful PDF about arginine and lysine

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Monday, 19 August 2013

    Thank you Paola, blessings on your body! I have learned to avoid nuts (the food with the most arginine), and am weaning myself off chocolate. The nuts were hard since I had become mostly a vegan, but I have actually introduced organic goat yogurt back into my diet which has a high level of lysine.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Friday, 13 June 2014

    Thank you for yr kind praise of my blog Pantheism and Mosquitos (

    I am so glad you relate to it.

    Thank you for telling me about this post of yours. I found it very interesting. You are right about it having "Similar learnings and practice" to my mosquito musings. It is great how different people can come to similar lessons.

    Have a wonderful day.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Saturday, 14 June 2014

    Thank you Francesca - blessings to you as well this day and on our continued lessons and learnings.

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