This Dusty Earth: Witchcraft in the City

A blog about mental health, magic, and the cycles of nature in parched Los Angeles.

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When Healers Need Healing

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I think I've gotten sick four times in the past month.

There was that first cold, at the beginning of December: standard issue yuckiness that forced me to take a couple of sick days. (Since I've just come back from maternity leave, my sick days are in short supply, so it was a tough decision.) Then, when I was on the mend and just clearing out some chest gunk, I felt the telltale prickle in the back of my nose again. For a few hours I refused to believe it. Surely a just and loving universe wouldn't allow me to come down with a second virus while I was still getting over my first? But that's the sort of thing that happens when you have young children, and by the next morning I felt awful again.

Then, around 2 or 3 in the morning on Christmas Eve, I woke up nauseous and had to bolt to the bathroom. I spent most of the day throwing up and then lay in bed shivering that evening, listening miserably to the sounds of the luminaria going on outside.

(I realize, typing this, that between my pregnancy and flu season I've been mostly writing about my bodily functions. Oh, these bodies of ours.)

The latest virus was better--just some fuzziness for a few hours. Phew.

The sad thing is, I've been spending more time lately honing my skills as a folk herbalist. My kitchen has slowly filled with various teas, tinctures, and syrups, and my bookshelf now boasts a small but lovely reference collection. I had this idea, as I was making medicines in August to prepare for the fall, that by super-powering my immune system I would make it to spring unscathed.

Instead, I learned two important lessons. Are you ready for the first one? It's going to blow your mind. Medicine doesn't work if you don't take it.

...okay, maybe you've heard that one before.

I knew that intellectually, of course, but over these past few months, as I've juggled a full-time job and a side business and a kindergartener and a newborn and a house in which clutter and dirty dishes seem to ooze out of the floorboards, I've been forced to internalize it. You'd be amazed at all the nights I've been on the verge of falling asleep and then suddenly thought, Did I ever take my medicine today? American capitalist culture, which works us to death (often literally), separates us from support networks, and valorizes treating our bodies like perpetual motion machines, is not conducive to wellness.

The second lesson I learned was this. Healers can't always heal themselves.

Not that I consider myself a capital-H-Healer. But I noticed, every time I lay coughing or barfing or drifting in and out of sleep, that all the remedies sitting in the kitchen seemed impossibly far away. I didn't have the strength to go get a spoonful of elderberry syrup. I certainly didn't have the strength to make up a batch of tea. Even worse, when I was feeling really bad, my mind would simply blank out on what remedy would help. When my husband and kindergartener were sick, I was on it, giving them all the syrup and tea they needed. But when it was my turn, with my husband at work and not very knowledgable about folk medicine anyway, there was no healer to help me.

It made me think of an activist friend of mine, someone who's always at the front lines and has done awe-inspiring justice work for as long as I've known her, and who periodically gets exhausted and sick and puts out calls for help. This person is a healer in both the physical and the societal sense of the word, but when she's hurting, she recognizes that she can't fix herself up alone. How many people do we know who can't bring themselves to ask for that kind of help?

So, as the dumpster fire of 2017 which arose from the flaming poo bag of 2016 gives way to god-knows-what in 2018, I leave you with this wisdom: Take care of each other. Check in with your activist friends. Take medicine to someone who's sick, even (especially) if you think of them as a healer. Instead of saying, "Let me know if you need anything!," which puts the onus on someone to come up with something and then be brave enough to ask for it, say, "I want to help you. How about I do [X]?"

Fixing things at a national or global level is incredibly hard, which is why many organizers are urging people to focus on local actions. If we want to heal our culture, we need to start from the ground up and take care of each other. That's how change happens.

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Asa is a sliding-scale tarot reader, intuitive, and witch blending pellar craft with animism and earth-based Judaism. Instagram: @tarotbyasa


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