This study of rural healing traditions in 1960s Greece is an excellent starting point for those historians who wish to read into the anthropological field. The aim of the book is to provide an understanding health beliefs in the rural societies of Greece by looking at two peasant communities called Dhadhi and Panorio, and a shepherd encampment in the region of Doxario called Saracatzani.
Blum and Blum provide an interesting and complete study of each community based on personal experience in the areas, interviews, statistics and histories. In doing so we are presented with comparison of ancient and modern methods and traditions concerning healing practices. Comparisons are drawn from the ancient literary evidence in relation to homeopathic forms of medicine and beliefs concerning modern technological and rational medicine. Blum and Blum highlight the mutual obligations seen within the traditions and the communities’ cooperation.
Unlike many modern scholars dealing with medical traditions in the modern world, Blum and Blum move beyond the herbal and scientific aspects and into discussions of magic and ritual, superstition and midwifery. The study is filled with illuminating figures concerning health practices including issues with water supply, cleanliness and focus on ancient herbal methods over modern medicine. The examples of cures in these communities are particularly interesting and illustrate the uniqueness of the environment and their beliefs. My favourite being the use of mouse oil to cure basically anything. (One takes a mouse, drowns it oil in a jar, leaves the mouse in the jar of oil in the sun for one year, take and apply to affected areas. My only issue is that if you haven’t got any handy you will be waiting a very long time for your cure to mature. And I’m also against the drowning of the innocent mouse!!! Poor thing.)
Blum and Blum focus on a range of folk healers and practices specific to both the male and female sexes. The information that they find draws certain conclusions that ancient traditions have been maintained and transferred into the modern rural healing traditions.
For someone who has not read widely on anthropology it was an enlightening introduction to modern scholarship and the links between traditions. Additionally it allows one to clearly see the types of studies undertaken by anthropologists in different environments and how those techniques relate to other disciplines; including archaeology, history, psychology and sociology.
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