Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transforming "Spiritual Warfare": Day 26 (Arkansas)

 Granny Woman Ella (Ingenthron) Dunn & Hoo Doo Woman “Aunt” Caroline Dye,
original images found here & here, respectively.

Healers. Three of them for Arkansas.

The Ozarks were once chock-full of healers of the non-traditional (that is not modern-establishment) type. I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to all those hard-working healers of the forests, the women in particular. I chose two commonly featured Ozark women (& one very special fungus) -- each healers in their own unique way -- to represent the whole. Of course, every healer has her own methodology & her own brand of power, these simply stood out in the ether. 

Ella Dunn was a "Granny Woman" or "Granny Doctor" (a midwife & herbalist) who lived to be 104 years old. In her early years as a practitioner, she focused on midwifery, delivering seventy-one babies & never requiring a fee. Later, she traveled to Kansas where she studied physical therapy. She returned home with new skills & for the remainder of her career, centered her work around helping stroke victims. Her knowledge of herbs was vast, some of which can be found, here: Good for What Ails You: Medicinal Plants of the Ozarks. She also wrote her own biography, The Granny Woman of the Hills

"Aunt" Caroline Dye was a hoodoo woman & root worker who became an Arkansas legend in part thanks to her popularity as the subject of many songs. A spiritualist who was sought after for her noteworthy skills as a seer, Caroline was also reputed to have had significant ability as a healer: "That's the kind of woman she was; had that much power -- 'fore she died. White and Colored would go to her. You sick in bed, she raise the sick" (found here). Like Ella Dunn, she never requested payment, yet her clients were obviously very satisfied because she lived her long life quite comfortably for an unschooled, illiterate woman of her time.

My third healer for Arkansas is commonly named Chaga (from the Russian 'чага'). In Japan it is Kabanoanatake & in China it is Bai Hua Rong. It is more officially known as Inonotus obliquus. This fungus has a long & rich history in Eastern Europe & Russia as a folk medicine. More recently, it has been intensively studied, particularly in Japan, China, South Korea & Poland, for the medicinal properties with which it abounds. Among its merits, Chaga contains antioxidant, anti-tumor, antiviral & anti-inflammatory compounds. It may also be beneficial for cholesterol, obesity & insulin resistance. Healer? Yes, mighty.


Sadly for the Chaga, its strength as a healer is its greatest weakness in the wild: this fantastic fungus is at risk from over-harvesting. The greater tragedy is that Chaga can be farmed, so all the commercial harvesting putting wild Chaga populations at risk is completely unnecessary. I didn't know this before... it puts a different light upon past conversations with those happy, telescopic-axe-wielding Chaga harvesters out there in the Alaskan forests. As part of my healing theme, I am adding myself to the "save the Chaga" voices out there in the universe. However, Paul Stamets, Chaga champion, can explain it better than I, so I will borrow his words:
Chaga (Inonotus oblquus) grows slowly on beech and birch trees over many years. Chaga is a non-sporulating (non-fertile) hardened structure with a dark, cracked over-crust. Some mycologists call Chaga an above-ground sclerotium. Chaga grows on living trees, taking many years for a soft-ball size structure to form. Once the tree dies, a resupinate crust forms on the ground near the tree. This is the spore-reproducing structure. What scientists do not know is whether or not the removal of Chaga will harm the formation of the spore producing crust. We do know that wild harvesting of Chaga is radically reducing this species populations. And since we can grow mycelium -sustainably- while retaining its beneficial properties, please refrain from harvesting wild chaga for commercial purposes. Thank you. Respectfully, Paul Stamets
(emphasis mine. Statement found at his Facebook page)
If you would rather watch, here is Paul Stamets making his plea under a lovely Chaga:


May the Chaga message be heard & heeded. May it be at risk be no more.

Back to magick & Arkansas & cleaning up prayer-war messes

I chose to adapt an old charm I found in Randolph's Ozark Magic & Folklore. It seemed an apropos way to go about this day's working:

They are ringing the Liberty bell,
What was besieged will soon be well,
What ill remains do take away,
With hate-free skies no longer grey.

NOT Chaga (Inonotus oblquus)NOT Chaga (Inonotus oblquus)NOT Chaga (Inonotus oblquus)

UPDATE: January 2017, I have been informed that the above images are of Cramp Ball fungi (Daldinia concentrica), NOT chaga. As I mention in the comments, I had my doubts about my identification here, but leaned toward chug because I had seen them harvested. I have since learned that they are also indeed harvested -- as a natural fire starter.

8 comments:

desultoryphilippic said...

About a year ago, a friend in my local mushroom club found out I had some property with river birch growing by the river. He asked if he could collect a tree to grow Chaga. Of course! sez I. I was happy to know that this marvelous mushroom could be cultivated. I hope the experiment works!

Moma Fauna said...

Me too! You know, this place is filthy with birch, so I see trees all over the place here that have had the Chaga removed. I never thought much about it because I didn't know they were potentially threatened. I don't think the harvesters here are doing it for big commercial gain, but it would be nice to be able to tell them they could grow their own. Unfortunately, there is often a language barrier. :\

Ariel Cooper said...

Hello mama fauna. I just stumbled upon your blog when looking for information about ozark and appalachain healers and folk medicine. I have spent some time in Newton County studying plant medicine with a couple folks you may know if you are a plant person in the arkansas ozarks. Kent Bonar ring a bell or D Coda? If not you might enjoy connecting with them. Also I plan on relocating to Arkansas in the next couple years and it's marvelous to stumble upon someone who seems to be interested in similar things as me.

Moma Fauna said...

Greetings Ariel,

I looked at your Google profile & found myself stupefied by the search for an email address. Hopefully you will return here & find this reply. I am not in Arkansas, but Alaska (at the moment, that is). However, by your profile I do believe we just might have a great deal to share. :) Email me, or reply again here. I will see if I can find your contact info. on the Google monster.

Do you keep a blog/weblog? I would be most interested to read it!

Bradd Mmattson said...

hello, nice post. just wanted to let you know that the three pictures at the bottom are cramp ball not chaga.

Moma Fauna said...

Bradd, Thank you for the clarification! (I will modify the post.) This obviously is a bit of an older post & I have learned a thing or two since then (always learning evermore). However, these images always gave me pause. I am not a chaga harvester, but many, many people here in AK are & I have seen people harvesting such things, therefore, in my uncertainty, I leaned toward chaga to ID. In fact, these specific *cramp balls* have since been harvested. Any ideas why?

Moma Fauna said...

Ah! I answered my own question: Fire starter: https://ukbushcrafters.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/testing-natural-tinders/

Thanks again! ;)

Moma Fauna said...

Bradd, Thank you for the clarification! (I will modify the post.) This obviously is a bit of an older post & I have learned a thing or two since then (always learning evermore). However, these images always gave me pause. I am not a chaga harvester, but many, many people here in AK are & I have seen people harvesting such things, therefore, in my uncertainty, I leaned toward chaga to ID. In fact, these specific *cramp balls* have since been harvested. Any ideas why?

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