The Druid’s Herb

Driving from Trim to Gort I turned on the radio, something I have not done since I’ve been in Ireland as I generally choose silence to support the sacred intention of these journeys. There are few stations to choose from here so I scanned to find Ireland’s foremost station, RTÉ, and found myself in the middle of an interview with a general practice doctor who runs a stress clinic in Galway. I would learn later from friends that this woman is very well respected and her clinic is always very busy.

The interviewer was in the middle of questioning her about stress reducing pharmaceuticals, the drugs with which we are so familiar. She listened quietly to his assumption that these must be an integral part of her treatment. Then she gently responded that while these were effective in severe cases she much prefers imagemore natural and herbal treatments, finding them every bit as and often more effective in many situations. And at the interviewer’s request she reeled off a long list including Vervain, which she named as the Druid’s herb noting it has been used since the time of the Druids. I was both delighted and surprised to hear such an easy mention of Druidic heritage on this national broadcast.

It was yet another example of how the old ways, and in this case the ancient healing traditions, are still so very present in this country. I wondered what the reaction would be were a reference to Druidic healing practices be so casually included on one of our radio stations in the States.

Yesterday I enjoyed almost five hours over lunch and coffee with another of the wise women of western Ireland. When I mentioned the RTÉ interview she responded with story after story of healing after healing with local, common, and very accessible plants. Stories of seemingly miraculous healings of both people and animals. Stories from her childhood, stories about the practices of her father, mother, and grandmothers. The stories as abundant and commonplace as the plants.

Stories that apparently have largely disappeared from the landscape, most notably when reliance on public health facilities replaced a reliance on Nature’s faculties. But clearly they are not completely gone. Clearly there are those who will still speak of and work with the Druid’s herb.