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POSTED ON 27 October 2022
When we picture the first nurses, hooked noses, pointy hats and broomsticks don’t really spring to mind, but how wrong we are! Some people believe that nursing is rooted in early witchcraft practices. And, after reading Professor Nicola Ring’s new research into Scottish healers & midwives, you can understand why.
Let’s put witches aside for a second, what do we think of when we picture a nurse? Pressed linen, clean and bright. Our brains tend to automatically leap to the Victorian archetype of Florence Nightingale, but to really understand the early ideas of ‘nurses’ we need to think even further back. Many of those ‘witches’ you learnt about in history class were actually early practitioners; good, innocent people doing nothing more than helping their communities through sickness and childbirth with herbal remedies and natural concoctions.
In the middle ages, these healers were responsible for aiding peasants through their ailments and helping to deliver children. Witch-healers were often the only general medical practitioners for people who lived out in the sticks with no doctors or hospitals and were troubled with poverty and disease. Unfortunately, helping your community in this way without any support from the church was a big fat no no, to the point where it could be treated as a felony and threaten your life! Many of these early practitioners lost their lives at the hands of the witch hunts. If you were captured and put under trial, you were pretty much doomed either way! If you were guilty of healing the sick you were a witch, but if you passed, you’d be blamed for casting a spell on them and be declared a witch. Old-timey logic, right?
We haven’t got enough hours in the day to get right to the root of the issues people had with witches, so we’ll keep it strictly medical. These so-called ‘witches’ were onto something that the ‘doctors’ of the time were not. Their practices were based in senses rather than fate and faith; Medical *cough cough* “Science” at the time when witch-healers were persecuted for being dabblers of ‘magic’ was a little bit confusing to say the least. Whilst ‘witches’ were developing a huge understanding of herbalism, drugs, bones and muscles, physicians were still learning from astrology and alchemists were trying to turn lead into gold - it all seems a bit backwards doesn’t it?
Really, magic was the science of this time. Day-to-day things that could be foraged just outside of the home were used to treat a variety of ailments. Willow bark for inflammation, which contains salicin, a similar chemical to aspirin. Garlic was used for everything from snakebites to ulcers, and today some garlic compounds have been used as blood clotting inhibitors (not to mention all the other health benefits that come with it).
Witches were using herbal remedies that are still being used today and studies based on experiences and responses from their patients, makes you think everyone should have had a bit more trust in them, no? It’s crazy to think about how many medical advancements could have been made sooner if people had just taken the time to listen and learn from these people!
These women had another string to their bow that their male, socially accepted, counterparts didn’t - an understanding of the female body. The female body was shrouded with mystery and darkness at this time, but these witches' knowledge of the female anatomy meant they were able to assist with childbirth and other womanly issues that were brushed under the rug at the time. Once again it all comes back to the issue of women not really being seen as fully functioning people until…well…far too recently for our liking. Not only did this mean female healers were frowned upon, but female suffering such as labour pains, was just accepted as an act of God. Whereas healers were discovering painkillers that are still used today. The idea that a woman could offer cures that male doctors couldn’t was seen as so preposterous, it had to be magic.
It’s amazing how much we can learn about how far this profession has come! We can only be grateful that we’ve become so much more progressive with our thinking and that those trying to care for the vulnerable now are seen with the respect and admiration they deserve!
We are Zesti, and we sell premium scrubs at prices that won’t scare the bejesus out of you! Calling all witches, check out our womens scrubs page to see a delicious range of colours and fits. Wizards and warlocks too, don’t miss out an opportunity to be lookin fine this halloween in a pair of our mens scrubs.