Lecture: Disease Transference: Plants as scapegoats in folk medicine
The threat of human and animal diseases penetrates every culture throughout history and is no less relevant in modern times. Before the advent of contemporary medicine, everyday maladies such as warts, headaches, ringworm and rheumatism were commonplace medical complaints and were treated as part of the normal course of life. Interestingly, life-threatening conditions like asthma, tumors and sepsis were treated in much the same way. Treatment options often included herbal medicines, rudimentary surgical procedures and religious practices such as magically transferring diseases into otherwise healthy people, animals or plants. These curative folk medicine practices fall under the larger umbrella of folk magic and provide the focus for my analysis. The practice of magical transference of disease into plants occurs around the world with this analysis concentrating on American and English folk medicine practices. In addition, the varied styles of ritual disease transmission including passing through, plugging, charming and measuring will be addressed to better understand the often-overlooked compendium of magical healing and esoteric botany.
Jeremy Bechelli received his Ph.D. in infectious disease pathology from the University of Texas Medical Branch and his M.S. in microbiology from the University of Rochester. Jeremy is currently an Assistant Professor of Biology and is a long-time student of European folk magic. Jeremy has a particular interest in occult herbalism, folk medicine and traditional witch-lore and practices. Jeremy is also the owner of Phytognosis, a company that specializes in handmade incense as well as rare and unique plant resins, woods, roots and leaves for ritual practices.