Grandmother Medicine: The Legacy of Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s contribution to modern herbalism has been enormous and her work has inspired and informed countless herbalists, not least Rosemary Gladstar and Susun Weed. In a time period when herbalism was being shunned as old fashioned and ineffective in the United States, Juliette was reviving and introducing important healing knowledge from all over the world, including Turkey, North Africa, Israel, Germany and Greece. Her time learning from and living with the Romani (Gypsy) is especially notable. I so wish I’d been able to meet Juliette in person before she passed away to personally thank her for sharing her experiences, knowledge and wisdom.
Often called the grandmother of American herbalism, Juliette’s contribution to our current herbal community is invaluable, the knowledge and inspiration she continues to provide to generations of herbalists is remarkable and certainly worthy of celebration. Her books were some of the very first I read about herbal medicine and the rambling stories, wise insights and straight common sense have stuck with me throughout my practice and I appreciate them more and more over the passing years. The generous and unpretentious approach she took to healing inspires me every day, as does her alliance with common, weedy plants that she found around here wherever she traveled during her often nomadic life.
Not only a fascinating example of a multi-cultural, place-based approach to folk herbalism, her persistent love for animals, children and plants is as valuable as it is endearing and resulted in a body of work oftentimes specific to animals and children in a way not often found in modern writing. Her tales of simple, joyful meals and wild adventures blended with her knowledge of herbs and healing are a joy to read. My ten year old daughter Rhiannon becomes completely absorbed in the narratives and I’ve found the books a great way to give her a different perspective on place, history and herbalism.
I especially admire her willingness to jump into difficult situations where she was often unable to speak more than a few words of the language in order to learn or understand more. Stubborn, independent and able to navigate complex cultural situations while still tending her young children and caring for those around her, Juliette’s legacy is ever more relevant to herbalists, homesteaders and travelers today. I’m pretty certain that most of my readers will love her books if you haven’t read them already. They’re perfect not only for learning from but for staying focused and immersed in earthy, simple ways and for introducing friends and family, especially children, to the stories of our the art we each practice as herbalists.
Susun Weed is doing us all the great service of keeping these books in print so that we can continue to enjoy and learn from them. Not only that, but she’s also offering a number of discounts or gifts to anyone who buys any of the three re-released books. The series started off with Summer in Galilee, A Gypsy in New York is the newest installment and coming up August 15th is Spanish Mountain Life