Why I Am a Holistic Heathen (And Proud of It)

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Why “Heathen”

Calling myself a “heathen” is a tongue-in-cheek way to separate myself from what is viewed as normal.

Historically, the word heathen did not mean what it does now.

Etymology Online tells us:

 

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

 

Eventually heathen came to mean anyone the Church deemed not-Christian.

I was raised as a sporadic Southern Baptist. I said sporadic because we did not actually “belong” to a specific church. I do recall wonderful times when we went to church. However, from childhood when I went with my mother, all the way into adulthood, when I went on my own, I had questions that were not getting satisfactory answers.

I am one of those wondering people that always want to know the why. Usually. when I asked pointed questions of church folk, I was told one of a few things:

  • It’s God’s will.
  • The Bible says so. (or It’s God’s word/the Gospel.)
  • Stop asking so many questions and listen.

 

Despite my honest belief that God is indeed real, I still wondered. If all the answers were in the Bible, why are we as a species so far outside of what God says we should be doing? Why do we kill in the name of God? What drives us to commit war against each other based on religious belief if God is love?

For the Bible tells us so in 1 John 4:7-21.

Finding My Way

I started pursuing answers on my own in middle school. I even went so far as to plan a science fair project based on the argument of Evolution vs Creation. My stance was that both of them could be true if one applied an open mind to both ideals.

My Earth science teacher told me that Theology was not an acceptable field for the science fair.

So, I scrapped that and went with Physics instead. I actually won that science fair.

But the questions remained. What I learned while preparing that project stayed with me. In high school, I made the conscious decision to no longer call myself a Christian. I was looking for not just the truth but MY Truth.

I expected to be ostracized -people outside the box usually are- but the venom that my professed unbelief brought was surprising. How dare I not be a Christian. How dare I question the Bible.

Eventually, I kept my quest to myself, while learning what I could about other religions. I was just tired of defending my right to seek My Truth. This sort thing was not allowed, you see.

During this time, I also found and started reading Jean Auel’s epic Earth’s Children series. The first one I read was The Plains of Passage. The series begins with The Clan of the Cave Bear (which was made into a movie starring Darryl Hannah in 1986).

The series follows Ayla on her journey from tolerated outcast to a solitary hunter to a revered healer. There are two things about this series that continues to strike a chord with me.

First, Ayla travels literally across the world, encountering different peoples along the way. Every group she encounters reveres the Earth Mother. The names they call Her by basically mean Mother of [insert group name].

So, the Mamutoi call Her Mut. The Mamutoi depended on the mammoth for survival, so their name basically means “Children of Earth that hunt the mammoth”. Ayla’s companion Jondalar -who we meet in The Valley of Horses– is a Zelandonii, and he calls the Earth Mother Donii.

Even though all these people believed in the same divine entity, they called Her by different names. That is important because it caused the seed I was carrying around to begin to bloom.

Why could we not accept that different people believe in a divine overseer, but call that divinity by different names? How do we not realize that we could be all talking about the same thing??

Second, all the books in the series are stuffed with herbal knowledge, preparations, and uses. Ayla became a medicine woman when she lived with the Clan, and her knowledge allowed her to be accepted and respected as a skilled healer when she left them. This is when my interest in natural remedies began.

So That’s Why

I began to think of myself as a heathen without shame or fear. I know this is just a story, but it can be applied to real life and to our modern times.

I collected and studied different versions of the Bible because I wanted to know why we had more than one. If it was God’s word, shouldn’t one be enough?

At one point I owned a King James Bible, a Mormon Bible, a Gideon Bible, and a New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness Bible). I was hunting for copies of the Catholic Apocrypha, the Torah, and the Quran.

In my studies of religions and belief systems, I found that much of the Bible had been written before. Not just in other languages but in other cultures. The Great Flood, the Creation story and even the Crucifixion were “borrowed” from Egyptian, Hindu, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic and Sumerian “myths”.

Why couldn’t these gods be as real and as acceptable as the Christian, Judaic, Hindu and Islamic one?

Changes were made to suit the times and society, but the basic stories were the same.

This opened my eyes wide. The Bible was not “the Gospel”. It is, in fact, a collection of older stories retold. This is when the Bible became “the bible” and God became “god” for me.

Making it Real

In my early 20s, I had a home birth with midwives with my second child. These midwives taught me about herbs and natural remedies during my pregnancy and after. This boosted my herbal hunger even further, but I still did not know where to find such information.

I started looking into Earth-based religions and teachings beyond the major religions. I found myself far more comfortable being spiritual as opposed to being religious. I found Wicca and devoured everything I could about pagan history and belief systems. Eventually, I embraced this form of spirituality, and that is when I truly became a really real heathen.

Before you get offended, please save yourself the trouble (and your blood pressure).

I do not disbelieve in (G)god. That would make me an atheist. I just do not believe the same way you might believe. When asked “Don’t you believe in God?” I (half) jokingly respond, “I believe he has a girlfriend.”

So Why “Holistic”?

I chose to use the word holistic because it denotes an approach outside of mainstream healthcare.

Meriam-Webster defines it as:

Modern medicine has given the world miraculous treatments and cures for diseases that killed our predecessors. It has also seen challenges that science has yet to conquer.

If you have ever been to the doctor -and who hasn’t- you are familiar with the examination, the long wait, the short talk, and the prescriptions.

Then you need to prepare for the side effects of those medicines and in many cases add to your intake with more prescriptions or over the counter medicine. This is because modern medicine has been taught to treat what presents.

If you’re sneezing, coughing and have a fever, it is either a cold or the flu. You are given medicine to treat these different symptoms. But why did you get that cold (or the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.)?

Holistics does not just address the symptoms that present. It digs deeper to find the root cause and tries to adjust whatever it is that kicks off your coughing fit.

Naturopaths (herbal, or natural remedy practitioners) usually will not advise you to break a fever. The body’s natural response to invading microbes is to raise your temperature. Bacteria, viruses, and such can only live within very narrow parameters. A change to your body temperature by as little as 2 degrees can either kill them or slow them down.

So, coughing, sneezing, shivering and sweating are all defense mechanisms that you have in place to kill off, expel and recover from invading organisms. If you reduce your fever, you extend your illness.

This is not always the case. Sometimes an infection presents, and this must be handled before the fever gets too high. Extreme fever can damage organs and even brain cells. As long as the fever is within manageable parameters, most natural healers will let it run its course*.

*Whatever the case trust your gut. If you feel the fever is too high, get medical intervention at once. Do not take a risk based on anecdotal evidence.

Modern medicines use a hammer on these symptoms, shutting down the body’s natural defenses. Herbs encourage the body to fight back and maintain balance. The entire point of your immune system is to keep you in balance. Herbs can support the natural course of self-repair, and in doing so, create resistance to the invading organism should you be exposed to it again.

This is why I take a holistic approach.

Drugs often suppress and override our ability to bring ourselves back into balance. If you are exposed to that cold again, you may be just as susceptible to it, because your body was not allowed to fight it off. You have built no natural resistance to it.

Herbs can be used to bring relief from bothersome or debilitating symptoms while supporting the production of antibodies. If you let your immune system do the job it is designed to do, you build resistance and resilience.

DISCLAIMER

I am NOT a medical practitioner.

I am an Herbalist.

Everything I share here is drawn from my studies, my beliefs and my own personal experience. This is NOT a Gospel. Nothing here should be considered “medical” advice. I make no claims that I can or will treat or cure any disease or condition.

If you chose to explore natural remedies, do your research. Discuss your options with your physician before beginning any herbal regimen.

And so, my journey continues. Thank you for joining me,

Blessings,

Gwendolyn J




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