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What is healing? 

The practice of healing is thousands of years old. Healing can mean to make or become healthy, or to be comforted again. It can also mean the restoration of health. Just like health, there are various ways to define healing. There are also many different types of healing in the world. Some are ancient and others are modern.

A good video connecting the previous module (allopathic vs homeopathic medicine) to this one. Healing from a scientific and spiritual point of view. 


In traditional epidemiology, healing is linked to beliefs in evil and the removal of evil from the sick person. 



Ancient Forms of Healing

· Illness was considered to be a crises.

· Cause of an Illness was attributed to forces of evil, which originated either within or outside the body.

· Early forms of Healing dealt with the removal of evil.

· Successful treatments were passed on through generations.


The cause of an illness was attributed to the forces of evil, which originated either within (internal evil) or outside (external evil) the body. Early forms of healing dealt with the removal of evil. 

Interval Evil

If the source of sickness-causing evil was internal, the treatment was to get the evil out of the body. This can be done in multiple ways:

1. Purgatives

· vomiting or diarrhea

2. Blood-letting

· Bleeding

· Leeching “sucking out” blood

If the source of the evil was external, there are a number of ways to deal with it. 

· Ancient belief – Witchcraft

· People (or a single person) who were “different” from the other people

· Seen as the causative agent

· Remove or punish the guilty person from the community, the disease would be cured

· Healers themselves were often seen as witches and the possessors of evil skill.

Ancient Rituals

· Sick person isolated from others.

· Special prayers chanted and incantations recited.

· Sacrifices and dances often were performed.

· Speaking in tongues

· Reciting incantations in an unfamiliar language

· Use of strange practices


Watch the video clip “Ceremonial Dance of the Bushmen” below. This is a form of “medicine dance”.

Religion and Healing

Religion strongly affects the way people interpret and respond to the signs and symptoms of illness/illness. Threads—religion, ethnicity, and culture—are woven into the fabric of each person’s particular response to treatment and healing. There are many religious beliefs and practices related to healing. An introductory discussion of religious healing beliefs from the Judeo-Christian background. 


The Old Testament does not focus on healing to the extent the New Testament does.  In the Old Testament:

· God is seen to have total power over life and death, and is the healer of all human woes.

· God is the giver of all good things and of all misfortune, including sickness.

· Sickness represents a break between God and humans.



In the New Testament:

· Large focus on Healing

· Recordings of the Healings by Jesus

· Healing practices of the Roman Catholic tradition include a variety of beliefs and numerous practices of both a preventive and healing nature.

Saints and Healing



There are many places in this world where people make spiritual journeys, pilgrimages, or show popular piety for the purpose of petitioning for giving thanks for favors. One place is at a shrine. Shrines ranges from small memorials to large, famous shrines where people who are part of a given religious tradition, or a follower of a giver healer may go to pray or petition at the site. Shrines are not limited to any one faith tradition, and they can be secular as well as religious. 

Selected Shrines 

Callery pear tree, New York City

The Callery pear tree was found alive in the rubble of the World Trade Center in 2001; it is now a secular shrine.


The Tomb of Menachem Mendel Schneerson in Queens, New York

This is a Holy Shrine where Jewish people from around the world gather to seek healing and restored health.


Shrine of our Lord of Esquipulas, Chimayo, New Mexico. The shrine was built between 1814 and 1816 and is visited by thousands of people each year. There is a hole in the floor of the shrine, and it is believed that eating the dirt from this hole will cure many illnesses. 


Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, Spain. 

Pilgrims have visited this site since the 13th century to venerate the miraculous statue of the Black Madonna, and many miracles have been reported here.



The Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. 

This is a place where pilgrims go seek protection, healing, and help, especially for fertility. Here one is able to acquire the red string that is worn for protection from the evil eye. 


An extensive list of shrines throughout the world can be found here:

Healing and Today’s Beliefs

There are four main types of healing:

1. Spiritual Healing

· Illness of the spirit

· The cause of suffering is personal sin. 

The treatment method is repentance. 

2. Inner Healing

· Emotional (mental) illness

· The cause lie in the person’s conscious or unconscious mind.

The treatment method is to heal the person’s memory. 

3. Physical Healing

· Disease or accident that resulted in some form of bodily damage

The treatment method is laying on of hands and speaking in tongues and the person is prayed over.

4. Deliverance or exorcism

· Body and mind are victims of evil from the outside

The treatment method is that the person must be delivered, or exorcised, from the evil.


Traditional Healers

The people who heal:

· Received the gift of healing from a “divine” source;

· Received gift in a vision and have been unable to explain how they know what to do;

· Learned shills from one of their parents or other family members;

· Most healers with acquired skills are women, who subsequently pass on their knowledge to their daughters;

There are other healers setters as bone setters and midwives. Those who use herbs and other preparations to remove the evil from the sick person’s body are known as herbalists. 


Compare: Traditional Healers/Modern Providers


Healing using ring of fire.


Healing and today’s medicine. Please watch the video clip “Hmong Healing at Dignity Health” below. 



Please watch the video clip below. A Hmong shaman performs a home-based curing ceremony for a man who fell ill during a funeral. To keep his soul from being drawn into the underworld with the deceased, the soul of a sacrificed pig is offered in exchange.


Ancient Rituals Related to the Lifecycle

Religion also plays a role in the rites surrounding both birth and death. Many of the rituals that we observe at the time of birth and death have their origins in the practices of ancient human beings. 


Ancient Life Cycle Rituals

· Early human beings believed the number of evil spirits far exceeded the number of good spirits.

· Great deal of energy and time was devoted to thwarting evil spirits.

· Spirits would be defeated by the use of gifts or rituals, or redemptive sacrifice.

· Prevented from returning by various magical ceremonies and rites.


Birth Rituals

· Power of the evil spirits was believed to endure for a certain length of time.

· 3rd, 7th, and 40th days – Newborn and the mother were at the greatest risk from the power of supernatural beings.

· Usually on the 8th day, most of the rituals were observed. 

· The person can be freed by certain rituals:

· Mother and child may be separated from the rest of the community for a certain length of time (usually 40 days),

· Rubbing the baby with different oils or garlic,

· Swaddling the baby,

· Lighting candles, or

· Baby and mother were watched for 7 days.

When the various rites were completed and the 40 days were over, both the mother and child were believed to be redeemed from evil. Ceremonies that freed the person had a double character: they were partly magic and partly religious. 


Ancient Birth Rituals and today

The birth of a male child was considered more significant than that of a female, and many rites were practiced in observance of this event. One example is cutting off a lock of the child’s hair and then sprinkling his forehead with the sacrificed of a sheep’s blood. The sheep’s skin was saved, dried, and place in the child’s bed for 3 or 4 years as protection from evil spirits.  The ritual must be performed on the 8th day of life. It was believed that if this sacrificial ritual was not performed on the 7th or 8th day of life, the child would die. 

Circumcision is another ceremony. Circumcision is practiced by many people throughout the world. The Jews of ancient Israel practice circumcision on the 8th day of life. The Muslims circumcise their sons on the 7th day. The rite of circumcision is accompanied by festivals of varying durations. 

The ceremony of baptism is also another important ceremony related to birth. It, too, symbolically expels the evil spirits, removes the taboo, and is redemptive. Water was believed to possess magical powers and was used to cleanse the body from both physical and spiritual maladies, which included evil possession and other impurities. A child can be baptized on the 40th day of life or on the 8th day, depending on the communities. 


Death Rituals

In many religions, it was believed that evil spirits and the duration of their evil (7 or 40 days) surrounded the person, family, and community at the time of and after death. Rites evolved to protect both the dying and dead persons and the remaining family from these evil spirits. For examples:

· Ritual washing (dying person was cared for in specific ways

· Grave was prepared in set ways (food and water are stored in the coffin for the journey after death)


Mourning and beliefs and practices vary widely depending on the religious and national origins of the family. Below are some examples:

·  Buddhists may not allow pregnant women to attend funerals to prevent bad luck for the baby.

· Christians may show reserved grieving in public, and for others grief may be demonstrative. In many traditions the widow may wear dark mourning clothes for the rest of her life, and in other nations, white may be worn.

· Hindus believe in reincarnation and practice cremation.

· Jews bury the person as soon as possible; and this is followed by a 7-day mourning period.

· Muslims may hold a ceremony 2 days after burial, followed by a meal. 


Expressions of death and deaths rituals are also found in objects. 

Candles are used by many people after a death as a way lighting the way for the soul of the deceased.


Jade Stone
Jade stone, from China, is placed in orifices of the body to block the entrance of evil spirits after death.


Ghost Money
Ghost money, from China, is burned to send payments to a deceased person and to ensure his or her well-being in the afterlife. 


Food, clothes, and merchandise can also be burned to a deceased person in the afterlife. Watch the video clip “Burning Paper Food and Clothes for the Afterlife” below. 



Intersections of Health, Healing, and Religion

There are several areas in which there is an intersection of health, healing, and religion. The table below illustrates several of these intersections. 


Spirituality and religion begin in silences; however, the need for adequate interpreters has been addressed, but it is also to have available to people the members and leaders of their faith community who can reach out and interpret what is happening in regard to a health crisis at a deeper and spiritual level for the patient and family.


Understand the “rules” for gender care; in many faith traditions – for example, among Orthodox Jew and Muslims – care must be gender-specific, and people may be forbidden to be touched by someone of the opposite gender.


Religious and elderly people may be extremely sensitive as to the manner in which they are addressed – never call a person by their given name unless given permission to do so.


Religious and elderly people may be extremely modest, and modesty must be safeguarded at all times.


Many food taboos are predicated by one’s religion, and consideration must be given to see that improper foods are not served to patients.


Sacred objects, such as amulets and statues, must be allowed in patient’s space, and all precaution must be observed to safeguard them; when a person wears an amulet, every effort must be made to protect this amulet and permit the patient to wear it.

Social Organization

Spirituality or a religious background contributes many positive factors to the healthcare situation; collaboration with the leaders of a faith community can result in strongly positive outcomes for a patient and family.


Space must be defined and allocated for the patient’s and family’s private use.


Must be knowledgeable about sacred time – for example, what day the patient and family observe as a day of rest; Sacred

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