Healing work has always and will always be a very important aspect of the work of the witch, moreso if he/she is a member of a coven. Years ago when I was HP of a coven at least 50% of the petitions put to us for help were for healing. We know that many of the ancient magical traditions employed healer priests e.g. Osiris in Ancient Egypt; the druids were also gifted healers (even allegedly discovering an early form of aspirin from tree bark) Let us not forget that Jesus was credited with many acts of healing. Centuries later in Britain and Europe virtually every village had a wisewoman or cunning man; ie the forerunners of the modern "hedgewitch".
In my own tradition of the Craft, the ability to heal was therefore of vital importance; indeed two proofs or testimonies had to be produced from patients confirming successful healings before applying to be upgraded to the second-degree. The actual mode didn't matter ie whether a complaint was effectively treated by herbalism, hands on healing or by auric healing. In other words it was of no importance whether the candidate used practical knowledge such as a herbal remedy or whether they used spiritual forces such as the "power" as we refer to that cosmic energy raised by the working coven. This energy is known by many other names around the world e.g. Chi in China, Ki in Japan, Mana in Hawaii and Prana in India. There are many ways of applying the energy - whatever you wish to call it - and we will discuss some of these in the course of this article.
The correct channelling and focus and focus of this universal energy is therefore of great importance in some forms of spiritual healing e.g. Reiki In this and in other forms of physical contact healing,, the healer is the channel or medium between the energy and the patient , he or she is simply the bridge or point of contact between the two. From the hands of the healer the energy will then go to the affected part of the body. Some healers believe that it is necessary to physically place the hands on the afflicted area. The obvious difficulty here would be instances of for example breast or testicular cancer; many healers probably wisely believe that the healing force will automatically go where it is needed, all that is needed is for the healer to gently place the hands on the patient's shoulder. This will usually make them feel comfortable and reassured.
With the previously described method, there is no physical or psychic depletion to the healer because as stated he/she is simply the conduit for the energy channelled ; in fact the healer should also feel the benefit of the healing force. Healing can however be transferred to another person physically using ones own energy. This is known as magnetic healing. Because this mode can definitely cause depletion to the healer I rarely use it , although occasionally I will use it to "kick start" a healing session so to speak especially if it is a difficult case, but even then only for a few seconds.
It is not however completely necessary to have physical contact with the patient , many healers indeed work "hands off" - this is called auric healing , and as its name implies here the energy is transferred to the patient's aura rather than to the physical body. The aura is a natural magnetic field around the body of all living things , whether human ,plant or animal , even buildings accumulate them over the years , and it can be viewed either psychically or physically by the process known as Kirlian Photography named after the Russian inventor Semyon Kirlian. The nature of the aura would be a separate article , however briefly there are said to be three main zones. The first is a narrow band next to the skin, about 1/4 of an inch wide which is called the "Etheric double". The second zone he called the "Inner aura" between 1-3 inches wide and which follows the outline of the physical body and is the easiest to see. The third zone he called the "Outer aura" - this extends beyond the Inner aura and has a finer outline , it is said to be more highly concentrated around the head area. Gifted psychics may be able to diagnose ailments in the physical body by seeing gaps or unusual colours within the aura, others say that that the aura of a sick person may be completely grey or brown or other dull colour.
The process for auric healing is similar to the method described earlier ; the difference being that the healer's hands do not make contact with the patient (some people in any case do not like physical contact) . Here the channelled energy goes straight into the aura and from there to the afflicted part of the patient's body. This form of non contact healing can be just as effective as the traditional hands on approach. Some healers may also pass their hands over the chakras ; ie natural energy centres of the body namely the crown of the head, the forehead or so-called "third eye" , the throat, the heart, the solar plexus, the abdomen and the sexual organs. Chakra like Prana is also a Sanskrit word.
I am sometimes asked about so-called "absent healing" or distant healing as it is usually known these days. This is where the patient is not actually physically present but where healing energy is sent out to him or her. Every coven member will know that distant healing is not only possible (as stated earlier in my experience at least the majority of appeals for help to the coven were for healing) but works as well if not better than the regular hands on healing approach even if the patient is many miles away.
For best results it is helpful if you have a photograph of the patient or if you know them you may at least visualise them. Some healers simply visualise a beautiful light descending from the universe and onto the photograph until they feel that enough energy has been transmitted (although just like regular healing distant healing works better and is more effective if the sessions are regular).
For myself i begin the session by sitting quietly for a few moments, breathing deeply and I say a quick prayer to a god or goddess associated with healing, e.g. Brighid. I then visualise their aura as "flooded" with healing colours , usually blue or green, although I may use for example red to revitalise if the patient is suffering from exhaustion. I conclude the session with a prayer to the same god or goddess giving thanks for the healing energy sent.
Another method I have witnessed in the past was where I was a guest at a coven not far from where I lived at the time. During the working part of the evening , the coven danced and chanted to raise the power whilst the High priestess stood in the middle of the circle pointing her wand upwards as if acting as a sort of "lightning conductor". When the power raising was completed the High Priest knelt in front of her ; she then touched his palms with the wand and "transmitted" the power into his hands which he then held over a photograph of the patient and in turn "willed" the power into the photograph.
This in my opinion showed good initiative and helps to illustrate the many ways in which healing may be tapped and transmitted. It could even be used if the patient were physically present.
One problem with distant healing however that can arise is when the healer has no photograph of the patient and does not know him/her. A High Priestess I used to know used to get round this by obtaining as much information as possible about the physical appearance of the patient ; she would then select a Tarot court card ie a page, knight , queen or king to represent them rather like the practice of some Tarot readers who use a significator" card to represent the questioner or subject of the reading. This card was then placed on the pentacle on the altar and used as a "substitute" for the patient ie the raised energy of the coven would then be directed to and focused on the Tarot card.
Once again this showed good initiative and makes a good alternative to perhaps using poppets (ie dolls constructed to look like the patient and usually made of wax or plasticine., perhaps incorporating nail or hair clippings, or even engrave the patient's astrological sign symbol on the forehead or chest of the poppet). Their use certainly helps to create a psychic link with the patient and may help to create a more powerful image.
However even if the spell using them fails the poppet MUST be destroyed by being broken up and thrown into running water one full lunar cycle after the spell has been performed. Personally I find them slightly sinister and do not feel comfortable with them so I avoid their use.
Self-healing is of course also possible and is very useful in combatting the stress of everyday living especially if in a demanding or high pressure job. Of course if one is skilled in Reiki or any other form of spiritual healing , this is very easy to administer, I give myself a Reiki session before rising in the morning to start off and help me prepare for the day. Meditation can also be another useful tool, indeed it has been scientifically proved to reduce stress, induce a greater sense of wellbeing and some studies suggest that it can be highly beneficial in reducing high blood pressure.
A method I sometimes use is to receive healing from trees. The method is very simple - I select a tree that seems to be giving positive energy (nearly all do!) I then silently ask the tree's permission to receive healing from it (the answer is rarely no - however if you get a refusal respect the tree's wishes, and leave it to find another one). I then sit beneath it with my back against the trunk. Eventually you will feel a connection with the tree's natural energy field , I have even experienced a very pleasant sensation of my back sort of merging with the trunk, you may even hear or perceive a tiny "heart beat" or pulse from the tree's trunk - however - when you achieve this union with the tree's energy - then ask the tree to share its energy with you. You will know intuitively when the session is complete. Before you leave be sure to thank the tree for its healing , if you can, leave a coin or other small gift as a way of saying thanks.
This article has examined just a few methods of healing which may be used solely or in conjunction with modern day wiccan practice. It is fair to say that there are many others including herbalism described earlier, crystal healing and colour therapy ; these however require a great deal of training to be practised properly and lie outside the scope of this article, however I mention them only to point the way for those that may wish to study them in greater depth.
Whichever method of healing you employ ALWAYS keep a positive attitude - don't just believe that what you are doing will be effectve, KNOW that it will.
And never forget that also that at this time in the Earth's history - when war is raging all over the planet, where there is pollution, exploitation of the Earth's resources , famine, uncertainty, child abuse, cruelty to animals to name a few - that Earth healing too is all important.
About the Author -Peter Nash lives in the United Kingdom, and was initiated in 1982 - he was the last "first-line" Alexandrian - ie, was the last person trained by Alex Sanders in the early 80's. Ran covens in and around Cardiff in the mid-late 80's , Before "retiring" in 1991 - Since then he has concentrated on writing for the pagan press and have contributed to the Cauldron, Pagan Dawn, Witchcraft & Wicca, Silver Wheel, The Pentacle and the Broomstick to name a few. Peter also does quite a lot of public speaking , mainly for the Pagan Federation but has also spoken seven times at "Witchfest" and the Pagan Association's national conference. He has been a member of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids for over 20 years........