Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land

folk medicine in norway and new landNineteenth century Norwegians rarely consulted doctors, relying instead on home remedies and neighborhood healers trained only by experience. This book reveals the natural ingredients, magic potions, and whispered spells employed by these healers who often had to dodge harsh criminal laws to help their neighbors. Using a combination of rational and magical remedies, they treated everything from burns, broken bones, and whooping cough to stalled labor and emotional stress, and sometimes devised remedies that worked before science could say why.

To cure a fever that begins with chills, write the following on a piece of bread and give it to the patient for eight days, one piece each day, and on the ninth day, burn the last piece: Colameris x, Colameri x, Colamer x, Colame x, Colam x, Cola x, Col x, Co x, and C x.

To prevent the huldrefolk from stealing your healthy child and leaving a child with rickets in its place, make three dolls from the child’s clothing to put into the cradle. The huldrefolk will take one of them instead of your child. These and many more fascinating folk-healing rituals were secretly administered by healers, “witches,” and religious caregivers who tended the medical and spiritual needs of rural Norwegians for hundreds of years. In Remedies and Rituals, Kathleen Stokker culls from hundreds of original documents and first-hand accounts to detail the ingredients, customs, and histories behind natural remedies, potions, whispered spells, and the infamous “black books” used for centuries by Norway’s folk healers.

Stokker also illuminates the surprising personalities of those who risked imprisonment and persecution to help fellow Norwegians throughout the nineteenth century, as well as the often reluctant healers in the U.S. who continued to treat immigrants living in rural communities beyond the reach of doctors. Dodging harsh criminal laws championed by formally trained doctors, these rebel practitioners drew on ancient written and oral sources to treat everything from burns, broken bones, and whooping cough to difficult labors and emotional stress.

This book is a fascinating, well written book not only about Norwegian folk medicine but also about Norwegian culture. If you’ve ever wondered what made your Norwegian ancestors tick, this is the book to read. This is one of the best books about Norwegians I have ever read. A thoroughly enjoyable read.