The Historical Uses of Herbs - Herbs, Healing, Religion, and the Paranormal
Recently, I viewed a television program on PBS which was entitled, Dogs with Jobs: The Heroes . Several dogs and their stories were featured in this informative, entertaining and yet very serious documentary. However, there was one story in particular which grabbed my attention. It was about a dog named Willie, who belongs to a woman named Joanne. Joanne suffers from epileptic seizures and Willie is specially trained to assist, protect and even treat her as she goes about, facing the challenges of her daily life in dealing with epilepsy.
All the dogs chosen to receive training like Willie are considered gifted animals. However, Willie is especially gifted because he seems to know exactly when Joanne will encounter an epileptic spell. The documentary showed two occasions on film in which Willie received such premonitions and there was no doubt whatsoever that he truly did know when Joanne would become particularly sick. While you might find all of this interesting, imagine my sudden amazement when the narrator of the program came straight out and referred to Willie's skill as a " sixth sense ." Perhaps the narrator's assessment is valid, for they claim that research illustrates only one of 500 dogs who receive similar training exhibit Willie's uncanny ability.
What's all this got to do with herbs, healing, religion and the paranormal you might ask? Well, I began to wonder, if it is possible for dogs have a sixth sense is it also possible for humans have a sixth sense? And if humans have a sixth sense with regard to illness and healing, where would it be exhibited? The answer of course at least in part, has to do with plants.
Investigating the potential religious, healing, paranormal and/or sixth sense aspects between humans and herbs requires us to travel both time and space. In fact, to get what might be our earliest snapshot we must journey to a remote and obscure place called Shanidar IV, which is a Neanderthal burial site in northern Iraq. While it is known that the Neanderthal species were especially close relatives to modern man, what makes this site particularly interesting is the evidence which suggest it could be the grave of a prehistoric shaman .
Pollen samples taken at the site conclusively show that cornflowers, grape, groundsel, hyacinths, a type of mallow, St. Banaby's thistle, woody horsetail, and yarrow were all included within the burial. Interestingly, many of these herbs have medicinal qualities. The medicinal qualities are quite ranging and include relief from toothache to poultices, which could be used to relieve spasms. Even some of the 20th century's most famous and respected anthropologist, such as Leaky, take note that these flowers were deliberately arranged at this ancient site.
Certainly the presence of these plants at this ancient burial site does not automatically infer that the Neanderthal regarded these herbs with a religious or paranormal/sixth sense esteem. Nor can we conclude that this early relative of man even had a working knowledge of healing plants. But on the other hand, perhaps Shanidar IV does begin to provide a foundation for the belief that primitive man did have a working knowledge of healing herbs. Further, it may suggest a religious if not supernatural relevance that herbs played in our early prehistoric period. Exactly how much knowledge was gained scientifically or methodically and how much of it was gained by use of intuition or a sixth sense could be speculative.
Until we know for sure we can only ponder these questions and others which are similar, such as: What do the plants symbolize? What is their significance in that they would be included as belongings in a trip to the afterworld? If it can be determined that Willie has a sixth sense, at what point can it be determined that some humans might also have a sixth sense?