“One must tread delicately on those lands, its palace is built on shifting sands; And so fragile, one cruel, look or word -Would utterly smash that porcelain world.” -Juliette de Bairacli Levy
The grandmother of herbal medicine, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, has three new books hot off the press: Summer in Galilee, A Gypsy in New York, and Spanish Mountain Life. Her colorful life is portrayed in the revival of these books being released this month by Ash Publishing, that give the reader a glimpse into the daily lives of the people she lived amongst in New York, Sierra Nevada Mountains of Spain and Israel.
Juliette is known as the pioneer of holistic animal care and the author of classic books on herbal medicine for animals, people and natural child rearing. These books are still read today for their wisdom of the healing arts that she learned from her travels and living with the Gypsies, nomads and peasants around the world.
Juliette was in the forefront of the natural living, natural eating, and natural healing lifestyle. Living simply, and independently, through her keen eye of observing life through the senses – sounds, sights, and smells – along with nature and even the weather, we are offered a unique window into the lives of the people who surrounded her, particularly the Gypsies, who she loved. She found life more fun living among the “ragged Bohemians.”
“I get to know the Gypsies of every town that I visit, because I am sure of finding among them loyal friendship and interesting companionship and true amusement, song, music, dance, magic, all of these and more; love, sometimes.”
When Juliette and her children arrived in New York, the children questioned where were the trees and rocks that they were so used to climbing. Juliette informed them they would forego the elevators and climb the stairs of the many buildings as they had the legs to do so. No matter that it was winter when they arrived, they would spend much of their time outdoors exploring life in the city.
You learn from Gypsies in New York that snow is nature’s great fertilizer, rich in phosphates and nitrates. She learned to eat snow with jam from the Turkish Gypsies, and the early American settlers poured hot molasses onto snow and twisted the mixture into thin sticks – just make sure it’s clean snow! A remedy she shares will help you with headaches and sleep:
Queen of Hungary’s Water
2 pounds of flowering shoots of fresh rosemary
3 pints of alcohol
Place together in a closed vessel in a warm place (in the sunlight or by a hot stove) for 50 hours, adding to these hours day by day until the fifty are completed. Then strain and bottle. To prevent evaporation, some almond oil can be added as a layer on top of the liquid. [Apply to the face with the fingertips.]
Throughout her life she kept her children and animals, including her Afghan dogs, healthy on herbs and grasses. Juliette didn’t fear disease and didn’t pay for any doctor’s care except when she had typhus fever in Spain. She also didn’t believe in injections and only allowed her daughter penicillin when she was deathly ill because it was plant like and was not evolved from cruel experiments on animals.
In Spanish Mountain Life Juliette shares her experience living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near a millstream where she contacted typhus fever along with her son.
She felt defeated when she got ill with typhus as she had always had robust health, and she believed living close to nature as she did she would never get ill. You learn how she persevered, determined to heal herself even when finally she had to be under a doctor’s care. She contributes her survival to fasting from food for nearly three weeks and drinking only lemon water sweetened with honey.
She felt her life was being robbed through this disease by what she pictured as a repulsive figure with a “bald head and cavernous face, a blood-red cloak hanging in folds around his skeleton-like body and reaching to his feet, which were swollen.” This picture was true to the later stages of typhus fever and also very often the hair dies and falls out, and the feet will swell. At the end of three weeks she says she had no flesh on her body and before she fully returned to health she had lost her hair.
One of the healing remedies for typhus that a friend sent to her from Mexico was a brew of potato peelings, which was a remedy she had earlier successfully used to treat dogs from a high mortality disease of hard-pad.
Her second child, daughter Luz, born while living in these mountains, also became ill and almost died. Juliette felt Luz was most helped by three days of fasting from food, and an external treatment she learned from Portuguese fisherwomen, where they massaged the stomach area night and day with hot olive oil and pounded aniseed.
In Summer in Galilee we experience life in Israel through her descriptive observations about the people, places, plants, animals and the history of this fascinating part of the world. There she raised owls, hawks, dogs, goats, donkeys and bees and became famous for saving her hives of bees from shell attack during the six day war.
Juliette, always a seeker of natural healing plants wherever she traveled, would find amongst the rubble in this country such herbs as chamomile, for the treatment of the ailments of babies, sage for wound cure, mallow for bruises and the tassel part of maize cobs found pressed into a big bunch, being a well-known Arabian remedy for kidney and bladder troubles.
Stories lead from one to another as she weaves you through her daily life in Israel, and reminisces about a previous trip where she lived in a kibbutz and by herself with her Afghan dog in an abandoned Arab house, encountering snakes in the night. Juliette shares her experiences such as how she healed a leg she injured on a hike, plastering it with clay from the lake. She recounts how when she purchased amber honey from a Christian Arab, it reminded her of her father passing beads of amber through his fingers and then she would find in the sands near Acre a half-dozen pieces of crude amber thrown up by the stormy seas.
There is so much more in these travel books, which read like diaries, full of colorful observations of daily life and interesting stories that will give you a glimpse of the cultures she had visited. You see the inner makings of a strong woman determined to live close to the earth. Her legacy of herbal wisdom continues to live on and inspire others wanting to embrace the power of healing through natural remedies.
Ash Publishing is honored to bring you three new herbal adventures from the grandmother of American herbalism: Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Before her death, Juliette updated and revised three books published in the 1970s in England (her birthplace) that are now rare, scarce, and out-of-print. She also opened her picture archives to us, allowing these new editions to be adorned with precious photos from Juliette’s travels, as well as lovely new illustrations by Kimberley Eve. Noted herbalist Susun Weed created an herbal index for each book as well.