Heroic Medicine



Heroic medicine 72dpi© Durga Yael Bernhard

Here is one of my very first published illustrations.  I was in my twenties when I illustrated Susun Weed’s groundbreaking book on herbal medicine, Healing Wise (Ash Tree Publishing, 1989).  About a dozen black and white drawings were needed for chapter heads, and to illustrate the most important plants – and the most intrinsic philosophies – in Susun’s guidebook to the “Wise Woman” tradition of healing.

In her book, Susun enlightens the reader as to the many ways herbs and other natural remedies can be used – or misused.  The “heroic tradition” is one of three traditions of healing that Susun describes.  Heroic healing may employ natural or alternative substances, but because it adheres to a similar philosophy as industrial medicine, it has much potential to do harm.  Susun cites as a classic example the modern propensity for fasts and cleanses that seek to purge our “filthy” intestines.  A perfect balance is perpetually sought in this paradigm in which good and evil, right and wrong, constantly do battle.  Rigid disciplines and self-denial apply.  Such an approach seeks to override and control rather than harmonize with the person as a whole.  By contrast, the Wise Woman tradition nourishes and supports the optimization of the body by use of natural plant allies.  The Wise Woman philosophy is feminine and nurturing in origin, and organic in outlook.

The silhouetted figures you see here were just the first among many that followed.  I continued to work in flat, graphic shapes for many years to come.  Speaking of wise women, my octogenarian spiritual godmother at the time, dear old Winifred, predicted that as I got older, my work would become less angular, more curvaceous, softer, and more subtle.  She didn’t live to see it happen, but she was right.  Were I to do this illustration today, it would be very different.

If you’d like to order 5″x 7″greeting cards of Heroic Medicine, please go here and fill in the title.  Order this week and I’ll send you a few extra cards.  As always, shipping is free.

Wishing you a good week and a happy spring!

D Yael Bernhard


Author / Illustrator of
THE HUNGRY HAGGADAH: A Passover Story in Rhyme
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World
THE JEWISH EYE 5776/2015 – calendar of art 
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!


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