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This chapter considers two interrelated aspects: who to consult or who to turn to in the case of illness, and the remedies or medicines usually kept at home. As regards the first aspect, according to the places surveyed, people sometimes went first to the doctor and at other times to the healer, with the latter being considered authoritative as regards bone problems. Then there are the cases of other people who were called on to heal. The remedies kept at home include plants grown in vegetable patches and gathered in the countryside, and products purchased from the chemist's.

Folk medicine

Healers, sasimedikuak

Barriola makes a distinction between the typical local healers, which dealt with any ailments that occurred, brewing up potions and poultices with or without magical formulas or complementary formulas, and those other healers that cured, not exclusively but preferentially, broken bones, sprains or dislocation and different injuries[1]. We continue to apply this differentiation in our work.

The same author points out people used specific names to differentiate between the many different healers of both sex based on their main speciality. Thus, there are poultice healers; errezu-egileak, those using prayers to cure; ziñatzaileak, if they sign or use spells; and petrikiloak, a generic term for bonesetters[2].

Barriola points out that the folk medicine is deep rooted and resorting to it is seen as the last solution by people where science has not found a remedy for their ills. This is confirmed by the growing reputation of plants, of natural medicines and evocative methods, the basis of the old healing and the new modern form. Healing practices and the faith in them, with more or less scientific overtones, will endure[3].

People who apply healing practices

In many places, particularly with a concentrated population, there used to be a doctor in the village and they used to go there first when a family member had a high temperature or the symptoms of the ailment were frightening.

In Abadiano (B), they would go to the practitioner in the case of wounds and to the doctors with an illness and as the last resort. In the past, doctors used horses as the means of transport to visit the remote farmsteads and then bicycles and motorbikes before they started to use cars. It used to be very common for doctors to visit the sick at home. Nowadays, the patient goes to see the doctor except when they are unable to do so or confined to bed.

Medicines kept at home

Medicines that, in general, are kept at home in the "home first-aid kit” provide information on what have been and are the most pressing needs in day-to-day life. As will seen from the information collected, a remedy would be handy for small injuries caused around the farm or at home, and for blows; bandages; ointment for burns and cracked skins; leaves of certain plants to make inhalations; herbs to prepare herbal teas for stomach pains and constipation, and not much more. Certain plants were also grown in a small part of the vegetable garden and were used for therapeutic purposes, along with other produce usually used for cooking, but which, possibly, would be used for medical purposes. Finally, other plants and herbs were gathered in the fields or mountains when they were in season, to be then dried and kept in the attic and used as necessary.

Medicinal plants cultivated

A sample of some medicinal plants or used as food, but also to cure ills, where were or are grown in the household’s vegetable patch are given.

In Agurain (A), barley, corn, absinth, rue, rosemary and parsley were grown. In Amézaga de Zuya (A), parsley was grown for ear and toothache, and both parsley and geraniums were grown to stop bleeding, and onion for wounds. In Apodaca (A), borage, rosemary, mint and rosehips were used.

Medicinal herbs collected in the fields or mountains

The information on Moreda (A) was taken as an example for this section. The following plants were there collected from the countryside, where they grow naturally throughout the municipal district: celery, cardoon, onion, horsetail, couch grass, lavender, eucalyptus, walnut and olive leaves, hawkweed oxtongue, marshmallow, mallow, camomile, mint, potato, cane root and sedges, rosemary, bran, sage, tea, linden, thyme, nettles, violets and yiebos. The homemade ointments, syrups and potion are made out using local oil, water, ammonia, grape syrup, sulphur with lard, bicarbonate, coffee, arum lily, ewe’s wool, milk, bleach, snake oil, mustard, Sor Virginia dressing, Epsom salts, brine, devil's club salve, wine, cloth bandages, suction cups and iodine.

  1. Ignacio Mª BARRIOLA. El curandero Petrequillo. Salamanca: 1983 p. 13
  2. Idem, La medicina popular en el País Vasco, op. cit., p. 127 This book dedicates a chapter to some famous healers of Gipuzkoa, such as Arnobate, Masa-Martin, Petriquillo, Sakabi and Trukuman. See pp. 135-151
  3. BARRIOLA, El curandero Petrequillo, op. cit., p. 41.