Barbara Tedlock Author of THE WOMAN IN A SHAMAN'S BODY

03/06/06

Americans are incorporating alternative therapies and medicines into their lives more than ever before. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, 36% of adults in the U.S. are using some form of alternative medicine. When megavitamin therapy and prayer specifically for health reasons are included, that number rises to 62%. "We’re in a major change moment," says Barbara Tedlock, Ph. D., a noted anthropologist and author of the new book The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine. "Beliefs and spirituality are coming back into medicine."

"Some doctors are prescribing patients yoga training and acupuncture," continues Tedlock, a distinguished University of Buffalo anthropology professor, who’s a fully initiated shaman. "I’m excited that we’re seeing a major shift of our regular Western paradigm. We’re in a moment where this whole thing is breaking into the mainstream. Americans are extremely pragmatic. If something works, we’ll do it. Well, guess what? It’s working."

While many people are still just beginning to explore and benefit from alternative healing practices, Tedlock has long known of their tremendous power. As a child in the late 1950’s, she was stricken with polio. The entire left side of her body was paralyzed. Doctors put the four-year-old Tedlock into a tank respirator, better known as an iron lung. She was confined to the immobilizing metal machine for a year-and-a-half.

It wasn’t until her grandmother, a shaman, herbalist and midwife, talked her parents into releasing her from the hospital that she got better. A still ailing Tedlock was brought home to a difficult regimen of daily swims and sweat baths that were intended to awaken the muscles. Her grandmother complemented that treatment by massaging her with ointments made from various healing herbs.

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