spiritual healer Poland

Spiritual Healers in Poland

 
 
 

Vocabulary

border whisper bring forth
local blood (2) know/knew/known
cloud price (2) point out (2)
witch cast upon as far away as
heal believe take/took/taken
pray nervous take effect
knock negotiate definitely
agree protect get better
drape asthma feel/felt/felt
mix practice name day
holy burden patient (2)
allow Cyrillic no matter
forbid receive turn to you
cloth gift (2) shoot/shot/shot (2)
fiber cast (3) mysterious
ritual warmth counter (3)
chant humbug subject (2)
seem disorder layperson
suffer trip (2) approach (2)
nest dialogue stand/stood/stood
ensue barefoot lying down
liar practical flow through
sure available speak/spoke/spoken
trance look into Orthodox
stork authority say/said/said
doubt spell (2) go/went/gone
faith explain psychotherapy
curse celebrate discretely
burn touchy competition
region interview practice (2)
fear come by by appointment
enemy put into seek/sought/sought
treat restless see/saw/seen
doubt touch (2) bring/brought/brought
linen outsider insomnia

 
 
 
 
 

Video

 

 
 
 
 

Transcript

Eastern Poland near the border with Belarus. There are women here who are known as whispering witches. Not everyone here is Catholic; there are about 600,000 Russian Orthodox Poles, and nearly all of them have been to a whispering witch. Local people discretly point out where they say one lives. Her patients are waiting outside the door.

They come from as far away as Warsaw — that’s a three hour trip. But nobody here is willing to talk to us, not the women outside — and most definitely not the witch herself.

Local Woman, one: “All of us go to the witch; we’ve even taken our son to see her, and she helped. Before he was so restless.”

Local Woman, two: “It helps people who believe; it won’t help the ones who don’t. It’s like going to the doctor: she’s a grandma who heals with prayer.”

Local Woman, three: “They can heal anything. My mother took me to one when I was little: I had a nervous disorder . . . and she really helped.”

A witch is said to live in the nearby hamlet of Rudkap, here in this house. We knock. And after lots of negotiating the whispering witch Anna Artemiuk, agrees to an interview. She was just going to treat these two men for asthma and insomnia.

Anna Artemiuk: “Yes I can do it; I have the gift. It was years ago. I was asleep and he came. He said ‘I shall give you this gift — now you will feel a warmth inside your head. That’s the gift.”

Anna the witch is 84 years old. She’s been practicing for 40 years now, using among other things holy books written in Cyrillic letters. She says the gift can be a burden.

Anna Artemiuk: “It’s a high price I pay for the gift. I’m not allowed to celebrate any birthdays or celebrate name days; he forbade it. I can’t go to the movies.”

She puts Andrzej Pawlowski who is suffering from asthma into a trance and drapes a cloth over his head. Then she burns some linen fibers above his head, part of the whispering witches’ mysterious ritual.

She chants a few words in a mix of Belarusian and Polish that she says counters the bad magic. It may seem to outsiders like humbug. But she says that within a week, it ought to take effect.

Then she tells the insomnia sufferer, Mikhail Kruk, to look into the clouds behind the stork’s nest — and a fascinating dialogue ensues.

Anna Artemiuk: “Do you see Jesus?”
Mikhail Kruk: “I see white.”
Anna Artemiuk: “Is he standing or lying down?”
Mikhail Kruk: “He’s standing.”
Anna Artemiuk: “Wearing shoes or barefoot?”
Mikhail Kruk: “Wearing shoes.”
Anna Artemiuk: “You liar! Look closely Jesus doesn’t wear shoes.”
Mikhail Kruk: “Right he’s not wearing shoes.”
Anna Artemiuk: “You see; I know better what you see.”

Both patients are deeply religious and have no doubt that the witch’s words have healed them.

Mikhail Kruk: “Something warm flowed through me. I’m sure it will help me. It’s a feeling everyone has to experience for themselves. It was warm and hot — that’s how it was.”
Andrzej Pawlowski: “Those were special prayers the witch spoke for me; prayers that are only available and known to us Orthodox. These prayers are something special; laypeople must not say them — only someone who’s got special authority, like the whispering witches can do it. They also have the experience.”

The head doctor at the Bielsk Podlaski District Hospital, Doctor Arsalan Azzaddin, takes a very practical approach to the whispering witches.

Arsalan Azzaddin, Bielsk Podlaski District Hospital: “Let the patients go to them. They’re not competition. That’s psychotherapy and faith. I even know doctors who’ve gone to these women, and aren’t able to explain why patients suddenly got better.

Marek Wlodzimirow, Bielsk Podlaski Ethnologist: “That’s black magic: here culture, faith and blood have mixed for centuries. It’s no simple matter. I’ve heard people have been cursed. Here is a border region, the whispering witches still know the old spells for how to curse people, how to cast bad magic upon them.”

Nine whispering witches still practice in this region. One of them even travels in a mobile home and receives patients only by appointment. She was whispering for this patient when we came by. This woman is seeking nothing less than happiness and love . . . but that’s no problem for this witch.

Eugenia Maciejewicz: “People will turn to you. Have no more fear of your enemies: my magic powers will protect you. I see people who love you. Only these people will bring forth positive feelings for you, and these feelings will touch you every day with my and God’s power.”

The Orthodox Church in Poland has its doubts about the witches. But no matter where we asked nobody would agree to an interview on the subject.

As we were shooting these pictures, an old Orthodox monk explained no one here will tell you anything about the whispering witches. It’s a touchy subject.

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Questions

1. Poland is a 100% Catholic country. True or false?

2. “Yes I can do it; I have the gift. I was asleep and he came. He said ‘I shall give you this gift’.” What is this gift?

3. Are “Whispering Witches” medical doctors? Do they treat patients with medication? How do they treat patients?

4. Do locals like, admire and respect the Whispering Witches? What do they say?

5. Everyone feels very positive about the Whispering Witches. Is this right or wrong?

6. Do the Whispering Witches only cure physical ailments, aches and pains?

7. Everyone loves to talk openly about the Whispering Witches. Is this correct or incorrect?

 

A. There are spiritual healers or practitioners of alternative medicine where I live. Yes or no? Who are they? Describe their practices.

B. Are they popular? Do many people visit them? Has it changed over time?

C. What normally happens to people when they have physical ailments or problems?

D. Do you know of any alternative treatments or folk remedies?

E. What are some potential treatments and cures? What are some potential benefits of spiritual healers?

F. What should people (and the medical establishment and the government) do? What might happen in the future?
 
 
 
 
 

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