Whispering – A Slavic Folk Healing Practice

The Whisperers are traditional folk healers who live in villages in eastern Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. This healing practice is kept by the Elders, mainly the Grandmothers, who pass down their teachings through the family lines. The term “Whispering” is a direct reference to the power of sacred words and blessings which are spoken quietly, in a song like pattern while working with a sick person. These blessings are a combination of Christian prayers, folk songs as well as older, more rudimentary words of invocation. People believe that the gift to Whisper comes from God and can only be used to serve the community in a positive way. Religious people and even priests will often seek out the help of a Whisperer in certain matters. In addition to prayer, the Whisperers also use herbs, incense, ash and water for purposes of cleansing and divination. Common ailments treated by these healers are both physical and spiritual in nature. Whisperers can assist with and heal various skin conditions, heart and blood pressure problems, arthritis and headaches. On the psycho-spiritual level they help with removing curses and the evil eye, dis-enchating from negative magic, relieving anxiety and lifting night terrors from infants and young children.

Whispering is a beautiful and magical practice rooted in an ancient tradition connected to the powers of the Earth and nurtured by the community Elders. Even though at this time Whisperers are dominantly Eastern Orthodox, the origin of this work is much older and animistic in nature. When examining some of the remaining songs and prayers there is evidence of the Whisperer calling out to the Spirits of Trees and Plants as well as invoking powers of the Wind, Sun and Moon. Contents of certain prayers may have been affected by changing faiths through the centuries yet the active practice remains heavily influenced by the original folk beliefs and superstitions. This form of a healing, oral tradition appears in other Slavic countries as well. Due to climate, environment, and cultural influence each region incorporates different herbs and techniques, but at the core the practice comes from Nature and is nurtured by the Grandmothers.

The Ancestors

Let this pain lift from this man
From his bones
From his veins
From his skin
From every part of him

Let this pain go to the Crossroads
To the fields
To the forests
To the mountains
To the clouds
Where no foot walks
Where no dog barks
Let this pain go
To the Wild places where
It can roam free and be
And harm none

An old Polish healing prayer

Oracular Mediumship

Dreaming of the Grandmothers

For many years I have been dreaming of an old, singing woman sitting by a spinning wheel in a cozy room with a fire. She was small, had dark eyes and her grey hair was long and braided down her back. She would sit, spin and sing while I curled up in a rocking chair nearby. Sometimes she would feed me stew made from root vegetables and dried herbs, which she carefully picked from above the hearth. She would tell me stories while I ate. When she spoke her voice was like a hushed whisper of leaves in the wind. I couldn’t always make out the words, yet somehow this was of little importance. Sitting with her and watching her graceful gestures always filled me with ease. She felt safe and familiar to me, though I know we have never met; not in the ordinary world at least. One day I mentioned this dream to my mother who, upon hearing my description of this old woman, began to cry. She told me I was dreaming of my Great Great Grandmother who was a midwife and an herb healer in her home village in Poland. I had no previous knowledge of this Grandmother in our family and I probably would have never known if it wasn’t for this recurring dream. Thinking about her still brings tears of joy to my eyes. I have no hands on training or passed down knowledge to claim of our Ancestral Ways. Nobody in my living family openly practiced or spoke about healing until much later in my adult life. It was always something hidden and secret, something to keep quiet about. Prayers and songs were sung softly by my grandmothers over younger children before bedtime and forgotten during the day. Perhaps my curiosity and longing for these old songs was heard by this sweet Ancestor and she showed up one day in a way I could recognize and remember.

Since that visit from my beloved Grandmother I have maintained an active dreaming and journeying practice that allows me to talk with my Elders. I am always humbled by their compassion, good humor and wit. I truly believe that we can all connect with our Grandmothers and Grandfathers who hold our Sacred Ancestral Wisdom. They know what it is like to be human and to live in this body with the strengths and weaknesses our lineage lines may carry. They can offer blessings, prayers and guidance on all kinds of journeys. In a fast changing world it is important to remember their quiet and sacred language. They speak to us through dreams and subtle landscapes of our longing and memories.