Healing Aunts of the Isles of Scilly.
Heath was an officer of the Isles of Scilly Garrison in the late
1740's. In the preface to his book "Account of the Isles
of Scilly" published in 1750 he explains his design &
style... and that he expects criticism that his inclusion of Customs
and Manners of ordinary people is trifling ... there were Historians
who say serious works should only contain transactions & events
of the Great Men of the Age.
We should be greatly indebted to Robert
Heath for his foresight and down-to-earth reporting.
the books Witchcraft in England / Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe;
indicate "solitary practitioners of a spiritual profession"
on Scilly in Heath's time there seems to have been a "college"
of healers with a particularly strong wisewoman (Aunt Sarah Jenkins)
as it's leader.
Quotes & Extracts about the 'Aunt'
healers, from the book "Account of the Isles of Scilly"
Aunt Sarah is remarkable for her venerable long beard,
which some imagine operates miraculously to the Benefit of those
who stroke it.
Their Systems and Hypotheses are to help those in distress for
Pity's sake rather than for Profit. They have no Ambition to be
thought sagacious as Conjurors, by significant nods, shrewd looks
and mysterious hard words, nor do they assume an Air of Importance
for the sake of a Fee.
Their whole Art is delivered in Plain and Intelligible English...
and their sole view is to remove Pain and procure Ease, a sick
Stranger or Islander of Circumstance, can seldom prevail with
them to accept of any Present till the Cure is performed. (completed).
are all good botanists, and have added a great many Herbs to their
They have a store of Chymical and Galenical Medicines which were
brought to these islands by surgeons of Merchant-Ships and Ships
of War (sometimes Apothecaries). The Simples and Compounds of
their Dispensatory consist only of such Medicines as they have
in the course of their Practise, for some Hundreds of Years, found
They have some Disguised Nostrums and Specificks, the true Secrets
of which compositions are held by Aunt Sarah.
They have no human skeleton to shew the
articulation of the bones, but they direct the slipping in of
a joint, the joining of a limb by comparing it with it's fellow,
at the same time applying Something to ease the Pain. Wounds are
soon cured by their soft bandages and warm Balsams, Swellings
reduced by their comforting warm Pultices.
The origin of the following poem is not stated, not even Anon,
it is possible that it was written by Robert Heath.
we behold what Doctors ought to be,
Their practice what, and what should be their fee.
Taught by Old Women, let them learn their part,
How much they owe to Nature more than Art.
The fam'd Hippocrates they never read,
Galen, nor Boerhaave, Hans Sloane, nor Mead.
Dispensaries, the Doctor's last resource,
Are substituted by a skilful Nurse:
She ministers, but watches Natures cue,
And wife Experience tells her what to do. (wife
or Wise ?)
With Simples, or Compounds, as suits the case,
She moves the Pain, and gives the Patient Ease.
The Pulse she raises, in low Ebb of Blood,
And lowers to Order, throbbing at high Flood:
With Words of Comfort banishes each Fear.
And friendly sooths away the Patients Care.
O mighty Phoebus! if you can, prescribe (Apollo
A better Practise for the learned Tribe:
For which of all ye Sons of Art can vaunt
The Cures accomplish'd by a Scilly-Aunt?
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