The life history of a Dorset folk healer: the influence of personality on the modification of a traditional role

Lovelace, Martin J. (1975) The life history of a Dorset folk healer: the influence of personality on the modification of a traditional role. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This study presents the life history of Les Ollerton, an English farm worker, and focuses on his practice as a healer, through the magico-religious technique of “charming” of warts and ringworm in humans and animals. His biography is based on a series of anecdotes and memorates told by him during tape-recorded interviews and informal conversations. These narratives are analysed for their information on folklife, traditional verbal art, and for insight into his personality and modes of presenting himself to others. -- The life history gives a partial view of family and community life in a Wiltshire village between 1913 and 1930 and the crafts of the cowman, hedger, and thatcher, are described in his account of his later years as a farm worker in Dorset. Rural biographies and autobiographies have been surveyed to provide comparative material. The attitudes of rural workers toward the acquisition, possession, and value of knowledge are discussed and especially as they compare with Les Ollerton’s attitudes toward the secret knowledge of charming. -- The traditional role, methods, and ethics of the charmer are described by reference to published sources and through his comments on his own approach to charming. The effectiveness of charming is found to depend, at least partially, on the establishment of an impressive persona and on narratives of successful healing which enhance the charmer’s reputation and contribute to his patients’ faith in the cure. -- His modification of the limited traditional role of the charmer to include, besides healing, advice in emotional or business problems, paramedicine, and informal social work, is compared with other traditional patterns of community service, from the counselling and divination performed by “white witches” or “cunning men” to the house-calls of family doctors and the pastoral visits of priests, Les’s interpretation of his role as a folk-healer is shown, through the insights gained from his life history, to be the result of a combination of personal motivation and community need.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 10923
Additional Information: Bibliography : leaves 323-336.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1975
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Healing--Religious aspects; Traditional medicine.

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