What I have noticed as a constant in the Black Pagan community is a strong favor towards homeopathy over modern medicine such as vaccines. Always they would talk about their illnesses and ask what herbs or stones to get, what deities to pray to and such. It’s really troubling when they want to use this for their children’s primary care as well. I find that to be intensely problematic.

To have absolute distrust of vaccines is like raising a fuss over the water having fluoride in it, it’s very alarmist. It does more harm than good to opt out of “childhood vaccines” (e.g. Mumps, measles, polio, etc). Now, I personally have my reservations with shots such as flu and tetanus for my own reasons but it is not a bad idea overall to get the childhood vaccines because they prevent extremely fatal and preventable illnesses such as the whooping cough. It is okay to use potions and other forms homeopathy  but to rely on them totally while having incredible distrust of its more modern form, medicine, can still cause major health problems. I make potions myself to help when I get sick but I still go to a doctor when things get bad.

While it is a little foolish to be super skeptic of all vaccines, it is perfectly fine to be concerned about institutionalized racism in medicine because there is a long, very steady streak in that reaches into modern times such as now. Given that the face of medicine and science in the West is White, that can definitely cause suspicions to any minority that is concerned about their health because any minority that is aware of their history knows, usually when it comes to something vital, racism can really cause quite a body count through stereotyping, misinformation and forcing destructive privilege. When racism clearly will stop otherwise intelligent doctors and scientists from accepting perfectly good doctors and scientists from even entering medical schools or to simply help people thanks to their extremely illogical, unbelievably shortsighted and incredibly irrational ideas of those who can’t pass the paper bag test, it makes perfect sense to distrust that same system when it asks you to give them your arm so they can inject something into it.

History is riiiiiiiiiiife with medicine not boding well if you’re not White. Tuskegee, anyone? How about Eugenics? Even Bayer tested on victims of the Holocaust (and before someone screeches, “They were White! Racism affects us too!” there were more than Whites being detained. There were Blacks and Asians too, please get your facts straight).  There are countless, countless documents about racism in medicine and immunization – sadly science won’t fit in the scope of this post but, man, is there a lot of bigotry there too – that warps how minorities look at medicine and the system that provides it. Granted, in some of the writings I link to, the bigotry is pretty well outlined: “At least three patient factors affect ethnic and racial disparities in immunization rates: patient preferences, distrust of ‘the system,’ and lack of knowledge. For example, certain racial or ethnic groups may be more likely to call on religious or lay healers or to seek informal help through social networks rather than seeking care from physicians. Further, members of racial/ethnic minority groups often express a preference for providers from their own background, and such providers may not be available. Only 9%of physicians and 12.3% of nurses are members of a racial or ethnic minority group.” (p. 657, Larson) It already reeks a little of “They’re so irrational to be trusting these non-sciencey people we never vetted because of some silly conspiracy theory of ‘the system’ like we’re planning this.” How rude. At least the lay healers and social networks are less racist than the folks wearing lab coats on average. Unless you’re White, not sharing the same opinions as George Zimmerman is kinda a big deal because that creates the difference between being a sick person and a dead person. And, remember, this is a document that is actually talking about racism in medicine, thus recognizing it, and they’re still applying prejudice on the sly. That’s how pervasive that problematic (and potentially deadly) thinking is.

‘Ey, before I get any deeper, maybe we should familiarize ourselves with how vaccines are made and how they work. So here’s How Are Vaccines Made and there’s even a fun, interactive game called History of Vaccine which will take you through the times about health, sickness and preventative care from the 1600s to now.

Vaccines, in and of themselves, are not bad. To be honest, it’s better to be vaccinated overall because it reduces the chances of infection and fatal illnesses that are very preventable. There’s a reason why Americans do not have severe outbreaks of measles or polio. Right now, there is work on the HIV/AIDS virus and last I checked there has been amazing strides towards the cure and vaccine. Yes, there is the argument of mandatory vaccines and autism but even that has been proven not to be connected. In their purest form, vaccines are to be just that, a serum to prevent illness.

When it comes to medicine, potions are the starting point of it all. Whether science likes it or not, it has a lot of starts in witchcraft and medicine is included. What used to be regarded as folk herbs and folk medicine has been studied, bottled up and distributed in the form of pills, shots and syrups. There are various types of potions such as teas, tinctures, poultices and wraps. Some that I use are to help my throat when it’s sore, when my muscles are achy/inflamed/swollen, cramps, etc etc. I use potion work with modern medicine so I reduce visits to the doctor and stay healthy. I’m a little lucky that I have so many doctors and health professionals in my family (pretty much all my aunts and both of my grandmothers) so medicine knowledge trickles down but it’s information anyone who pretty much stayed awake in biology or biochem should know since medicine is merely knowing how the body works and how different substances interact with the body.

Anyone who is thinking of getting into herbalism and potion work should pick up a few books on how the body works, botany and things of that nature because without proper knowledge, potion work can become very, very harmful. Do not relax on the idea that because it came from nature, it’s harmless. There are plenty of plants, creatures and occurrences that come from nature and the earth and are plenty dangerous. To assume Mother Nature is some kind and benevolent being clearly is not a very realistic person. Possibly a fluffy bunny that should stay very far away from potions so they don’t mistakenly kill someone.

Aside from the natural function of the body’s immune system and things that can be used to strengthen them, I don’t believe there is a potion version of the vaccine besides vaccines themselves since they use actual parts of germs and viruses and, welp, there was nothing like that back in the heyday of potion making. Potions were taking things from nature and using those to make remedies for illnesses. This doesn’t mean that making teas and tinctures are phony and useless, it means that everyone has a territory for their own. Potion work isn’t perfect and neither is modern medicine but combined, they can create a pretty healthy person.

So! Get at least your childhood vaccinations? Yes. Be aware that the instruction of medicine can be super prejudiced to the point it could kill you if you’re a minority? Yep. Are potions worthwhile to do? Sure are, just know what you’re doing. Is it smart to distrust vaccines and go with homeopathy instead? Nah, not really, get at least the basic shots and know how vaccines are made. Don’t slough off potions for modern medicine? Sure, modern medicine had to start somewhere. Don’t slough off modern medicine for potions? Please don’t, modern medicine isn’t a total cock up, just some of the people who study it and all of the institution that administers it. Is fluoride bad for you? Newp, it strengthens your teeth with the amount that is in drinking water.

Stay healthy!

Next week is The Arts! Who is being featured:

– Lupe Fiasco x KRS-One Christmas Battle
– Rolling Jubilee
– EddsWorld

After that is Ask Black Witch, the last of 2012! Send in your questions! Good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated!