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Author Topic: The training of female Healers  (Read 7890 times)

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Offline Aerlys

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The training of female Healers
« on: December 10, 2013, 03:45:20 pm »
I started this discussion in chat on Sunday, but thought I'd mine some more input here. I need to wing it right now as far as info from the books, since everything is buried in my room at the moment. (4100 sq ft house, and the only safe place to stash and wrap Christmas gifts is in my bedroom. Go figure!)

Not much is said in the books regarding the training of female Healers during (or before) Camber's time. Deryni Magic has a nice section on Healers, but doesn't say much except that the gift is rare in females (except, perhaps, in fanfic!  ;D). Rhys stated that he knew of only 4 (or 3?) female Healers alive in his time. And IIRC, it basically says that Healers are encouraged to marry, and not pursue a religious vocation, in order to ensure the gift is passed on to future generations. Healing is a very esteemed and valuable talent. Since the Church, in general, considers a religious calling to be higher than the married state, this demonstrates to me an exceptional treatment of Healing.

Logically, then, it should stand that some exceptions would be made toward the training of female Healers. However, it appears that most training is done at religious houses, that would, of course, be for men. There were also those who were apprenticed to a single Healer, though this was considered inferior.

So...how were female Healer's trained? Would they be sent to a convent school first, and then apprenticed to a single master? Were they ever allowed to attend classes, lectures, autopsies, etc, accompanied by their master? Was this handled mostly by the Vanarites, who IIRC had a more pragmatic approach compared to the Gabriellites? (Yes, I know the Vanarites are the older of the two orders.)

There is historical precedence for religious houses of mixed gender in our own time in Ireland. In the Camber books, The Servants of St. Camber at Dolban (see HoG) were both men and women, for it states that "Dozens of stakes had been erected in Dolban's yard...embraced by men and women in blood-soaked gray habits..." (Guess which book I could find! :) ) So, there were some mixed houses allowed.

I seriously doubt the Gabriellite houses had any women religious. However, since not much is said about the Vanarites (no Codex handy to reference right now), would it be too much of a stretch to think that they might at least aid the training of women, though they (the women) might reside at a nearby convent instead, and perhaps have limited access. Would Dom Emrys make any exceptions and allow at least the occasional chaperoned observance of classes, etc.? If Rhys was aware of a handful of female Healers, then they certainly weren't hidden away, and conceivably had shown their faces somewhere in that circle. Rhys was taught at both the Vanarite and Gabriellite schools.

I tend to speculate that a woman's education began at a convent, and then would either stay there and attend some training with the Vanarites, or would then be privately taught by a fully trained Healer. And, if she was especially talented, her tutors could obtain special permission for her to occasionally observe autopsies, etc., or have special private lessons from other prominent masters.

Sorry to ramble on. I am working on my own fanfic, which involves one of the few known female Healers born prior to CoC, though she would be younger than Camber. As I was working on my main story, I realized the back story was so complex that it was too much to work in without risking some serious info-dump. So, I'm kinda back-pedaling and decided to work on the earlier story. (Some of my characters stopped talking to me, anyway, and decided they'd rather do the Safety Dance than get down to business.  >:( ) But, this means I need to know how and where she received her training. I'm a stickler for detail, and have been going absolutely insane! I want it to be believable.

Anyway, I'd welcome any input and ideas. At least I might rip fewer hairs out of my head, and retain my sanity a bit longer.  :P









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Offline Evie

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2013, 05:56:12 pm »
I don't have my copy of Deryni Magic handy at the moment, being at work, but I am 95% sure that there is a mention in there about the high infertility rate among women with the Healer trait, and I think it also implies that most (if not all) of those female Healers Rhys knew were in possibly in convents.  So if this tendency towards sterility in female Healers had been observed over the centuries and not something that readers of DM would know but that the people of Camber's day were unaware of, then it could be that the male Healers were highly encouraged to marry and pass on the gene, but that female Healers were encouraged to enter religious life, where their talents could be used in the convent infirmaries which gave access to their services to the general population as well as the religious community.  Considering that barrenness was generally considered to be the woman's "fault" in the Middle Ages unless it could be proven otherwise, and that it carried some social stigma, it wouldn't be surprising that most young women who knew they carried the trait would be inclined to enter into a community where they would not simply be accepted, but eagerly so, rather risk marrying and then finding out they couldn't produce heirs for their husbands in an age when bearing children (especially sons) was considered a paramount duty of a wife. 

That said, not all female Healers were barren, so there would have been some willing to take their chances and marry anyway, especially if they had no inclination towards a religious life, though if they were later widowed (especially if widowed and childless), they'd still be strongly encouraged to take the veil.  And depending on how much a Healer could sense about potential fertility, they might have had some way to pre-screen young maidens with the Healing gift to let them know beforehand if they had a good chance of being able to bear children or not, which might help a girl make a more informed choice about whether she wanted to marry or not.

So in any case, if Healer maidens and widows were steered towards religious life, they could easily receive training from the other female Healers in the convent infirmaries, as well as any cross-training opportunities they might be allowed to have with their Healer brethren.  Some from Healer families may have also come into the convents with prior training from a relative.  And the married female Healers would probably be allowed to seek training from the convent infirmarians as well in addition to whatever training they might receive at home, as long as that didn't interfere with her wifely and motherly duties.  (Then again, a man who marries a female Healer and knows of her gift ahead of time would presumably want her to be as well trained as their circumstances allow and wouldn't begrudge her the time spent learning how to wield such a useful gift.  Otherwise, if having a well educated wife with a useful and much needed trade was for some reason a problem for him, he could have easily picked a non-Healer to marry instead.) 
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Offline Aerlys

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2013, 08:05:37 pm »
I don't have my copy of Deryni Magic handy at the moment, being at work, but I am 95% sure that there is a mention in there about the high infertility rate among women with the Healer trait, and I think it also implies that most (if not all) of those female Healers Rhys knew were in possibly in convents.

Hmmm, that doesn't ring a bell at all, and I just recently went through DM, paying special attention to the section on healing. However, considering that my reading time is usually after everyone else is in bed, I may have been glazed over at that part.  If you can give me those page numbers, I'd appreciate it. Rhys' daughter wasn't barren though, was she? I don't think she was discouraged from marrying, either. (OK, I should know this, but Ive got a lot of other stuff going on in my mind right now.)

« Last Edit: December 10, 2013, 08:24:52 pm by Aerlys »
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Offline Evie

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2013, 08:20:56 pm »
I'll check my copy for the reference when I get home tonight.  I think it's somewhere where I can get to it easily.  I remember it because someone (Alkari?) was debating whether or not to have Briony become a Healer in a fanfic she was writing due to the higher chance of female Healers being barren, so I looked up the genetics when I got home.
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Offline Aerlys

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2013, 08:27:09 pm »
Thanks, Evie!

So in any case, if Healer maidens and widows were steered towards religious life, they could easily receive training from the other female Healers in the convent infirmaries

That does make me wonder, though, if female healers were so rare, receiving training from other female Healers might not have been so easy. One would think, then, that there were only one or two convents available for this, if there was only a handful of such women around. And what convent would that be? Hmmm, methinks this complicates things even more...

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Offline DesertRose

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2013, 08:50:12 pm »
KK say something in Magic about female Healers possibly having fertility issues, although it doesn't seem to have been an issue for Jerusha Thuryn, who, according to the Codex, married Cathan Drummond and had three children.  I can't put my hands on my copy of Deryni Magic right now, so I can't give page numbers.  She also suggested that female Healer fetuses (and possibly also males) had a higher rate of miscarriage than fetuses not destined to be Healers. 

I wonder, personally, if the paucity of female Healers could be explained by the fact that there was NO apparatus in place to train women to be Healers even if they did carry the gift.  Evaine apparently had a far higher education than most women of her time and place; your garden-variety Deryni woman, especially common-born, might not have had anything remotely approaching Evaine's opportunities.  So I think probably a lot of women Healers went undetected and therefore untrained or barely trained because the male-dominated society of that time and place just didn't even think to look for the gift in women and girls.

I'm probably not helping, Aerlys.  Maybe I should stop.  :P

Offline Evie

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2013, 09:20:13 pm »
But then again,  family medicine did fall under the purview of women's work in the Middle Ages, at least when it came to the care of simple maladies and injuries you wouldn't need to call a physician or surgeon for (though that would cover a wide range of ailments,  since often they wouldn't call a physician unless they were desperate unless money was no object).  So that might give them incentive for seeking out the Healing gift in girls,  who may even discover their gift in the course of treating an injury by more conventional means, and maybe trying their hands at Healing if the patient takes a sudden turn for the worse.

In the real Middle Ages, women could train to be physicians at the University of Salerno.  Maybe,  considering the nature and scarcity of the Healer gift,  that was one of the exceptions to the rule where Gwynneddan female education was concerned.  After all,  wouldn't a medieval man prefer for another woman to give his wife a thorough physical when required,  rather than another man?  Even in the stricter Middle Eastern nations today, women are allowed to learn the healing arts in most areas due to the recognized need for women's healthcare in a culture where modesty is preserved at all costs.
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Offline Laurna

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2013, 09:38:49 pm »
I have reviewed the subject of Healing women being infertile as is said in Deryni Magic.  But I know there is at least one exception to this idea that is well known.  Jerusha Evaine Judotha Thuryn Drummond is the fourth child of Rhys and Evaine.  She is a known healer and she had three children: Kyriella, Corwin and Evalina. (Codex page 135).  At least in fan fiction I know that I and perhaps others want to entertain the belief that at least some female healers can have children.  I used this example of Jerusha for my own fan fiction character.  I allowed my character to have children and pass along the healing trait to future generations, seeing as she was still in the same genetic line as Jerusha.  Perhaps, there are other genetic traits that make the possibility of being a female healer more likely to be infertile or not.

As for training female healers?  I believe Desert Rose is right. I think family would train their own children. Like Camber trained Evaine. Hopefully, there was another healer in the family and he would train the young female healer, personally.  Then she would start working with an infirmary, which would give her hands on experience. I think it would be more of an apprenticeship than professional training.

And women working with women would be a very important job, as Evie has said.

Offline Aerlys

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2013, 10:47:47 pm »
She also suggested that female Healer fetuses (and possibly also males) had a higher rate of miscarriage than fetuses not destined to be Healers.

Thanks DR, I do remember that, and this is helping. I also worded my first post poorly, having been crunched for time (while being smooshed by a 3-yr-old).  I do know that, for reasons of propriety, it would be more fitting for a woman to be trained by a family member who was a Healer rather than some unrelated male. And, obviously, she would never function in society the same way a male Healer would.

And while this is stretching my cranial capacities (I'm also having to educate myself on certain issues pertaining to my autism-spectrum child, now that he finished his psych therapy and is waiting to get back into OT. I also juggle the business paperwork, manage the homeschooling, handle the holiday logistics...my brain is full!) I think I can make this work. I just get hung up on details, and already put a huge amount of research into the original storyline. Now I get to do even more!  ;D I don't want to write anything full of obvious GCE's.

The back story is going to be a stretch for me; it is more of a romance, something I really don't have the knack for, since I rarely read, let alone write, those kinds of stories. A lot of my frustration is also due to a lack of time and energy. I rarely seem to be able to write anything down lately. The other night, I got all the littles to bed, and was bursting with inspiration...

Then DS needed help with Advanced Algebra.   :o

There's something about exponential equations that puts my muse in a coma.   :P


OK, deep breath. Hmmm...gonna need to do some fancy comb-overs in the morning.







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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2013, 12:21:32 am »
Aerlys, I found the section about female Healers in DM.  It starts on page 179 and goes to 182 in my copy,  and addresses most if not all of the points mentioned in the various comments tonight.

All right,  nighty night!
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2013, 09:07:38 am »
She also suggested that female Healer fetuses (and possibly also males) had a higher rate of miscarriage than fetuses not destined to be Healers.


Then DS needed help with Advanced Algebra.   :o

There's something about exponential equations that puts my muse in a coma.   :P


OK, deep breath. Hmmm...gonna need to do some fancy comb-overs in the morning.

Exponential equations would put anyone's muse in a coma.  So, I've found, does writing a research paper. :P

Given the genetics involved, I have the suspicion that the worst case scenario might be two healers marrying and trying to have children.  Unfortunately, with the passage of time, this fact would have been forgotten and the few Deryni Healers left may have married in the hope of increasing their chances to produce Healer children, and ended up defeating their best intentions.  Thus the Healer shortage was made worse.

*Offers Aerlys a package of hair extensions*   :)
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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2013, 10:00:30 am »
  Even in the stricter Middle Eastern nations today, women are allowed to learn the healing arts in most areas due to the recognized need for women's healthcare in a culture where modesty is preserved at all costs.

I used to teach at the University of Kuwait; their Medical Faculty reserved half their entering slots for female students.

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2013, 10:10:56 am »
Given the restrictions on females going about and doing things, do you think perhaps that a female Healer might pull a Sweet Polly Oliver, like Margaret Anne Bulkley, a/k/a James Barry (1789-1865)?

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2013, 10:57:01 am »
Aerlys, keep in mind as you are researching that if you have a story in mind that doesn't fit with the traditional mold for a female Healer, but you believe strongly enough in your characters and story, you can always make your female Healer one of the "exceptions to the rule" that abound in real life as well as in fiction.  For instance, real world history has had quite a few examples of what Elkhound calls the "Sweet Polly Oliver" trope--women disguising themselves as men to go off into battle, seek out adventures, or do some other traditionally male task.  There have even been women leading men into battle in real world history.  And to bring the example back to Healers, there were occasional avenues for women to learn the healing arts outside of family training, it's just that they weren't the norm for all parts of the medieval world during all centuries of the Middle Ages.  However, if one happened to be a woman lucky enough to be born in the right century in or near Salerno, it was quite possible to attend university and become a physician.  So don't hesitate to write the exception to the rule.  Just be aware that it is an exception, and allow that to influence your story.  That's a great source of potential conflict for your character(s), as they try to pursue their training in a culture that is not accustomed to women receiving a higher education as a general rule, and doesn't quite know how to deal with a woman who doesn't fall readily into the expected norms of behavior.

And since you have limited writing time (I know that feeling!), don't worry about trying to get all the details right in the first go if that inhibits your storytelling.  Just use that time to let the words flow, and turn off the inner editor as much as you can.  It is much faster to tweak a draft that is already written and make changes to scenes or chapters as required.  So just let your imagination flow until you've got the gist of the story you want to tell, and then go back and change what needs changing.  (Having said that, I'll admit I'm generally hopeless at taking that advice myself, but it works very well for other writers, so hopefully it will work better for you.  ;D  )
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Offline Aerlys

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Re: The training of female Healers
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2013, 12:38:20 pm »
**Gratefully attaches hair extensions**


Aerlys, keep in mind as you are researching that if you have a story in mind that doesn't fit with the traditional mold for a female Healer, but you believe strongly enough in your characters and story, you can always make your female Healer one of the "exceptions to the rule" that abound in real life as well as in fiction. 

There are exceptions, and then there is stretching the limits of credibility. That's the trap I'm trying to avoid.

Actually, I can probably work out the logistics in the backstory. My character is generally conservative...with a wee bit of daring. I just need to figure out how her father ever consented to let her marry a Norselander in the first place ("Viking" was not a term they generally used for themselves,), konungsson or not! As far as the main story, I've already got a pretty good (convenient) reason why my main character doesn't fit the mold, at least by Gwyneddan standards.  Once she gets to Gwynedd, she's going to have a real learning curve! So will I, in all likelyhood.

I just really am plagued by doubts, and fear that once the stories are posted (if ever!) I'll be bombarded by people saying, "Wait a minute, that doesn't work because [insert glaringly obvious error that I somehow missed]."

While I always enjoyed history, ancient history appealed to me most. So, while this forum abounds with people whose knowledge is rich in Medieval history, I know only just enough to be dangerous. Yes, I know there are good books out there, but dang, my life is so busy right now! Plus, my brain hurts.

Any "Sweet Polly Oliver" scenarios will be reserved for emergencies. At this point, at least.  :D

Ah, well. Perhaps when the time comes Ill let someone look it over before posting, and they can tell me if I'm way out in left field or not.







"Loss and possession, death and life are one, There falls no shadow where there shines no sun."

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