A Breton village and the healer

As in many rural regions of the US, small towns in less-populated parts of France have difficulty finding doctors to work there. A little over a week ago, news articles started popping up–both in the French- and in the English-language media–about a village in northern Brittany (La Roche-Derrien) that had been experiencing this problem. While the issue was sadly commonplace, the solution that the village leaders had arrived at was decidedly not: La Roche-Derrien was hiring a druid healer to be the new local doctor.

Brittany, as a Celtic land, has had a long history of traditional healing, passed down from generation to generation. Friends in Brittany have told me how every area has at least one local healer. The healers don’t put a shingle out, but the locals know who it is and where to go when they need help with physical or psychic difficulties. I don’t know how many people avail themselves of the healers’ services in modern times, but clearly some do.

I myself have never been to one of these healers, so I cannot speak from personal experience about how they practice. Nor can I say whether there is commonly seen to be a connection between the druidic culture of long ago and modern-day Breton healers. But I’ve always found it admirable that traditional healing practices–and so many other traditional cultural practices–have been maintained in Brittany to this day.

But even I was skeptical of this story: would modern French bureaucracy ever permit a village to bring on a traditional healer as a town doctor? In fact, it would not. Almost immediately, this story was revealed to be a hoax carried out by the village, with the help of a PR agency, to get people’s attention because the village is in need of a town doctor and they can’t find one. They’d even hired an actor to pose as the purported druid healer to bring the story to life. I hope all the buzz that they generated helps them to solve their doctor shortage. But for many rural areas, this growing lack of local doctors is creating an increasing health crisis.

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Published by

Madeleine Adkins

I'm a linguist and a writer, with a passion for the Breton language, Celtic languages in general, and endangered language communities who engage in revitalization efforts. I've published some articles about the Breton language situation in some academic journals, and I'm planning to publish more in the near future. I spent most of the last decade moving around--first to Santa Barbara (grad school), then Colorado (teaching), and then Brittany (researching the Breton language revitalization movement and improving my Breton speaking skills)--and now I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even though I am living far from Brittany at this point, I still keep in touch with my friends and colleagues in the Breton-speaking world, and I'm still involved in language revitalization issues.

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