LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) – New Orleans resident Chuck Blamphin recently learned about Acadiana spirit healers or traitors while seeking treatments for a friend with a migraine headache.
As is usual on the Internet, one thing led to another, and before long he was reading about traitors.
“I’m not surprised that we have something like this in Louisiana culture,” said Blamphin, 75. “I’m not surprised at all.”
Becca Begnaud, one of the few Acadiana Healers with an online presence, first encountered the concept of faith healing in 1989 while undergoing breast cancer treatment.
“One of the nuns in the chaplaincy said I should get into the healing work,” Begnaud said. “I thought she was crazy.”
Now at 70, the Scott woman is a believer and a faith healer.
“Healing works – mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically,” Begnaud said. “Physical healing is only 25%.”
Traditional traiteurs (male healers) and traiteuses (female healers) treat people with specific prayers that are passed from one healer to the next. Prayers are often combined with other folk treatments, such as B. the use of healing touch and medicinal plants.
Begnaud, who previously trained in Reiki and healing touch, said caterers have been known to heal warts, headaches, sunstroke, sprained ankles, thrush, shingles and other ailments.
The prayers, which are considered a sacred gift, are traditionally transmitted orally in French. Healers are not usually paid or even thanked for their work, as there is a belief that God is the one who actually heals – traitors only facilitate treatment.
Mary Perrin, a traiteur from Lafayette, sees about two patients a month.
“A long time ago, people would line up at their door,” Perrin said. “A lot has changed in the last 75 years.”
Perrin, 75, uses medicinal plants in her work and also maintains a healing garden at the Living Folklife Museum of Lafayette, Vermilionville.
Perrin personally knows of 10 faith healers in Acadiana, but estimates there could be as many as 100. She doesn’t know anyone younger than 60.
“Everyone wants to know if I think it has a future,” she said. “And it’s kind of like the French Cajun language. Will this live on? No it is not. Only old people speak it, and when they die it will be gone.”
Perrin said she passed her healing prayers to someone a few years younger to keep the tradition alive. Begnaud has also passed on her prayers and agrees that it is a mystery how many traitors continue to practice.
“There is no register for these people,” said Ray Brassieur, a retired Lafayette-based anthropologist. “You can’t know that. None at all.”
This is partly intentional.
A century or two ago, people knew their neighbors and knew who provided what services in a community. With the advent of western medical practices and antibiotics, home remedies were viewed as suspect and even dangerous. This, coupled with the stigmatization of the French language in Louisiana in the early 20th century, led to the discouragement of traitement practices.
Almost all of Louisiana’s populations have historically practiced some form of folk healing.
“There was a lot of sharing,” Brassieur said. “There are Indians of different tribes, Cajuns, Creoles, Blacks, Whites, Italians – they all have some elements that are exactly the same. But over time, other forces made sharing more risky. If it was found out that you were doing this, the local doctor might look down on you, might speak badly of you. Or maybe people would say, ‘Oh, that’s a witch.'”
Brassieur, 68, said he believes there could be a resurgence in treatment in Louisiana due to a growing interest in natural remedies and the preservation of French traditions.
“Most people will say it’s a dying thing,” Brassieur said. “But I really don’t have any evidence of that. I know it changes – the context changes. that it goes away? I’m really not sure about that.”