"Ritual Medical Lore of Sephardic Women" preserves the precious remnants of a rich culture on the verge of extinction while affirming women's pivotal role in the health of their communities. Centered around extensive interviews with elders of the Sephardic communities of the former Ottoman Empire, this volume illuminates a fascinating complex of preventive and curative rituals conducted by women at home - rituals that ensured the physical and spiritual well-being of the community and functioned as a vital counterpart to the public rites conducted by men in the synagogues. Isaac Jack Lvy and Rosemary Lvy Zumwalt take us into the homes and families of Sephardim in Turkey, Israel, Greece, the former Yugoslavia, and the United States to unravel the ancient practices of domestic healing: the network of blessings and curses tailored to every occasion of daily life; the beliefs and customs surrounding mal ojo (evil eye), espanto (fright), and echizo (witchcraft); and, cures involving everything from herbs, oil, and sugar to the powerful mumia (mummy) made from dried bones of corpses.
For the Sephardim, curing an illness required discovering its spiritual cause, which might be unintentional thought or speech, accident, or magical incantation. The healing rituals of domesticated medicine provided a way of making sense of illness and a way of shaping behavior to fit the narrow constraints of a tightly structured community. Tapping a rich and irreplaceable vein of oral testimony, "Ritual Medical Lore of Sephardic Women" offers fascinating insight into a culture where profound spirituality permeated every aspect of daily life. Isaac Jack Lvy, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Spanish Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina and founder of the American Society of Sephardic Studies, is the author of "And the World Stood Silent: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust" and "Prolegomena to the Study of the "Refranero Sefardi"".