The Current Theme : Symbolism
Author: Peter Fenton
Date : February 2007

In the Tobriand Islands historically the medicine man or shaman wielded considerable power; he was also in possession of a fetish – a piece of stick or stone – both of which were accepted by the islanders as possessing magical properties. The two, shaman and fetish in combination, held enormous power.

Therapy consisted of sea water emetics, lancing of boils and trepining the skull to release evil spirits: the parallels with Western medicine and its 3 branches are obvious. Equally all therapists are in one sense shamans vested with power, operating with white coats and treatment room paraphernalia, linked to a kaleidoscope of fetishes viz drugs, needles, scalpels, homeopathic or herbal tinctures, osteopathic or chiropractic thrusts, hydropathic compresses, magnets, ultrasound machines, diet sheets and prescription pads.

Nature Cure seeks to invalidate or disempower the fetish, the therapeutic short-fall being made up by special characteristics within the therapist. The dynamic is developed further as the therapist, as educator, seeks to progressively diminish his/her role via patient empowerment.

Fixing at all levels involves fetishes, facilitation their disempowerment – the exceptions being where pathology has progressed beyond the point of natural resolution, here technique is all viz emergencies, dental restoration, ocular transplants and joint replacements.

Clearly within the scenario enormous scope exists for power-wielding by the therapist and financial exploitation of the fetish. This latter has been the subject of critical review in Kingston literature for at least 60 years, although proponents will argue for their therapeutic effectiveness and/or that they meet public demand.