I was duly and understandably chastised by one of my oldest friends, Christine, who has had a prestigious career in medicine, for visiting a healer, or ‘ôteur’ du feu. How could I, she asked, when together aged about 10 we dared challenge the establishment in the fifties and question the existence of a god.
Oh I agree; it is illogical and against a lifetime of challenging irrational beliefs. And yet, and yet, here in this part of France I am discovering that belief in the abilities of some people to take on or prevent burns is even more widespread than I thought at first. I’ve just been talking to a friend, a retired teacher and now a novelist, who referred to the long history of ‘healers’. An atheist, he is somehow able to accept the idea that there are physical activities not yet explained by science. Even more incredible, I have learnt that the Clinique Clémentville, one of the cancer centres of Montpellier, where my friend, Sylvia, is treated for her brain tumour, has a list of healers to offer radiotherapy patients, saying that they don’t know why, but ôteurs du feu have a good reputation for helping with burns.
Anyhow, to please my doctor, physio, vet and many others – and also because he is such a very nice man – I was back visiting Francys on Friday. Rest assure, Christine, he does not touch me – he just lays his hands above my abdomen, concentrating on emptying his mind of all thoughts. This time, he said, he could feel the rayons or beams much more than a week ago (so can I). Afterwards he washed his hands in cold water, but showed that even so, he had little blisters on his arms which had not been there before the session.
I’m feeling better now, but that is probably because it is the weekend, with no radiotherapy till Monday.