by Caysie Gilbark, UCSD, Anthropology 10/09
Lynda Yracébûrû is a Gypsy healer focusing in the modality of Vas Pesh. Although she has not always had knowledge of her Romani past, she now treats many people with many different diseases and disorders using Romani healing methods. After her own personal struggles, she discovered her own inner power and how she was to use it to help people. In an attempt to understand the healer myself, I obtained an interview with her to gain knowledge of her past, present and future.
As I parked my car in the woody farm area of Escondido, California, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The area that Lynda’s farm is located in is its own different world from the busy city environment around it. It is quiet aside from the sounds of a breeze going through trees and a few people talking to the llamas in a pen to the right of my car. The earthy, farm surroundings made me nervous about interviewing Lynda at her home because I was out of my element. I managed to start my walk up to the front door. As I was making my way to ring the bell, I came across Lynda in the driveway where she told me she was going to take the trash out and would be return shortly. I waited and reviewed my notes until she returned. As she walked up to me, I extended my hand to shake hers and introduced myself. I was instantly flooded with a feeling of being at ease when she said to me that she was “a hug person” and asked my permission to give me a hug. After a firm and kind hug, we made our way up to the front of the house and she took me into a room in which the walls were all windows. Looking around you can see that the house is the home to a couple at one with nature. There are Native American artwork pieces and photographs all over the walls. Even though the house was filled with boxes for an impending move to New Mexico, it was obvious that it was not just a house –it was a home and I was very luckily accepted into it. Sitting down at her table, I looked at Lynda and realized she was not what I had envisioned when I read the word “Gypsy” on her website. In my opinion, there is a preconceived notion in our culture that Gypsies, or Romani people, are very eclectic and strange looking people who do nothing but travel from place to place doing art. They are almost seen as an outcast in society. What I was looking at, however, was a warm looking woman who looked like she could have been my next door neighbor. It seems that the word Gypsy has actually come to represent something that it does not necessarily mean. According to Smith (1997, 244), “The Romani Nation is, therefore, a political, cultural and social symbol (rather than a geographical construct) through which the world is divided into two spheres, the Gypsy and the non-Gypsy.” To me, this means that the Gypsy is anyone who comes from this background or takes part in the culture’s behaviors of being nomadic or leading a life that, to us, is considered unconventional. Being Gypsy – Rom – is more than just moving from place to place. It is a culture and a lifestyle that has evolved over time to include people who, just like Lynda, are mostly sedentary
After sitting down, I realized that I was not going to need to ask many questions. It was obvious that it was not going to be an interview; it was going to be a storytelling. The first thing that this storytelling had to offer was Lynda’s account of her medical past. She hadn’t always known that she was a Gypsy healer or practiced the healing modality of Vas Pesh. She had originally found her medical start as a cardiovascular x-ray technologist and got her start in teaching hospitals around the Northern bay area of California. Devoting her days and nights to work, she would struggle through shifts lasting up to sixteen hours long at a time. After fifteen years working in the hospitals and helping heal other people in the Western medical field, she began to feel herself deteriorate. The radiation from working with x-rays had begun to poison Lynda’s body causing bleeding, degenerative bone dis-ease resulting in dental deterioration, kidney failure, severe pain, migraine headaches, tears and bone spurs in her spine. After spending close to two decades working within the Western medical system and helping patients, she needed to become the patient herself. With her life force seeming to fade, she tried everything Western medicine had to offer and realized that she had become just another number. Lynda quickly became bankrupt and had an emotional and physical breakdown. She had finally realized toward the end that the Western medicine she had encountered had done nothing but simply “put a band-aid” on the problem and eventually led to her body feeling an addiction to any chemical medication she was given. Miserable and alone in the hospital, she felt that she was ready to die.
At this point in her life, Lynda had what some might consider to be a revelation. I could see her face light up as she ran her fingers over her hands and told me, “I instinctively knew to hold my hands in different ways or to hold certain areas of my hands and wait for the pulses because if there are no pulses there is no energy flow. Different finger represent different organs in our body and if there is no energy flow, there is no life.” Through this, she discovered what she called a “cellular knowing” of healing oneself through the hands. She began to do research on the different modalities of the hand and instead of calling what she discovered “learning”; she called it “remembering” because she felt that she already knew this and it was just buried deep inside of her. She took what she “remembered” and she put it to use in her own healing and began to explore her own hands. She would massage her hands, hold stones in her hands and place stones on the places of her body needing help. After a while of working with the healing modality of Vas Pesh, she began to feel better; she began to feel the life re-entering her body. Her body healed itself and she never had to go on to take any further medications from the Western medicine system that had been failing her so far. This revelatory time of Lynda’s life was made complete by the entrance of her partner Maria. Maria Yraceburu, a Native American healer, ceremonialist and authur, was able to help revive the energy flow in Lynda’s body by giving her herbs and using stones.
Not only did Maria help Lynda’s health, but she also fueled the healing curiosity in her mind. With the help and suggestions of her partner, Lynda began to trace her roots back to her father who was a Hungarian Gypsy. During the time her father was young, the Gypsy, or Romani, lifestyle was not something that was seen as acceptable. The Romani people would have to live their lives “undercover”, as Lynda put it. They were at risk for persecution by the Nazis and even the general public. Her father, being ashamed of his roots, hid the fact that Lynda was, in fact, a descendant of the Romani people. Upon discovering her heritage later in life, she began to learn how to heal from the woman she calls her “adopted grandmother”, Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Juliette was an herbalist and healer that was considered to be among the first Gypsy scholars by many people. She taught Lynda the ways of her people and encouraged her to explore the history of the Romani healers in her lineage. When Lynda spoke about Juliette, I could see the love and respect radiating from her. It was very evident that Juliette changed her life
After I asked what, in Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s teachings, inspired her the most, Lynda gave me two examples. The first thing that inspired her was a legend handed down generation to generation. In the story a Gypsy woman who was captured by Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust ends up being the cause of his demise. Auschwitz had just been created and among the first to be put into it were the Gypsies. Hitler had been using the Gypsies to test out the gas chambers. He had one Gypsy woman that he kept for his own entertainment and to get herbs from. One day, he asked her to read his future from his palm and when she did, she saw a horrific sight. Hitler was not happy with her reading and tried to force her to tell him what he was doing was right. She refused and later, when he came to get herbs from her, she poisoned him with an herb that led him to go insane and resulted in his suicide. This story was told to Lynda by Juliette and deeply touched her heart and soul. The second moment that deeply inspired her and changed her life was the moment Juliette finally read her palm. Lynda would beg Juliette to read the future that lies in her palm but Juliette would always refuse. Finally, after some coaxing, Juliette read her palm and told her one thing. She said, “This is the medicine of your people. Use it. Share it. Be well.” This simple statement became the motto and basis of Lynda’s healing.
Through her work with Juliette, Maria and her own exploration, Lynda has gathered an extensive understanding of how the human body works. One of the most notable things during our conversation was her pronunciation of the word “disease”. Rather than creating a liaison between the two syllables, Lynda pronounces the word “dis-ease”. The simple pronunciation is an enormous indication of how she treats her clients and their illnesses. Lynda views the body as a whole in which the mind, spirit, and body all come together. When a person is feeling ill and is not feeling at ease, they are experiencing dis-ease. Dis-ease can stem from a large range of sources from organ failure to depression. Unlike the treatment for disease we are familiar with receiving from many Western doctors, treating dis-ease is more about treating the body naturally and as a whole.
In Lynda’s current practice, she uses many methods to work with individuals and groups, that either seek her out , or she asks if she may help them but the main focus is the healing modality of Vas Pesh or “handwalking”. In Vas Pesh, the hands are massaged in and caressed in areas that correspond to parts of the body. Not only are the hands used to “chart health” in a sense, but they are actually the way that the body is healed. I was fortunate enough to have Lynda offer to show me what Vas Pesh was all about. She took my left hand first because that was the receiving hand. This is where the energy is entering the body. As she began to apply pressure and simulate different parts of my hand, there was tightness in sections of my hand that I hadn’t noticed before. She felt her way through my hands finding tense areas that represented different issues of the body and massaged them until they were loose again. She told me that by doing this, she was releasing the blocked blood and energy flow back into those areas of my body in order to make them healthier. After doing the pressure massage on my hands, she ran her fingers over the two deepest creases in my hands- what she called my “life line and heart line”. By doing this, she told me, it would increase the power of my overall blood and energy flow to my whole body and give my life force a jump start. She soon switched to my right hand and repeated everything- the massage and running her fingers over my life and heart lines exactly twenty four times each. It is her philosophy that if you teach someone to do this on their own, you are basically teaching them to heal themselves.
Vas Pesh has many uses, from healing simple things such as headaches to saving someone from a fatal illness. Lynda stated that “anything the mind could possibly conceive, Vas Pesh can help heal”. One significant example of handwalking’s healing powers came in the form of a story from Lynda’s recent past. She and her partner Maria had been at a gathering in which a tree was cut down and carried to the top of a very steep hill. There was an elderly woman walking up the hill when she began to exhibit the classic early signs of a heart attack. Having a background in cardiology, Lynda immediately recognized it and began to “work” or massage the woman’s life line and heart line. This gave the woman the strength to survive and when she was able, see a Western doctor who was amazed that she survived
Another extremely important healing tool that can be taken away from having Lynda work with you is the importance of water. She suggests that people should drink at least half of their body weight in ounces each day to “maintain and sustain the system since our bodies are seventy-five to eighty percent water”. When someone is beginning to feel ill or is in pain, she suggests that they step their water intake up to their entire body weight in ounces each day. She told me, much to my surprise, that eighty percent of the symptoms that people ask her for help to relieve are signs of dehydration. She is an extreme advocate for the use of hydration to maintain health who actually has been jokingly nicknamed “the water Nag” because she is constantly insisting that water is the key to health.
Lynda also joins forces with her partner Maria to an extra unique form of alternative healing. They combine the concepts of Maria’s Native American healing with Lynda’s Gypsy healing to create a whole new entity. One of the methods of Tlish Diyan healing they use is a sweat lodge that multiple people participate in. "They host this sweat lodge in which people can come and basically eliminate the toxins from their bodies by sweating them out. They sit in a closed up area in which steam is created and they are subjected to high temperatures that trigger the body’s natural reaction to sweat to cool the body which, in turn, eliminates any toxins that would have been lingering in the system" (Walker 1966).
The final – and in my opinion, the most interesting – healing method that Lynda discussed with me is the assistance of the snake skin she has named “Tzegojuni”. While explaining to me that she has had this snake skin for over fifteen years, she searched through a box until she removed a bundle wrapped with rabbit fur. She had found him as road kill and knew his spirit could help others. She asked my permission to remove “him” and introduced me to the snake skin that is Tzegojuni. After she places him in my hands, I noticed he was still as soft as a snake that was still alive. He was smooth and gentle in my hands. Lynda began to explain to me while I held Tzegojuni that he helps transmute dis-ease by being placed over the body during a ceremony in which his spirit goes through the body and finds the issues and rids the body of them.
After putting Tzegojuni back into his bundle, Lynda and I began to talk about what comes next in her life. Lynda will be taking her practices to New Mexico where she will continue to work with individuals with a mixture of her modalities and her partner Maria’s modalities. Along with her spreading health thru this modality to the people she consults, she will also be continuing the line of Gypsy healers by teaching people through a workshops and classes how to heal using the body’s energy. She teaches groups of people how to heal using Vas Pesh, stones, music, chakras and herbs. BodyWisdom Trainings consists of 4 sessions lasting 5 days long over the course of two years. Although she has the plans to continue teaching in New Mexico, she is willing to go wherever life will take her.
Being invited into the home and life of Lynda Yracébûrû was a truly informative look into the life of a true, modern day Romani healer. After overcoming the struggles and obstacles that life had handed her and discovering her heritage, she began a journey into a new life in which she is able to give back to the people around her by sharing her healing through Vas Pesh and her other mixed healing methods. Whether it is saving a life on a mountain or simply relieving a patient’s headache, Romani healing has become an integral part of Lynda’s life. In regards to the medicine of her people, her mentor once told her to “use it, share it, [and to] be well” and Lynda will continue to do just that. Her mentor once told her to practice the medicine of her people; to “use it, share it, [and to] be well” and that is exactly what Lynda intends to do