The Zen Garden in the Body and Soul area of the popular Electric Picnic festival held in Stradbally, Co. Laois each year, has quite the tradition of having Homeopaths available for treating festival goers. It echoes here in Ireland, albeit in a less formal way, the ongoing work of the Travelling Homeopaths Collective in the UK, which ensures that every major festival there is supplied with a mobile clinic and trained homeopaths.
It was while working at the Glastonbury festival with the THC, that Dublin-based homeopath, Helen McMeel got the idea to approach the Electric Picnic with a view to running something similar for them. So, together with Dierdre Houlihan, Helen set up the first Homeopathy tent at the Electric Picnic in 2005. They had a comfortable yurt from which to work, graciously provided by Avril Stanley, the organiser of the Body and Soul event area, beginning their successive years of supporting Homeopaths at the festival. Helen and Deirdre, equipped with a Helios kit, took acute cases on a donation basis, and promoted and explained homeopathy to the festival goers. Wherever they saw someone with a chronic condition, they referred them to a registered Homeopath in their area.
Helen remembers “One lady who was assaulted at the festival came to us distraught and got Aconite, Rescue Remedy and a safe place to recover. We made her up a hot water bottle and she went away settled and reassured. This was after she had been to the first aid tent, who could only offer her paracetamol.”
“The other interesting thing about treating at the festival was the immediate feedback that we got from prescriptions – people were coming back hours later or the next day and telling them how their ailments had improved. It was very rewarding to see the swift responses to remedies in a way that you don’t generally get to see in clinic”. Daniel Burge followed up in the Electric Picnic of ’06 as Homeopath on-site at the Body & Soul, treating bee-stung eyes, Ecstasy comedowns and the marathon-runner exhaustion of the serious ravers (with Piper Methysticum or Kava Kava in a 9x – a remedy for hitting “the wall” in endurance sports). Daniel had a space in one of the communal therapy tents where he could take cases and was given a ticket to the festival in exchange for his work – he wasn’t charging for taking cases.
“Working on my own there was great, but really hard” Daniel recalls. “Acutes could easily become constitutionals, but it was tricky prescribing for someone knowing that you might not see them again and knowing that they might go and get off their trolley at the festival. Then some of them would come back the next day and become quite attached to you. I had no shortage of people who wanted to see me and it all got very social – it did seem to go very well, but if I could have handed the baton to someone else during the festival, that would have been great. It was exhausting.”
“The potential is for people at a festival to open up and have dialogue about things which they’d never talk about normally – you’ve got lots of young people who haven’t been indoctrinated by the negative media stories. It’s a great way for people to connect with community. I love talking to people about medicine at festivals, because they’re really open to discussing it.”
The Picnic of ’08 saw Elizabeth Flynn and Seamus Byrne earning their tickets into the Picnic based on their work as homeopaths. Elizabeth was based at the busy family information point, taking all manner of children’s acutes and Seamus stayed around the Zen Garden, having people referred to him by the information desk and sitting with them wherever there happened to be a quiet spot. Mags (Margaret) Shanley and myself were working with Reiki in the communal therapist’s tent, but also taking quite a few homeopathic acutes each, and using the colour remedies via chakra prescribing as part of Reiki practice.
Seamus relates his experience of that year – “When I arrived at the Zen Gardens I was put at the information desk because we had no tent. This happened to work out perfectly, as I was at the centre of the action. I was there longer than the information staff who changed personnel regularly.”
“I knew all the therapists and could give people good information if needed. Elizabeth and myself had our first-aid sign which looked well and attracted patients to us. My first case, I remember, was of a young girl who came with her boyfriend and who was looking for a consultation. So we went into the center of the enclosure where it was more private. She said that she had no energy and didn’t know how she was going to get on through the weekend, as this was Friday and she felt really tired. After talking to her for awhile to find out what kind of person she was, we discovered that she was someone who was eager to please others and together with other confirmatory symptoms I gave Ignatia 200c, one pill.
Seamus at his tent
It was on the Sunday evening when I bumped into the boyfriend again and he said that she had more energy now than when she arrived. ‘Great’, I said, ‘so she took it easy?’, ‘Not at all’, he said, she’d been dancing and drinking solid for the last two days.'”
Elizabeth adds – “At the Electric Picnic that year I was given a lovely tent in the Family area with the St..John’s Ambulance. As always it was wonderful to be there as a homeopath and I did genuinely have the ambition that everyone would leave the picnic with a good impression of what Homeopathy can do for them.”
“So what were the cases like? Well as I remember they were many and varied. A couple of children presented with bee stings; Apis and a great deal of attention sorted that. There were many hangovers and ill effects of drugs; lots of different remedies from Nux vomica to Bryonia and Lycopodium.” “One case that really sticks in my mind was a girl with a burn – she was working in one of the tea tents and had spent the whole summer travelling with that tent from one festival to the next, all over Northwestern Europe. A great deal of tears flowed, way beyond those justified by the minor burn. The story unfolded. There seemed to be many plans, but she had lost her drive and had become indifferent to the point of irritable. She was stunningly beautiful but drained and exhausted. So I gave her some burn cream and a China 200c. She came back the next day saying she had not slept so well since childhood. She was abundantly happy and renewed with vigour.”
“That’s also how I left the picnic – optimistic and full of the joys. I hope everyone left the picnic, renewed and invigorated, even if everyone didn’t leave with the knowledge of how amazing Homeopathy is for body and soul. Next time for that eh?”
When it came to 2009, Seamus Byrne, Fred Walker and myself worked out of a small blue gazebo in the Zen Gardens. We brought all the capacity for accurate and fast prescribing in the field that we had, to bear on a steady stream of interested clients who hovered and then sat, usually relating a chronic issue rather than the acutes we expected. Unusually for Homeopaths we were a group of three men, which was refreshing. We covered our expenses with freely given donations and had a great time in the process.
“There was quite a bit of prescribing remedies for people who’d overdosed on various substances like Ecstasy.” Fred relates “One girl, a classic Pulsatilla, came back to me the next day in great form after coming to see me with the after effects of Ecstasy. While I enjoyed it, I was very glad that I had a decent bed to sleep in and a warm shower every morning in a friend’s house in Stradbally!. I got to see Billy Bragg, though the sound wasn’t great. Despite this, it was wonderful to see the festival and to be a part of it.”
I treated a man who had travelled the world far and wide, particularly India. We swapped stories while he related his symptoms, which included hand tremors and the after effects of laser eye surgery, for which he received Euphrasia for his acute situation and Sulphur constitutionally. He’d done all sorts of interesting journeys to remote monasteries in Asia and volunteer work with poor children. He found the remedies effective and we stayed in contact afterwards and from time to time I get an email from him asking advice for a friend or for a new prescription.
Fred Walker doing consult
Again, the Body and Soul production team supported Homeopaths by including us among the healing practices onsite. It was great to catch up with the many friends and colleagues who dropped by to say hello over the course of the weekend – all pleased to see Homeopathy present at the festival, very supportive and full of stories.
Open Homeopathy made its first appearance at the Electric Picnic in 2010. It’s an educational charity, shortly to be incorporated, the establishment of which is a project I’ve been working on for over four years. Open Homeopathy aims to enrich the training of homeopaths and raise awareness among the general public through running affordable clinics and educational events. This includes a presence for Homeopathy at festivals of all kinds, such as the Electric Picnic.
Jane McLaughlin, Rita Garland, Mags Fitzgerald and myself went under that banner in a 5m sq. tent housing two consultation spaces in the Zen Garden. Some of us had kids with us and we all camped together in the crew area. We made up a roster and set up a cot in the corner for my son Darragh who, at 8 months, was the youngest festival goer among us. Laura, my partner gave bellydance workshops and Jane’s son Luca, learned to play Diabolo. Rita’s kids ventured out into the festival with Malcom their dad and loved it.
All weekend we were busy with quick acute prescriptions and some more considered, holistic ones. We explained Homeopathy to many people using the Irish Society of Homeopaths’ useful series of explanatory leaflets for handouts and gave an interview to the BodyandSoulLive.ie podcast of the festival. The consultation spaces were for people who needed more time and privacy to explain their state. MacRep Homeopathy software was on hand too, plus many reference books. After Friday’s slow start, the pace never let up from Saturday Morning ’till Sunday evening. Some liked to hover by the entrance and chat first before telling what was up with them and not come into the tent, while others strode purposefully in and asked for a full consultation. We treated headaches, hangovers, splinters, back pain and hayfever, but also deeper issues of chronic anxiety, recurrent infections and grief.
Jane adds “Working at the festival in the Homeopathy tent was a non-stop buzz. I remember one particular lady came in looking for some advice for coeliac. Based on her symptoms I gave her Graphites as an acute and suggested she visit a homeopath. She went on to tell me she had used it with great success many years before and this was the reminder she needed. The energy that was created within our tent was reflected by the interest; it was full on, with an array of conditions. Remedies were flying out the door at a pace I thought I was incapable of administering. The experience comes highly recommended.”
There’s something about the dynamic of festivals that makes people open to trying out new things and for many over the years at the Electric Picnic, it was Homeopathy. People can be so relaxed and open that their case literally just falls out of them, sometimes in a much shorter space of time than in the formal setting of the consultation room. Often, those interested may have had their condition for months and not seen a change with their conventional treatment – and were optimistic about getting benefit from a new approach. It is heartening to think back on the many cases we saw for whom the remedies and a positive experience of Homeopathy may have changed their lives significantly for the better. We’re already looking forward to keeping the tradition alive and doing it all over again this year.
Mark O’Sullivan – Homeopathy Dublin
The Travelling Homeopaths Collective