MAHATAA: The Yabuu, Medicine Woman


      I went to see the Yabuu, the Medicine Woman, the very next day with a note from the Noro requesting that she accept me as an apprentice. The Yabuu was the last of the three powerful women of my culture with whom I would be studying. Each gifted woman brought to me an enhancement of my senses, which strengthened my clairsentience, my sixth sense of inner knowing.

      The Noro had helped me use the power of clear mind, owing to meticulous training under the Old Monk, for the purposes of manifestation.

      The Yuta, soothsayer, had helped me sharpen my sight and my ability to comprehend situations and offer solutions. I could now discern hidden meaning in events, and I could help others through difficult life passages. She helped me hear in a different way, introducing a method of communicating with all living beings from plants and insects to higher animals.

      I was now approaching the last of the matriarchs, the Yabuu in the next village. Carrying my letter of introduction, I arrived at her thatched dwelling.

      “Hello!” I called out as I got closer. Already I could smell the powerful brewing of herbs.

       I caught sight of the Yabuu helping someone hobble out of the hut. Her long hair that had once reminded me of an even mix of black and white sesame seeds was decidedly much whiter now. Her hair was still tied in a ponytail that fell below her waist. She appeared to be in her seventies, but the Noro said she was well into her nineties. Perhaps it was her special medicines that kept her looking more youthful than her years.

      She moved about swiftly, and I could see her small bicycle stored on the side of her house, an indication that she was still quite active. Probably another contribution to maintaining her youth. 

      I remembered the first time we met during my visit with Great-Grandmother. She had told us about her aunt, a well-known yabuu, who had raised and mentored her, and had left everything to her.

      Great-Grandmother later told me that the Yabuu’s parents had been herbalists and had moved their practice to a smaller island in the archipelago. They moved away with their five children leaving behind the Yabuu, their sixth child, with the mother’s sister who was barren. The Yabuu grew up as an only child with her aunt who became a surrogate mother. This kind of practice was common in our culture. When women were barren, siblings would offer one of their own to them. It was not uncommon for those children to feel discarded by their families despite the love they received from aunts and uncles.

      As I approached the Yabuu, I could see her jaw was square and tight from clenching her teeth. I wondered if it was a habit that came from extreme focus or if there were still feelings of abandonment that she locked away and refused to talk about. 

      My thoughts were immediately interrupted by the Yabuu’s gruff voice. “Follow me.”

      She led me into her hut, where the strange smells of oils, vinegar and incense together with dried herbs assaulted the senses. Without a word, the Yabuu walked off to prepare a cup of tea leaving me to browse the small area. I found the smells were coming from a cabinet filled with crude clay pots housing dried herbs. I wandered outside and peeked at a bench beside the entrance where jars of herbs were suspended in various solutions. I could see some of the lids were not tightened properly, letting the smells of those decoctions waft through the air to mix with the other odors.

      The Yabuu came to the door and she was holding a tray of tea. She said nothing but stared at me with penetrating eyes, which I took to be an invitation back inside. There she served the loquat tea she had brewed. I held the cup to my nose as the fragrance was strong enough to help override some of the heavy smells in the air.

      “Please accept this letter of introduction from the Noro,” I finally said handing her the carefully written note as I sipped the herbal tea. 

      The Yabuu glanced at the paper and threw it aside.

      “So, you are the High Born One,” she said. 

      I noted her curt manners but decided that she, too, must have felt the urgency to teach me, because she began to do so without any form of introduction.

      “Most important for you is to see each patient clearly. After you complete your studies here, you will be able to read a patient’s emotional predispositions. Each of our emotions is associated with an internal organ. When a patient displays anger or fear, there are possible imbalances in the liver or kidneys respectively. You must be careful to look for other signs and symptoms so that you will know how to render appropriate treatment. You had better stay alert. I will only say things once. I am not going to repeat myself.”

      She brusquely turned away. I was unhappy that she was not going to be my friend. I preferred to be taught by an amicable teacher, but I had to bear in mind that I was here to learn everything the Yabuu knew and was not here for the sake of friendship.

Comments are disabled for this post