Juliette de Bairacli Levy, a world renowned herbalist, author, and pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine, passed away on May 28, 2009, at the age of 96 in Burgdorf, Switzerland.1
“Juliette is the grandmother of the renaissance of herbal medicine in America,” said Susun Weed, de Bairacli Levy’s friend of 20 years (oral communication, June 22, 2009).
De Bairacli Levy was born on November 11, 1912, in Manchester, England. She studied veterinary medicine at the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool,1 but she ultimately did not approve of the treatment of animals at these universities.
“She was disturbed by the drugs that were given to animals and the use of hypodermics,” said Weed. “That’s when she set her sights toward learning herbal medicine from the people of the earth—gypsies.”
After 2 years in veterinary school, de Bairacli Levy went on the road to study herbal medicine from gypsies and peasants.1 In the late 1930s, she had a distemper clinic in London, where she treated and cured hundreds of dogs with herbs and diet when many were dying of distemper worldwide.
During the 1930s, de Bairacli Levy developed a line of herbal supplements for animals, called Natural Rearing Products. These were the only products of their kind on the market for 50 years, and they are still nationally available today.1 She wrote many influential books on veterinary herbs, including The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable (Faber & Faber, 1952, 4th edition 1991), The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog and Cat (Faber & Faber, 1955, 6th edition 1992), Common Herbs for Natural Health (Schocken Books, 1976, Ash Tree Publishing, 3rd edition 1997) and Nature’s Children (Faber & Faber, 1968, Ash Tree Publishing, 1997).
“When I first read one of Juliette’s books, it was as though she breathed life into my heart. She gave me the courage to learn herbal medicine from the plants themselves,” said Weed. “She will live on through her writing. A new generation of herbalists will be influenced, nurtured, and touched by her books and herbal knowledge.”
Weed, editor-in-chief of Ash Tree Publishing, will bring 3 books by de Bairacli Levy back into print by 2010 so that her influence will continue into the next century. Those books are: Spanish Mountain Life (Faber & Faber, 1961), Gypsy in New York (Faber & Faber, 1965), and Summer in Galilee (Faber & Faber, 1963).
Rosemary Gladstar, a widely known and respected herbalist and author, said she first discovered de Bairacli Levy’s books in the 1970s during a trip to Sonoma County library, where she was researching what at that time was highly limited information about medicinal herbalism (e-mail, June 23, 2009). She came across 2 titles by de Bairacli Levy, Gypsy in New York and Traveler’s Joy (Keats Publishing, 1979, 1994)
“As I read these books, something ignited in me,” said Gladstar. “I felt like I had found a kindred soul. I wrote her a long ‘love’ letter, telling her of my love and fascination with medicinal plants and sent the letter off to her publishers in England, never, of course, expecting to hear from her. But several months later a letter did arrive, and Juliette and I began a correspondence and then a friendship that lasted for nearly 4 decades.”
Gladstar also reminisced about visiting de Bairacli Levy with a group of herbalists when de Bairacli Levy lived in a “little stone cottage by the sea” with no electricity or running water on an island off the coast of Greece named Kythira: “We camped by the sea, cooked out with her over a small cookstove and shared stories late into the night,” said Gladstar. “Juliette was a superb storyteller and had lived such a fascinating life and she could entertain us, and did, for hours.”
Gladstar further added, “From the moment I read her first book to our first and final meeting, I always held Juliette as a kindred spirit, a freespirited gypsy woman, beautiful beyond words, amazingly original, a great story teller, and a complex and deep human being. The force of her spirit was so strong and charismatic, that even as an older woman, I would watch people stop and stand to watch her walk by,” said Gladstar. “She just had a power about her….”
De Bairacli Levy was also a dedicated naturalist, according to friend Caroline MacDougall, founder and CEO of Teeccino Herbal Coffee (email, June 16, 2009). “She was happy eating the simplest of foods made from locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs, and eating cheese she made herself from goat’s milk,” said MacDougall. “Juliette was so committed to a natural lifestyle that when she contracted typhoid fever while nursing her baby daughter, she trained her goat to come every 4 hours so her daughter could nurse directly from the goat’s teat!”
De Bairacli Levy also preferred fresh ocean water when enjoying one of her favorite hobbies: “She was a great swimmer and great lover of the sea, and always, until just a few years before she died, would go into whatever body of water was near and swim daily, but she loved the sea best,” said Gladstar.
De Bairacli Levy was also well known for traveling with her 2 children, award-winning afghan hounds, owls and other animals all over the world while gardening and gathering herbal remedies.1 “She loved the wild places and nature with all her soul and being and, until the very end, was an advocate for animals and nature,” said Gladstar.
In 1998 Frontier Herbs presented de Bairacli Levy with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the herbal world.1 Also in 1998, Juliette of the Herbs, a documentary film about de Bairacli Levy directed and produced by Tish Streeten, film-maker and herbalist, became available by Mabinogion Films. More information about the film is available at: www.julietteoftheherbs.com.
“Juliette was truly one of a kind who lived her life intuitively and close to the earth,” said MacDougall. “My life owes so much to her inspiration. I give thanks for all the wisdom she imparted that brought so many of us to the herbal world.”
De Bairacli Levy is survived by her daughter Luz, her son Rafik, and 3 grandchildren. More information about de Bairacli Levy is available at www.wise-woman-way.com/Juliette-de-Levy-Bairacli.html.
—Kelly Saxton Lindner
1. Streeten T. Biography: Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Available at: http://www.juliette-de-bairacli-levy.de/bio.html. Accessed June 29, 2009.