Ingeborg i Mjärhult

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Ingeborg Danielsdotter i Mjärhult, (1665 – 23 July 1749) was a Swedish natural healer, medicine woman, herbalist, natural philosopher, soothsayer and spiritual visionary. She was one of the most famous of the many so-called Cunning folk of her time in her country's history.

Life[edit]

Ingeborg was active in Virestad in the parish of Kronoberg in Småland in the first half of the 18th century. She was the daughter of the peasant Daniel i Uthövdan and she married Måns Gudmundsson i Mjärhult, with whom she had four children. She was sought after for medical care at a young age, and became a so-called "wise old woman" when she was in fact still young, and she became famous after she became a widow in 1716.

Her view was that the nature spirits of folklore were in fact the fallen angels of Lucifer. She taught that humans consisted of two beings; the human above the earth, who walked with her feet above the earth, and the human of the underworld. These two beings walked adjoining each other, with the soles of their feet against each other, above and below the surface of the earth. She had been inspired to this belief by seeing animals looking down upon their reflection on the surface of the lakes. When someone became ill, she claimed, it was because the underworld part of that person, the antipode, had collided with some of the spirits of the earth.

It was said that she could tell what sickness a person had, simply by handling a piece of that person's clothing. She then revealed exactly what spirit the sick person had disturbed and recommended that he or she apologize and offer milk to the spirit, to a stone or something similar. She specialized in epilepsy.

Ingeborg was often questioned by the authorities, but she always defended herself by saying that she did not harm anyone. In 1740, the bishop of Växjö brought her in for questioning and lectured her for her "superstition". He ordered people to stop seeking her help. Ingeborg responded that she only used bandages prepared with herbs plucked at midsummer moon, as she had learned from her mother, and that she did not harm anyone. The people ignored the bishop's order.

The harassment from the church only increased her reputation. She was very popular and her reputation spread throughout the country; in 1741, Carl von Linné described how people from all over the country came to her for help and guidance;

"The wise woman Ingeborg i Miärhult and Wirestad was sought over from all over the country as an oracle and had a greater name than many a doctor who had learned and practiced medicine all his life... She had a daily business with the common people from all over the country who trusted her."

Ingeborg spent her last four years in her son Håkan Månsson's cottage and died at the age of 84 in 1749.

Many such medicine women were known, especially in the 18th century, who were reputable and sought after by people from across the country. One such woman was Brita Biörn, who came from a long line of medicine women and who only became more famous and popular after having been punished by the church for "Superstition" in 1722 and 1737; another was Brigitta Andersdotter 16th century, who was often hired by queen Margareta Leijonhufvud. Many, but far from all of them, mixed their medicinal practice with spiritualism, as Ingeborg did.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Wilhelmina Stålberg, Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor (Notes on Swedish women)