Author: Francine Lys
Lucy and the mummies: a case of Chelidonium majus
by Francine Lys
Lucy, born in 2003, is the youngest of four children. Her oldest brother is 20, followed by a brother of 17, then a sister of 13. Lucy’s place in the family, according the older ones, seems to play a role in her pathology. She has been in consultation with me since she was 2 months old, on an irregular basis, since her mother usually consulted a nearby allopath in times of need. Lucy often came down with ear, nose of throat infections and sometimes bronchitis, for which certain remedies have proved effective.
In October 2009, I received a phone call from her mother, who was in complete distress due to Lucy’s behaviour: “Lucy is washing her hands endlessly – as soon as she stops, she starts to wash again, and again, and again. Everything has to be in its place. At first, she just started in her own room. She straightens everything up, then she has the feeling that something has been moved and she has to start all over again; she does this time and time again. Then, she starts to tidy up the rest of the house. She shifts everything 1 mm, then, has the feeling that things have been moved and she changes them again and again.”
Lucy has a grandmother with the same sort of obsession: “I’ve got the same sort of weirdness as grandmother, but I never wanted to become like her.” She cries but this does not stop her from having to repeat her tidying. Gradually, she started doing the same things at school, which was disturbing her schoolwork; if her pencil had been moved 1 mm, she had to shift it 10 or 15 times again. She did the same thing with all the things on her desk. Being so occupied by all this, she could not follow the directions of the teacher, and lost a lot of time.
Consultation: October 2009 I decided to adapt my consultation to this child and her “specific problem”. My way of working is not the same for everyone, and is often spontaneous rather than the result of an intellectual effort, as though I am tuning in to the energy of the patient.
In the present situation, I asked her to come on her own into the consultation room, and did not ask a single question to her mother. I said “Today, it is just Lucy that I am concerned about, and not her problems. I would like to get to know your charming young daughter by herself. I will call you in to give you the name of the remedy.” Lucy’s mother accepted this.
Realising the feelings of helplessness and distress rising from her compulsions, in the context of a child who has seen her grandmother suffer from the same symptoms, I decided not to ask her about this at all, unless she broached the subject herself. The following is the text of the consultation, somewhat shortened, though nothing has been modified in her answers.
Francine Lys (FL): You have started your first year at school – how’s it going?
Lucy (L): I like it a lot. I like to work and I like to read…
FL: And how’s it going at home?
L: I work, I do my homework… I play… I made puzzles, play with my doll, I like to play that I am the mistress of the house, like mummy and daddy. My Mum plays a bit with me sometimes, and my father cuddles me. My big brothers don’t play with me. I play with my big sister on the computer. When I was little she played a lot with me, but now she only wants to play on the computer with me.
Lucy makes a comparison with “when she was little,” a good occasion to talk with her about her childhood.
FL: What was that like, when you were little?
L: My sister and I used to pretend we were filling the coffeepot, and we played restaurant, going on vacation, playing and eating in the house.
Since we are talking about this time, I ask her to talk about fears or dreams of her early childhood. Often, when we ask the child if there are fears or nightmares they will say “no”, but if we ask “did you have them when you were young” they will speak more freely, feeling free of judgement.
FL: When you were young, did you have any fears?
L: I used to be afraid of vampires and of people who were “living dead”.
FL: Can you explain that to me, “living dead”?
L: Yes, there was a film. My father used to forbid me to watch these films on the computer… There was a singer, Michael Jackson. He made me feel scared, he didn’t talk our language (French). My father showed us films of a werewolf, and that really frightened me.
FL: What’s that, a werewolf?
L: First it was a normal person, and then he was transformed into a horrible wolf.
FL: And what’s it like when you are afraid?
L: I choke, and sometimes the tears run down my face and I can’t sleep.
L: I don’t feel well, and I don’t feel like sleeping, and I get a headache.
FL: What do you do then?
L: I cry, I get up and get a glass of water then go back to bed.
Lucy seems very upset by what she is telling me. Apparently, she is ‘living’ the experience at that moment, since she is speaking in present tense. I try to distract her a bit.
FL: Are there films that you really like?
L: I love films about the magic of Christmas, and about dwarves. I love it when there are glittering sequins. But once I was at Walibi (an attraction park in Belgium), and in one of the attractions there were mummies – I was really frightened. I was afraid that someone could be pulled in by the mummies and that they could kill us.
FL: The mummies?
L: Yes, the mummies could wake up in the cave. The mummies – when I saw all that… Last night, I had a nightmare about the mummies that made me jump up; I started to cry and I needed my parents.
Prescription: Chelidonium majus 200K
Lucy’s mother returned and I gave her the name of the remedy. I told her that Lucy and I had had a good talk, but did not tell her what we talked about, and said that she did not need to tell me anything. I asked to see them again in a month’s time.
The remedy was prescribed on the base of this one consultation, but the kingdom and the class were confirmed by a very particular aspect that I knew from other consultations, concerning her sensitivity to pain and her great fear of it.
But who is Lucy? What is her character? Let’s look at the traits described by her mother in previous consultations. Interestingly, none of them helped me to find the remedy.
The “human” face of Lucy
Lucy’s mother says that she is a difficult child. She moans a lot and has temper tantrums.
She is authoritarian, wilful, and manipulative.
She has a bad temper when she wakes up, grumbles and moans about everything.
She has no patience at all, and is often in a bad mood.
She often has a fear of failure.
She is very sentimental and sensitive.
She has a group of friends, who are mean to her, but she swallows this; she doesn’t say anything but she suffers from it.
She is very quickly upset if she is reprimanded.
She feels guilty very easily, for instance if she has broken a vase by accident, crying as though it is a catastrophe.
At school, she plays the fool, she makes herself noticed, does not do her work well and gets into fights, so she is punished a lot. She said to me: “If someone does something mean, I do something mean back because I get upset, but I don’t really like to hit.” At school, there was a vote for the nicest girl of the class, Sarah got chosen but Lucy did not get one single vote. She was inconsolable. (What kind of ‘marvellous’ teaching method is this!) In order to gain her place, she has to put down others. At home, however, she is really nice, and she tries to do everything to please her mother. Lucy has always been very sensitive to pain; she is a scary-cat – the least pain takes on terrible proportions. She tells me that she has had a dream about skulls.
In 2007, she told me that she had had “horrible dreams”: in one there was a snake alarm, and in another one there was a dead man who became a monster, someone who turned into liquid.
Physically, she has colds followed by spastic bronchitis. In 2006, she had measles, with just a few spots. Her mother is frightened by the fact that the measles did not fully develop, since her own father died from measles when he was 40. When she was young, Lucy easily vomited and could make herself vomit. She did not tolerate fruit.
Follow-ups November 2009: Lucy is doing well – for the last month she has not been troubled by her compulsive behaviour. She says: “These days, I am not tidying up so much anymore.” The compulsive behaviour disappeared after an episode of rhinitis. Usually, this is accompanied by a high fever and a cough, which did not appear this time.
At school, she is doing well and obtaining good results. Her dance teacher has commented to her mother on how well she is doing.
FL: Do you remember what we were talking about last time?
L: This Sunday, I was really afraid of the daughter of the exorcist. In the film, a little boy had to put a ball in a labyrinth, and then one sees the exorcist’s daughter. She had red hair, and that made me afraid. I imagined that she was coming, and on Sunday, I was afraid and I waited for Mummy. It was because of the music – my sister was playing that music on the piano, I was afraid, and she showed me the video again.
I talked to Lucy’s mother about what we had talked about the previous time. In fact, I was quite astonished that Lucy’s father had caused her to be so frightened when she was young, showing her a video with Michael Jackson when she was so obviously afraid. Lucy’s mother confirmed this, explaining that they sometimes forget how young Lucy is. “We sometimes show things that are not really suitable for her age, and the older ones are amused at her fear, and tease her because of it, without realising the consequences of what they are saying. As far as the episode at Walibi goes, that doesn’t exist. Lucy has never been to Walibi.
FL: you talked to me about Walibi…
L: My sister showed me a dead man who got out of his coffin, and there was a mummie, too, a living dead. But I’m not afraid of the living dead anymore.
At the end of this consultation, I was surprised to hear Lucy’s mother ask: “Could you do something for Lucy’s warts? She has quite a number of them.” We take a look at them, and to mother’s surprise, there were only about half as many as the last time she looked. She was being treated by a dermatologist for plantar warts (there had been nearly fifty on her foot soles), of which he had frozen off the largest ones. Her mother had added some chelidoine… This treatment was stopped as it was unbearable for the child, and also for her mother: Lucy was shrieking from pain. From the time that they had been removed, she started to experience her night terrors.
After that treatment, Lucy’s mother decided to stop talking about the warts or even looking at them. The treatment was stopped at the end of July, and it was only during this consultation that she looked at them again and noticed the (spontaneous!) disappearance of the warts. We remarked that even though Lucy was somewhat “maniacal” beforehand, it was since the removal of the warts that the obsession had begun in earnest. The “suppression” and the “ailments from…”, so precious to homeopaths, help us to understand the appearance of these obsessional problems. This suppression, however, was surely not solely responsible for them. I remind you that the reason for needing to stop the treatment was her sensitivity to the pain.
January 2012: Lucy received the remedy in MK potency on December 12th, since the warts were not disappearing anymore. They were scarcely visible, and then they started to grow again, though not reaching their original size.
At school, she was receiving compliments from all sides; her behaviour was good and she did well on her exams. She no longer talked of having fights on the playground. She sang on going to sleep, and sang on waking up. “I don’t have any bad dreams anymore, only nice ones.”
Lucy had always wanted to wear earrings, but that meant that she would have to have her ears pierced, which is painful. Nevertheless, Lucy wanted to have earrings as her Christmas present, even if it meant having her ears pierced. She had this done without problems, to the great surprise of her mother.
April 2012: Lucy returns for a vaccination, which is an occasion to follow her improvement and to evaluate her tolerance to pain from the injection. After taking the remedy in 30K, all the warts disappeared completely. At school, she was getting very good marks (in fact, she was the best of the class), and her behaviour was good as well. “It’s unbelievable, she is coming from such a long way,” says her mother. Lucy had the same dream several times in this period: “Little zombies, nice ones. My father, my mother, my friend Sybille and me… the police killed them!” She told me several times: “I like this dream, it’s a good dream.” It seems to be a healing dream.
Lucy had her vaccination without any problems, to the surprise of her mother. “She has always been so sensitive to pain; even the smallest scratch was a drama.” She marvelled: “I was at the end of my wits. None of the other doctors, including the psychiatrist, managed to help her as deeply as this.”
A) The prescription: Chelidonium majus The plant: it belongs to the family of the Papaveraceae. In contrast to the other members of this family, it contains only one species (like Sanguinaria, also used in homeopathy).
The name comes from the Greek word for the bird “swallow”, because its blossoming coincides with the time that swallows arrive and depart. It is said that swallows give the juice of chelidonium to their young to improve their eyesight. This story is often found in religious images as a symbol of the healing of the spirit. Swallows are called the ‘birds of the light’, and are seen as a symbol of the risen Christ.
One of the names of this plant, otherwise known as a plant for the treatment of warts, is “the big light”, again referring to the light.
Another characteristic is its dispersion. Its seeds are dispersed by ants, for which the sap is nourishment. The plant can become quite invasive. It follows the path of human settlements, planting itself wherever man has travelled, and even remaining long after he has gone. One can find it along the roads, in marshes and ruins left behind by man. In northern countries, an old belief says that one can predict the course of an illness by putting chelidonium on one’s head. If the person starts to sing then death is imminent.
I give this information because one can see the link with the central theme of the remedy.
B) The remedy:
It was Hahnemann himself, together with 9 provers, who did the original proving. The dreams were very realistic, and were especially about dead bodies. We also find someone who dreamed of marriage.
The Chelidonium person is known for his “bilious” temperament, angry and authoritarian, and unafraid of authority (in contrast to Lycopodium). These can be very practical, rather rigid people, non-intellectual and with their feet on the ground. Anxiety of conscience is a major theme: they have a marked sense of good and bad.
The physical symptoms are often of the digestive tract, especially the liver and gall-bladder, as well as the eyes and the head. Although our grandmothers knew of this remedy for its usefulness in treating warts, it is not found as such in our homeopathic rubrics.
C) Lucy and the remedy:
In this case, we do not find the themes of “survival” or “the other”, as we would in the animal kingdom, nor the weakness or sense of lack inherent to the mineral kingdom. Lucy exhibits an extreme sensitivity, an affectation arising from events of the past, so we find ourselves in the plant realm. Here, the sensitivity is to pain, which is experienced as unbearably intense, which brings us to the Papaveraceae family. Which one do we choose? There was no doubt as soon as Lucy began to talk about mummies, a dead man who transforms himself, and even a dead husband. For me, this is the main theme of Chelidonium: dead bodies but also of its opposite, the light, and the resurrection of the body. In these characteristics, and especially in the old beliefs concerning this plant, one can find the theme: the name of the plant, its use, its golden-coloured sap, its link to the swallow and its symbolism, the traces left along the pathways of man, and the old beliefs of the northern countries.
Keywords: OCD, warts, fear and hypersensitivity to pain, mummies, zombies
Remedies: Chelidonium majus.