On a brilliant sunny summer day a few years back my brother Jan and I shared an experience we won't forget. We went to see the famed Amish faith healer, Solomon Wickey, whose home in rural Amish country is not far from my own.
His recent death has inspired us to share our thoughts and memories: a woman bent over in some strange position. To see Solomon, she endured a four-hour ride in the van lying down at an extremely awkward angle. Solomon told her to get up so he could perform a procedure. She said, “I can't.” He said, “I think you can,” and she got up from her chair! She was crying as she told us this.
Another woman brought her son for a “maintenance treatment.” When the boy originally visited Solomon, he was bent over with a so-called spinal deformity. Solomon said “virus be gone” as he clutched the boy's abdomen. The boy is now straight as an arrow and playing soccer.
Another woman had been holding her supposedly incurable, fatal cancer at bay for nearly three years with an herbal regimen designed by Solomon. Another cancer-ridden young woman, diagnosed as terminal, came out of the office crying tears of joy and hope. He told her that her cancer would be cured by taking the recommended supplements.
A woman in a wheelchair came accompanied by two young female friends. She had been injured in an automobile accident with her then boyfriend, a basketball star at Indiana University. Solomon told her doctors aren't always right and thought she would walk again, which brought a strong emotional response with lots of tears. Jan says, and I agree, “There was profound poignancy and healing in that waiting room, the likes of which I do not believe I have ever experienced again.”
Solomon's followers can be found all around the world. But he is not without his critics. He's been called a “quack,” and in 1983 he was hauled into court by the Indiana attorney general for practicing medicine without a license. His supporters packed the courtroom in Decatur for his trial. He eventually was free to continue his practice, which is grounded in the natural world, treating with herbs, not drugs. A news article quotes him as saying that his goal for his patients is to teach them to “balance the whole universe physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Obviously Wickey brought a different point of view to a medical establishment that knowingly puts dangerous drugs on the market, trumps up diseases, heralds cures for illnesses that have no scientific research to back it up and smothers treatments that can work for dreadful diseases like cancer, all in the name of profit. Right there is a major difference. Wickey didn't do his work for profit. He didn't charge. You didn't need insurance to see him, you didn't need to worry about how you're going to pay the bill.
Here I need to point out that I am a benefactor of modern medical technology. A gifted doctor patched up my elbow after I smashed it, giving me the use of my arm. Another doctor blessed with healing powers cracked open my chest and with a steady hand sewed five new arteries into my heart, in the process saving my life.
They saved Jan's life, performing surgery for a stomach ailment. For sure, modern medicine has its place. But so does a Solomon Wickey. Would I go to him for open heart surgery? To restore my arm with metal plates and screws? No, I would not. But what if I had gone to see him years earlier? Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't have needed the open heart surgery. Or suffered a stroke.
We need the Solomon Wickeys, not instead of traditional treatment, but in addition to. As our visit so dramatically documents, what Solomon gave to his followers is the most potent medicine of all: hope. And that makes him an American hero, captured beautifully in this poem Jan wrote:
On Seeing the Amish Healer Solomon Wickey
Before the weave of coarse cotton,
Before rough hands turned the plow,
It was coiled everywhere,
Serenely moving waves
Guiding rocks, trees, and stars.
Wordless, beyond joy or despair,
Fate or time.
A robeless priest,
An Amish shaman
Sits in a Chaco Canyon office
With Chamayo floors and walls.
Allow broken entries,
Carrying certificates of doom
Suddenly, wind, wave, and earth cured.
Solomon speaks Pre-Navajo,
Syllables for wind and wave sounds.
“Give the glory to Jesus,” he says,
Translation from the Book Of Photons:
All glory to wind, fire, stars, and sun.
His face is not Amish, Jesus, or Buddha.
It's a petroglyph,
Constellations marked with ancient hands.