A Guide for Travelers
Peter Chilson and Joanne B. Mulcahy
The Healing Life of Eva Castellanoz
Joanne B. Mulcahy
Former President Ronald Reagan called Eva Castellanoz a “national treasure” when he awarded her an NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 1987. Featured in National Geographic, National Public Radio, and numerous other publications, Castellanoz is celebrated as a folk artist, community activist and a curandera, a traditional Mexican healer who uses a mind-body-spirit approach. During her 16 year friendship with Joanne Mulcahy, Castellanoz has revealed her life story as well as her remedios — her remedies, both medicinal and metaphoric — for life’s maladies. Using her own observations and Castellanoz’s stories, Mulcahy employs creative nonfiction and oral accounts to portray the life, beliefs, and practices of this remarkable woman. Anyone who has been healed by Eva Castellanoz has felt her power and wisdom. Anyone who reads this vivid portrait will come away feeling wiser and empowered by the story of this courageous and loving healer.
Of Remedios, Julia Alvarez wrote: “Mulcahy has done for the curandera what Carlos Castanada did for shamanism. This book is itself a remedio, inspiring and healing.”
Trinity University Press | 224 pages
Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island
The Life of an Alutiiq Healer
Joanne B. Mulcahy
When Joanne B. Mulcahy first helped Mary Peterson―a respected elder of the Akhiok community―find a safe home away from the violence and alcoholism that had altered village life, she never imagined that they would meet again five years later and begin more than twelve years of interviews, letters, and visits that would transform the lives of both women.Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island offers the fascinating story of Mary’s life, from her experience growing up within the traditional society of Akhiok to her work as a teacher, a Community Health Aide, a mother, a grandmother, and an Alutiiq midwife and healer. Through her story we discover a society that blended native Alutiiq culture with the Russian Orthodox teachings handed down from late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century colonists; that mixed modern education and employment with a subsistence lifestyle; that sanctioned arranged marriages but upheld civil divorce laws; and, above all, that recovered its confidence in traditional healing―both of the body and of the community.
More than a personal story of survival, Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island portrays, in Akhiok, a resilience formed through a return to a strong sense of community. As we become acquainted with the Kodiak world through Mary Peterson’s story, we come to realize the strength of the native oral tradition and to see that knowing and healing are pivotal elements of the Alutiiq way―particularly as they bring to light the previously unrecognized efforts, inspirations, and accomplishments of countless women healers.
Of Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island, writer Richard Nelson commented:
“Joanne Mulcahy’s writing is exceptional, and her scholarship meets the highest standards for ethnographic studies. Truly outstanding, she stands on the firm foundation established by Margaret Mead, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, and Colin Turnbull.”
University of Georgia Press | 208 pages
When I moved to Kodiak Island in 1979, I entered a world radically different from my Irish and Italian Catholic neighborhood outside Philadelphia. I now write about the cultures that shape us and those we pursue because they’re different. My essays have appeared in journals that include Connotations, Natural Bridge, New Letters, Oregon English Journal, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Oregon Humanities, and Portland Magazine. A number of anthologies feature my work, among them: The Stories that Shape Us: Contemporary Women Write about the West, Resurrecting Grace: Remembering Catholic Childhoods, Women Writing Women: A Frontiers Reader, and These United States (see “selected writing”).
In Alaska, Northern Ireland and other settings, I worked with women escaping violence. I earned a M.A. in anthropology and a Ph.D in folklore to explore how culture connects to healing. Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island tells the story of Mary Peterson, an Alaska Native midwife working to preserve Alutiiq culture and counter violence in her village. Remedios: The Healing Life of Eva Castellanoz chronicles the life of an award-winning Mexican artist and curandera, Eva Castellanoz.
In 2013, I taught creative nonfiction in Morelia, Mexico and wrote essays about women’s lives through a grant from the Fulbright-Hays Program. I hope to develop a story exchange between writers in the U.S. and Mexico to create greater understanding between cultures.