Juliette de Bairacli Levy: the herbalist
Known as ‘the grandmother of herbalism’, Juliette de Bairacli Levy (1912 – 2009) was the author of several books including Wanderers of the New Forest, in which she described the simple way of life of commoners and gypsies that has gone forever from the Forest. Like the artist Augustus John, she had a strong bond with the Forest gypsy community.
She gave up her studies to be a veterinarian after becoming disillusioned with the teaching practice of conducting experiments on live animals. Wishing instead to learn how to treat animals naturally, she embarked on a nomadic lifestyle and travelled all over the world with Bedouins, nomads, gypsies and peasants. Through them she learned how they used plants and herbs to treat the ailments of both people and animals.
Realising that these ancient methods of treatment might be lost forever as vaccines and chemical medicines were developed, Juliette became a pioneer of holistic animal care as she recorded their remedies and published several herbal handbooks.
She cured many animals by herbal methods and developed her own brand of herbal pet products. She is credited with curing a herd of 3,000 sheep condemned by black scour in Yorkshire during World War II by feeding them green herbs, milk and molasses.
For three years she lived with her two small children in a tiny cottage at Abbots Well, near Frogham, in the north of the New Forest. She recounted her experiences in Wanderers of the New Forest (1958), describing a simple way of life – such as daily naked bathing in Windmill Hill Pond – that has long disappeared.
Many of Juliette’s friends in the New Forest were gypsies and she spent a lot of time with them and wrote about them fondly in her book. The foreword was written by Augustus John, a fellow champion of the gypsies.