As a result of the immigration of my Czech grandparents to the south of Chile in 1938, the majority of my paternal family, including myself, were born and grew up beside one of the most active volcanoes in South America: Villarrica Volcano. PucÃ³n, the town of my childhood, is situated at the base of this stratovolcano, which has a height of 2,847 meters (9,340 feet). The volcano dominates the view and, I believe, the lives of the people in PucÃ³n.
Its most recent eruptions were in 1948, 1964, 1971 and 1984. I clearly remember the last one, which wasn’t violent at all like the previous ones, with the lava flowing down the cone, a magical view at night time. At present, all the Villarrica area is under zone alert. But the locals (including my parents who still live there) are used to it, that big old cone with the non-stop fumarole coming out its chimney. It is the focus of everyday life and it has an influence in people’s behavior.
The magnetic attraction that Villarrica has on people, like my grandparents, fascinates me. People settle and create communities around this magnificent force of nature. This happens all over the world, cities and settlements being developed, despite the danger that involves living “under the volcano”.
VOLCANOES IN HOMOEOPATHY
The first remedy that comes to mind when thinking about volcanoes and its Doctrine of Signatures is Sulphur. Sulphur is often called “the King of Remedies” (Pulsatilla being the Queen) for its wide and well known picture. Sulphur is also a predominantly Psoric remedy and it was proved by Hahnemann who described its action in The Chronic Diseases.
The crude substance comes from deep within the earth, brought up by volcanic activity. It can be found in yellow crystal form around volcanic vents and fumaroles. “When a volcano is actively erupting, then gaseous Sulphur makes the connection between earth below and the atmosphere above”(1). For the purpose of this project, I am going to centre on the picture of the remedy given by Misha Norland, according to its Doctrine of Signatures.
The second remedy to be explored is Hecla lava. Hecla has been in our Materia Medica since the end of the 19th Century, with cases described by Hering, Burnett and Clarke among others. Hecla was potentised after observations on the pathology developed by sheep grazing in the vicinity of the volcano. It is interesting to notice the connection between those symptoms originally described and those of Fluorosis, one of the most important livestock hazards during the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. The remedy Etna lava also has some common symptoms to Fluoric acid, as pointed out by Bruce Barwell, editor of Homoeopathica, the Journal of the New Zealand Homoeopathic Society in his article Does fluorine contribute to volcano remedies’ effects?(2)
The remedy Fluoric Acid was proved by Hering in 1845 and I have included it in my project because of its connection with volcano activity. Recent provings of volcanic material include Etna lava in Italy, Arizona lava in Devon and Cinis popo in Mexico. For the latter, I am including all the information I have been able to find up to date. For some reason, getting in touch with Mexican homeopaths hasn’t been easy for me.
The remedy Obsidian (Black) features in the book Meditative Provings, by Madeline Evans. Obsidian is a volcanic glass, formed when hot lava from an erupting volcano reaches the sea rapidly, solidifying and forming a black glass. To me, this remedy reaches a further level in homoeopathy and I haven’t included it in these pages.
I would like to thank Bruce Barwell, editor of Homoeopathica, the Journal of the New Zealand Homoeopathic Society, for his rapid response, interest, insights, generosity and enthusiasm for this project. To my friends in Chile, Valeria KalfÃ³n and Mervil Frau, who live and work under the volcano, for their insight into the psychological and pathological aspects of a ‘volcano society’.
To Julissa Segura Urbano, homoeopath practicing in Puebla, Mexico. For her interest and for sharing of information with me about Cinis popo. To my husband Richard, for patiently proof reading and helping me to translate my ideas into ‘real English’. And finally to my grandparents, Guillermo and Catalina, for their seed planted under the volcano.
The themes of the volcano
In my collected memories, including emotions, sensations and thoughts, I can see themes unfolding from the active presence of the volcano in my life and in the community I grew up in. Interestingly, these themes develop in polarities, as homoeopathic remedies act out. Villarrica has brought a lot of devastation to people over the years, but it has also brought creativity and transformation. In miasmatic terms, the syphilitic miasm found its deepest representation in what a volcanic eruption brings about: creation follows destruction.
There is a sense of insecurity and fear in contrast with confidence and acceptance of the power of nature. Since the last devastating eruption in 1971, where avalanches of water, mud and rocks flew down the sides of the volcano destroying anything in its way, including trees, bridges and houses, the population has dramatically increased. People are building exactly on the places where the most devastation occurred, despite local government regulations and warnings. The endless source of energy and fertility attracts the population and the local government doesn’t want to interfere with the economic growth of the area. It is the rhythm of the volcano.
‘Ailments from shock’ features in Hecla lava, Sulphur and the rubric ‘Starting, startled’ is in Sulphur and Arizona lava. The rubric ‘Mind; FEAR; Happen; something will; terrible, horrible’ features Fluoric acid and Sulphur. Etna lava and Arizona lava both feature in Calmness and Resolution.
The native population on this land are the Mapuche (meaning “the people of the land”). Mapuche people believe that the volcano is the home of PillÃ¡n, the Spirit, founder of races and lineages. The volcano erupted because he was angry about the inadequate behavior of people. They didn’t fear him, they respected him like children do their father. PillÃ¡n showed his anger through smoke, tremors and lava. Villarrica’s native name is RucapillÃ¡n (meaning “home of PillÃ¡n”). The theme of anger and irritability is present in all the volcano remedies. Mapuche people also have a horizontal/vertical view of the world.
Volcanoes have to do with verticality. “Sulphur has to do with the connection from below (earth) to above (spirit) and its reverse”(1).
Volcanoes have an important role in the evolution of the crust of the Earth. It creates structures, reliefs and fertile land. The affinity of the remedy Hecla lava is with the bones, the structure of our bodies.
Lava features four states:
1. Flowing no matter what, nothing gets in the way (childlike state according to Misha Norland) Arizona lava. It burns everything.
2. Hardness, the crust of cooling lava (the compensated state). Resistance.
3. Aridity and bareness. Isolation (the decompensated state, pathological estate) Etna Lava.
4. Fertility, rebirth. Creativity.
The cooling of the lava represents the process of getting into the calm again. The activity has ceased, it is time to “chill-out”.
Etna lava provers experienced feeling calmer than usual: “I am still feeling very calm. I shout much less than usual, I think; I don’t fly into a rage; I face trouble quietly. As if I can look at the world more serenely”. (Prover 6). “I still feel cheerful and strong; I sleep less; I do a lot of things, more than usual…This cheerful mood is strange. I am not upset in spite of many troubles….I am not upset as if it’s not worth taking such things to heart…” (Prover 1). Hecla lava patients are usually calm, gentle and quiet but, when provoked, they explode in anger, out of control. Then, they become calm again. (Symptoms appear suddenly and go suddenly). Tranquility, serenity and calmness feature in Arizona lava too.
The “chilling out” aspect of lava is represented in the sensations of the lava remedies. The person is chilly, or the chilliness is alternated with heat, or the person experiences intense heat, like in Sulph and Fl-ac. Of course the “intense heat” can be seen on a mental plane, as in the case of Hecla. Etna lava also suffers from intense and impotent rage and Arizona lava can become abusive and cruel.
Suppression of emotions, especially anger, it is also a feature in all the lava remedies. “The silliest thing one could ever do with a volcano would be try to cap it, through this has been tried at least once in this century, with devastating consequences”(1). The volcano “cooks-up”, silently under the crust of the earth. Then, it lets go.
The burning sensation in all of these remedies is very intense. Fluoric acid suffers from an overheated system, so does Sulphur. It all comes from under the crust, under the skin. It is not a surprise that all these remedies have an affinity with the skin. Skin eruptions, rashes, itchiness. Cracked skin, like lava when it cools down. There is also the centrifugal effect of the volcano, the discharges are profuse and acrid.
There is also an aspect of cheerfulness in the volcano remedies. To me, this is the compensating state to the heaviness, building-up to the eruption. In my personal experience, the excitement of looking at a volcano in activity is immense. The senses become very acute (Arizona lava), there is euphoria and nervousness (Etna), Buoyancy of mind and an increase of energy (Fl-ac).
The Materia Medica of this remedy is very extensive. For the purpose of this project, I have selected the symptoms related or compared to other volcanic remedies and to its Doctrine of Signature.
‘The stone which burns’ was the concept the ancients had of Sulphur. Native or elemental Sulphur occurs mainly near volcanoes and hot springs. It is widely distributed in nature as constituent of minerals, coal, petroleum, natural gas and in all living organisms.
Sulphur is yellow, odourless, tasteless, insoluble in water and extremely active. Heated at 115°C, it turns into a thin yellow liquid. When heated to 160°C it changes into a viscous semifluid.The viscosity increases up to 250°C, the colour changes from yellow through dark red to black, to change back to a thin, yellow liquid the closer it gets to its boiling point. Approaching 444°C, its boiling point, sulphur turns from a yellowish orange vapour through red into a yellow gas. Sulphur is widely use as a food additive. Sulphur dioxide and Sulphites are preservatives, antioxidants and anti-browning agents in foods. The most common adverse effect in humans is broncho-constriction and broncho-spasm, particularly in asthmatics. Other reactions include stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, hypotension and skin problems. Support groups recommend that hyperactive children should avoid Sulphur-active preservatives.
To many authors, the central theme of Sulphur is the ‘delusion he is disgraced’. Scholten sees this characteristic as not knowing anymore what is good and what is ugly: ‘Delusion, old rags are beautiful’ or ‘delusion, rags are fine as silk’. Sulphur sees beauty in things that other people miss. This brings me back to the erupting volcano. The sense of the unknown and fear, as opposed to the attraction of the beauty of such a spectacle in nature.
Norland says that “Sulphur has to do with the connection from below (earth) to above (spirit)”. The more sulphur is heated, the more it changes, from solid, liquid, viscous, liquid again to finally meet the skies in gaseos form (the remedy is worse for atmospheric changes). “Sulphur comes into play where a person is unable to integrate the worldly with the spiritual”. Types present in polarities: The philosophical, theorizing person, who cannot bring his theories in the air down to earth (‘the ragged philosopher’).
Then there is the other, the practical, earth-bound stranger to spiritual life. He is “concerned only with the material physical level of reality”. The above-below polarity is also presented in a physical level: rushes of blood, flushes of heat and vertigo (ascending effects). Burning of soles, bunions. The feet, the to the earth, are affected. They cannot stand, always looking for a seat or to lean on something.
On the mental/emotional plane, the non-connection is in the relationships.”Sulphur’s failure to make and maintain relationships may lead to his feeling disappointed in his friends (‘ailments from deceived friendship’) and desire to live alone (‘aversion to all persons’)”.
The colours that elemental sulphur changes into, while heated, yellow, red and black, are featured in its Materia Medica: ‘delusion, she is black’, red face or yellow deposits on the skin. “Sulphur often suffers from liver problems, which can lead to a yellowish complexion”. Sulphur has many symptoms around heat. Burning sensations, burning discharges. Worse for becoming overheated.
Sulphur is insoluble in water. ‘Aversion to bathing’. Worse for bathing, especially the skin, which burns. He is thirsty, can gulp down large amounts of water.
The centrifugal theme in Sulphur is pretty much the volcanic way, from inside out. “The discharge outlets of the body such as nose, mouth, ears, anus and urethra can be compared to the vents and fumaroles of the volcano”. The Sulphur patient may show burning around these orifices. Also, Sulphur is prone to yellow crusty skin irritations. In the mental/emotional plane, Sulphur is fiery and irritable, “with a tendency to erupt in sudden anger”. His anger abates as quickly as it arose.
The summary of Sulphur that Misha Norland gives us is very interesting. He says the two main themes of Sulphur are:
â€¢ connecting (and in pathology not connecting) from above to below; and
â€¢ connecting (and not connecting) horizontally with others.
I already commented on this idea of verticality/horizontality, the Mapuche cosmovision.
According to some texts, Hecla or Hekla is the Icelandic word for ‘cloak’, and comes from the German word ‘hexe’, which means ‘witch’. Mount Hekla is 1491 m high located in the south western part of Iceland about 70 miles (110 km) south east of Reykjavik and 35 miles (55 km) inland from the southern coastline. It’s Iceland’s most notorious volcano, sometimes referred to by the natives as the Gate or even Gates of Helleborus It is regarded by some as a stratovolcano, but others argue that it more closely resembles Hawaiian shield volcanoes. It is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and has terrified the inhabitants of Iceland since it was settled by Ingolfur Arnarson(1) .
Eruptions have contained a high degree of Fluorine coinciding with mass fatalities amongst livestock. The last one was in 2000. It is not clear from our books from what exactly Hekla lava is made of. References, including Clarke’s description of the source of the remedy, refer back to a letter written in 1872 by Dr Garth Wilkinson, of London to Dr. William H. Holcombe, of New Orleans: “Its known pathological effects on the sheep in the vicinity of Hekla are immense exostoses of the jaws. The finer ash, which fell on the pastures in distant localities, was particularly deleterious, while the gross ash near the mountain was inert”.
James Compton Burnett writes in his Fifty Reasons for being a Homoeopath: “Dr. Garth Wilkinson went once to Iceland for a holiday, and observed that the animals which fed in the pastures where the finer ashes of Mount Hecla fall, suffered from immense maxillary and other exostoses. Being an adherent of the scientific system of medicine founded for us by Samuel Hahnemann, he brought some Hecla lava home with him, and it has been already successfully used to cure affections similar to those which it is capable of causing.”
Brita Gudjons(2) explains that Hekla’s ash is not really ash at all, but tephra, “a lightweight material containing silica, like a very small grain of sand containing bubble cavities which have dissolved acidic salts attached to the surface as a precipitation”. “Naturally, the finer particles will fly much further. The surface of the totality of these particles is proportionally to their size bigger, and therefore the amount of fluoride that they have absorbed in the process is higher than that of the bigger particles found closer to the volcano. This explains the curious ‘distant localities’ mentioned by Clarke”. This also explains why, at present, sheep grazing at the vicinity of Mount Hekla are not developing pathology.
The ash and scorie of this volcano contain Silica, Alumina, Lime, Magnesia, with some Oxide of Iron (Clarke).
It affects mostly the bones of the head, jaws, teeth and legs [Hering]. This remedy has cured many cases of necrosis of the bone when an operation seemed unavoidable. It also has been employed in sarcoma, moreover in glandular swellings such as Silicea [Vermulen].
Clark’s compilation from cured symptoms:
MOUTH: Excellent effect in toothache, gum abscess, swellings about the jaws and in difficult dentition.
BONES: Arrests many forms of bone disease, including osteosarcoma, scrofulous and syphilitic osteitis and exostoses.
GLANDS: Affected almost as much as the bones: “induration and infiltration of cervical glands, studding neck like a row of pearls”.
MODALITIES: SWELLINGS are painful and sensitive to touch, worse from touch and pressure.
RIGHT SIDE has been more predominantly affected.
Hecla lava is considered a small remedy in the Materia Medica. Nevertheless it is a deep active remedy… of course, it comes from deep inside the Earth! As far I could investigate, all references to Hecla lava come from observations and clinical experience. It was potentized from the samples that Dr Wilkinson brought back to England from Iceland. Seemingly, no actual proving has been done. The symptoms described in the Materia Medica are mainly physical. Homoeopaths I have spoken to, have mentioned prescribing Hecla lava on a therapeutical basis.
In fact there are only 8 MIND symptoms where Hecla appears in the repertory (Complete):
Mind; ANGER, irascibility
Mind; ANGER, irascibility; Violent
Mind; CONTRADICTION; Intolerant of
Mind; HELPLESSNESS, feeling of
Mind; INJUSTICE, cannot support
Mind; OBSTINATE, headstrong
Mind; SHOCK, ailments from
There are not really any references to mind symptoms in the Materia Medica, except from Vermulen:
Intense nervousness in the morning. > towards 3 pm.
Outburst of violent anger [and feeling of helplessness].
Ailments from shock, indignation and suppression of emotions, especially anger. [Aleem]
Quiet, well balanced people who, when provoked, can explode with menacing anger which they cannot control. They can be very insulting to all and everyone. Gentle people, with great sensitivity to admonition, criticism and injustice, which causes them to get very agitated. They suppress their anger until such time as they can no longer control it, and then turn violent. Ailments form shock, indignation, suppression of emotions and especially anger. “A Volcano usually looks gentle, but once it starts erupting it behaves very violently, blasts with blaze, the hot lava destroys and hurts everything around the volcano”(3).
Mohammed Aleem(3) has observed the following mental symptoms in his practice, from cases in which he has successfully prescribed Hecla lava:
â€¢ Ailments from shock, indignation and suppression of emotions, esp. anger.
â€¢ Generally gentle but highly irritable when provoked.
â€¢ Violent anger. Wounds others mentally and physically.
â€¢ Sensitive to admonitions and injustices done to self and/or others.
â€¢ Feeling of helplessness.
Chris Wilkinson, in his article published on the Internet, Information, thoughts and meditations on Hecla lava, 1999-2002 (www.btinternet.com/~wellmother/heklalava.htm) exposes the idea that “there is a lot in this remedy that is not yet unearthed, particularly in the mental symptoms and the essence”. He suggests a hidden and unexpressed side of it, “something eccentric and sensitive, maybe more like Sulphur? The idea of the cloak is interesting. There is maybe something unexpressed and hidden, and lurking there, or maybe it is more to do with a covering e.g. the tissues on the bone?”. His sense of the remedy is of rawness. “Eruptive, powerful, though mainly dormant”. “On talking to Diane Murray (a colleague from Bristol), themes around eating and isolation came up”.
The essence of the remedy, linked to the Doctrine of Signatures, is:
â€¢ Rapidity, symptoms come suddenly and go suddenly (Generalities; PAIN; Sudden; disappearing suddenly, and)
â€¢ Burning (Generalities; PAIN; Burning and Generalities; PAIN; Burning; internal)
â€¢ Violence (Mind; ANGER, irascibility; Violent)
The PHYSICAL symptoms described in different books (Clarke, Hering, Douglass, Vermulen) include:
â€¢ Marked action upon the jaws.
â€¢ Of great use in exostosis*, gum abscess, difficult teething.
â€¢ Nodosities*, caries of bone etc.
â€¢ Osteitis*, periostitis*, osteo-sarcoma*.
â€¢ Tumours in general.
â€¢ Bone necrosis*. Necrosis and sinusitis after mastoid operation.
â€¢ Exostoses sensitive and painful to touch. < pressure
â€¢ Tendency to suppuration and fistulae.
â€¢ Swelling and induration of glands.
â€¢ After extraction of carious wisdom tooth pain in wound, and at times in various localities in head and face, so severe that he cannot eat or sleep.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE RAW MATERIAL (Clarke)
â€¢ Sheep developed immense exostoses on the jaws. (Observed by Dr. Garth Wilkinson)
â€¢ Another effect noticed was the drying up of the milk both in sheep and cows.
â€¢ In cows, postmortem examination showed the intestines filled with ashes, hardened to a mass, and stomach coated over with a pitch-black membrane spotted with brown, and difficult to remove by washing, the jaw teeth were covered with a shining metallic crust.
â€¢ Several young horses died from lumps in the jaw-bones, so large as to cause dislocation.
â€¢ Sheep, when slaughtered, were found to be of bluish hue internally, and the intestines were friable.
â€¢ In many cases worms from two to three inches long, with pale grey bodies and brown heads, and a little thicker than a horse-hair, were found in the bronchia.
â€¢ In sheep the osseous and dental systems were much affected.
â€¢ The head-bones, and especially the jaw-bones, swelled and became so friable that when boiled they fell to pieces.
â€¢ The thigh, and especially the shin bones, swelled and bulged.
â€¢ The jaws were sometimes covered with large swellings, which spread and were looser of texture and darker in color than the bone, these could be separated from the bone without injuring it, but in some fatal cases a hole going down to the marrow was discovered under the swelling.
Eruption of Mount Hecla 2000
Head – Dizziness much worse on lying down, so that she must sit erect, and on turning in bed to the left side. [Douglass] A feeling as if the brain was turning over, with dizziness and blackness before the eyes, aggravation on lying down, and on stooping. [Douglass]
Vertigo – With blackness before the eyes; everything goes up and down sideways. [Douglass]
Vertigo, everything goes up, down and sidewise. [Hering]
Nose – ulceration of nasal bones [Vermulen]
Face – Facial neuralgia from carious teeth and after extraction. Enlargement of maxillary bone. [Vermulen]
Eyes – Accommodation of left eye defective. Weakness of vision of left eye. Pain in base of left eye and on upper region of left orbit. [Vermulen]
Mouth – Toothache and swelling about jaws. Abscess of gums. Dental caries (esp. if that are very sensitive to pressure). [Vermulen]
Throat – Cervical glands enlarged and indurated. [Vermulen]
Chest – Asthma spasmodicum, and Asthma generally. Oppressive breathing with sensation as if there were a heavy weight lying upon chest and as if the air – cells were stopped up and clogged; amel. spring and summer, when rambling through the woods and breathing the pure fresh air. [Lilienthal’s Therapeutics]
Back – Pain in left sacroiliac region. < sitting; beginning of motion. > continued motion. [Vermulen]
Skin – Itching of chest remaining after herpes zoster. [Vermulen]
Extremeties – Hallux vagus* [Vermulen]
The SKIN rubrics are worth to looking at, Sulphur also appears (in black type) on all of them, except for Actinomycosis and black warts:
Skin; ACTINOMYCOSIS* (6)
Skin; CRACKS, fissures (102)
Skin; ERUPTIONS (661)
Skin; ERUPTIONS; Crusty (139)
Skin; TINGLING, prickling (75)
Skin; ULCERS (324)
Skin; WARTS (146)
Skin; WARTS; Black (2)
â€¢The swellings amenable to it are painful and sensitive to touch. < touch and pressure
â€¢The glands are affected almost as much as the bones “induration and infiltration of cervical glands, studding neck like a row of pearls”.
â€¢The right side has been more predominantly affected.
â€¢< beginning of motion.
â€¢All symptoms come suddenly and go suddenly. All symptoms are violent in nature.
â€¢Pain in wound when tooth has been extracted
â€¢Violent pain: in upper jaw
â€¢Severe continuous pain: in lower limbs
â€¢Neuralgia: of face, in cavities where teeth have been extracted
â€¢Headache: dependent on derangement of dental nerves
Acitomicocys Development of suppurating granulomatous tumours which discharge an oily, thick pus containing yellowish (‘Sulphur’) granules. Most affected are jaw, lung, intestine but it can occur anywhere.
Hallux vagus a deviation of the tip of the first toe, or main axis of the toe, toward the outer or lateral side of the foot.
Bone necrosis death of a limited portion of tissue, in bones, as a result of injury, a fragment dies and separates.
Exostosis outhgrowth from a bone, due to chronic inflammation, constant pressure, tension of the bone, tumour-formation.
Nodosities knotty protuberance
Osteitis inflamation in the substance of a bone, common in footballers
Osteo-sarcoma tumour of the bone
Periostitis inflamation on the surface of a bone, affecting the periosteum
Rachitis or rickets, “inflammation of the backbone”
Fluorine, when dissolved in water, reacts immediately to form Fluoric acid. Fluorine is so active that it is not found free in nature. It is the most reactive of all the non-metallic elements, affecting every substance it comes in with, organic and inorganic. Its name is derived from “fluo”, stream.
Fluorine has become more and more present in our environment since World War II, with the development of the atomic bomb and commercial fluorochemicals, including in the production of plastics (with non-sticking qualities, such as Teflon), aluminium, paint preservative (enamels) and toothpaste. Many countries, including Ireland, are adding soluble fluoride to the drinking water in the interest of dental health. Additional sources of fluorine emissions are contributing to air and countryside pollution coming from the production of fertilizer, pesticides, glass, bricks and ceramics. Fluorine is highly toxic. Fluorosis is one of the most important livestock hazards during the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. Few historical eruptions are known to have resulted in fluorine poisoning in humans. Experience after the 1970 Hekla eruption shows that acute sickness occurred where the tephra layer was about 0.5 mm thick. At 1 mm thickness, 3% of the adult sheep and 8 to 9% of the lambs died. Acute poisoning occurred in the first days after the tephra fall and was accompanied by convulsive seizures, pulmonary oedema and kidney and liver damage(1).
Chronic fluorosis occurred at Hekla where the layer of ash was 1 mm or more thick. Serious outbreaks of volcanic fluorosis have also been reported for sheep and cattle in Chile. The ash contaminated 4,000 sq km of grassland, and cattle started showing clinical signs of osteofluorosis after about 4 months. The main clinical signs were weight loss and lameness. Diarrhoea, tinged with the colour of the ash, occurred in many of the sick animals. In some stock there was kyphosis, and exostoses were accompanied by intense pain when the long bones were palpated (especially the metacarpus). There was a high degree of attrition of the incisors with almost total crown loss(1).