A leech is a person skilled in the art of leechcraft or, as it's known today, healing. It comes from the Old English "læce". In its original cultural context, a leech was a person who knew all of the healing plants and magics. That's the simple answer. For the purposes of this blog, it's a bit more complicated.
I am a member of The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), an international non-profit educational group for people that study and re-create Arts and Sciences of the Medieval Era as a hobby. (Look us up- we're great fun!)
My persona in the Society is Aelfrida Harrier, an Anglo-Saxon woman in the mid 800's sent out by Alfred the Great during his campaign to bring education to his people in order to raise their standard of living and further the good name of his Kingdom. Her life's mission is to learn of, understand, and bring home with her the knowledge of and (with luck) starts and seeds of previously unknown plants, their customs of usage, and how they might be used to make life a little better for her fellow countrymen. She travels through other countries, meeting with their medical experts, their plantsmen and wisewomen, their storytellers and engineers in order to learn what she desires to know.
Please note that her mission entails more than simple leechcraft and she is not enjoined to be a physician. She thinks of herself instead as the perennial apprentice (now why didn't I think of that one when choosing a name for this blog?) who is awestruck by these amazing plants and all the ways they have infiltrated our lives and who is obsessed with the idea that they keep far more secrets than they have shared.
Like my persona, I am in awe of plants and in search of knowledge. Unlike Aelfrida, I am not tied to the medieval world. I have the advantage of other times and a wider database. MY mission and this blog spans known history, including today.
Please note also that herbal medicine is not the subject of this blog- it's all about plants and how they have influenced lives and cultures.
For the record- I am NOT a doctor or nurse in any fashion. I have NO medical training. I AM obsessed with plants and history. Putting those two subjects together means that you cannot avoid a certain amount of familiarity with the Art of the Physician. Please ignore any definitive statements I may make on the subject of medicinal use of the plants mentioned in this blog.