Goddess Among Us

LaVona Lawson James Lucky

LaVona and Yvonne
LaVona Lawson James Lucky
1928 - 1997

The Sweet Family
Natural Born Healers

La Vona  Irene Lawson, (Lil)  my mother, was born October 5, 1928, in Oklahoma.  Her parents, Virgil Lawson  and Hazel Brisbin, born 31 Oct. 1909,  granddaughter of Wm. Albert Brisbin and Edith Caroline Sweet, great granddaughter of Elizabeth Sweet and Wm. E. Bookout, all from the Ozark Country of Missouri. Wm. Albert Brisbin's parent's, were Samuel Brisbin born 1822, Coberg, Montreal, Canada, and Amanda Melvina Barney, born  9 April 1826.

My mother's line from her maternal grandfather's  side, started with Jacob Barney.  Jacob was born 1601 in England. Jacob died 28 Apr 1673 at Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, family story is that around the "Burning Time" in the United States, the family moved northward, some to Canada.

Mom was a crafter, an artist and quilter, an art she learned from the women in her family, passed down from generation to generation. She could look at something and draw,  make  or build it by hand.

"I See The Wise Woman"

She carries a blanket of compassion. She wears a robe of wisdom. Around her throat flutters a veil of shifting shapes.  From her shoulders, a mantle  of power flows. A story band encircles her forehead. She stitches a quilt: she spins fibers into yarn: she knits: she sews: she weaves.  She ties the threads of our lives together. She forms a web of spiraling threads.  From Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed

As a Libra, you could never fool her, she always saw both sides of the story!  She married my father, Paul Jesse James, May Day 1950.  They lived in a tight family community in Wichita, Kansas, both worked for Beech Aircraft, until she remarried Jack E. Lucky in 1957, we then moved to Illinois, just across the Mississippi river from St. Louis. (As a child in school, we could watch the St. Louis Arch being built!)

Family Circle 1949 Our family has ritualized many of life's passages. Baby showers, every new baby is given a quilt of squares made and signed by all of the female members of the family. (I still have mine) The women of the family gather at the hospital/or birthing room during the birth.

Birthdays, the family gathers together to celebrate and blow out the candles on the birthday cake (candle magick). Marriages, the mother and or grandmother makes a quilt for the marriage bed. I was lucky to have had both, as have each of my girls (from their grandmother and great grandmother)

The family still gathers at the hospital or home during any illness or death and the elders of the church have always been called to do a laying on hands and blessings, from pregnancies, to illness to death. As my family has been LDS since the church began, I see many corresponding church rituals.

Early in our family history, it was the men that had the distinct title of "bonesetter"! My mother's line on her mother's side was one of the Sweet lines that went south to the mountains of the Ozarks.

My mother's great grandmother and great aunt were called "Granny Women" and were apparently rather "famous" in their area of the Ozarks.  In many areas, Granny Women were the closest thing you would see to a witch.

Sisters Divining by Ouija Board
Mom and Ouija
Mom and Aunt Wanda with Ouija Board
Aunt Violet and Uncle Chet in back.  
About 1966

Excerpt from American Folk Magick by Silver Ravenwolf:

"The growth of Pow Wow, with the extended families of those days, the woman were the natural midwives and doctors for their kith and kin. The demise of Pow Wow began when woman lost control of the Pow Wow system. As PW evolved in Southern PA, the rest of the world was active in the occult. PW practitioners let go of the religious aspect of the craft and the charlatans had taken  over, throwing hexes on anyone for a price.

 As the PW women were shunned from the craft, witches went to the North and took on the name of Bone Setters, those that went south were called Faith healers, grannies and water witches. Women, still the natural midwives and doctors for their kin and neighbors but had to go underground during that era."

Mom's great aunt was Delila Jane "Dilly" Sweet, a Granny-woman, born 7 Feb. 1857, Taney County, Missouri  - Although Baptist, she was a "yarb" (herb) doctor and midwife locally for a number of years. On the 1880 Stone County, Missouri census she is noted as a servant of Zack Jennings & family. In a letter from her granddaughter, Virginia Bookout-Hartzell, , she wrote, "Dilly cried when Birdie, as a child, gave her a valentine because she had never learned to read and write. She signed her name with an 'x'.  Her father drove a team of oxen up from 'Caintuck' (Kentucky) when he was 12 years old as his father was dead. Her mother died when Dilly was 15 years old. Her father fought in the Civil War. (She never said which side he was on)." Folk medicine, especially knowledge of healing herbs, was a largely feminine art though male "yarb" doctors were not unknown in the Ozarks.

Granny-women might perform a number of rituals which doctors found silly and irrational. Some were designed to give the mother psychological, if not physical, relief from her pain. She might give the woman her husband's hat to hold during the ordeal, thus bringing him symbolically into the delivery room. If the labor were particularly severe, she would place an axe or knife under the bed to "cut" the pain. Sometimes, weather permitting, she would throw open every door and window in the house, in a symbolic representation of opening the birth canal. http://goddessschool.com/projects/grannywomen.html

Granny women, it is clear, rendered a kind of care that physicians could not reproduce. It involved far more than simply dispensing a drug: It meant giving psychological support, material comfort, and empathy -- something that only another woman who had undergone the same experience could provide.

My mother, passed away December 2, 1997 of a horrible disease called Scleroderma and PulmonaryHypertension.  I will never forget her, she is with me always.

My Beautiful Mother
Our heritage is one
I thank you for life
I thank you for love
I thank you for your wisdom.
Honoring our family tree and the moon above
I thank you
Blessed Be!
Copyright Yvonne Jame-Henderson

The Bonesetter Sweets

Sweet-Bookout family 1903

The Sweet family is known as the Bonesetter Sweets. Stephen, and James, sons of Sylvester, were in the Revolutionary War. (Taken from Recollections of "Ye Olden Times" by Thomas R. Hazard, 1879.)

John SWEET son of Robert SWEET/Johanna RAINHAM  emigrated to USA 1630 from Wales with wife Mary (PERIAM) and ch  John, James, and Renewed. They emigrated to Salem, Mass in 1630.  He was progenitor of the "celebrated natural bone setters" Source: The SWEET SAGA, by Belle Smiley and Iola Young (1960)

1657 James SWEET s/o James and Mary GREENE born.  Died 1724.  He was the father of Job SWEET who became known as the "Great Bonesetter" and was the most famous of all the Bonesetter SWEETs.  He surpassed the achievements of any of his forebears.  Job SWEET began to practice this natural gift while yet in his teens, winning celebrity wherever he applied his art.

Besides the bone-setting gift, the Sweet family have another faculty; that of compounding liniments or washes from the roots and barks that are to be found in almost every neighborhood and which are highly efficacious in reducing
inflammation and swellings and in preventing mortification.

There is a tradition in the Narragansett family of Sweets that their ancestors including James the first immigrant to Rhode Island, had long been gifted by nature with the faculty of setting dislocated and broken bones. James reared a large family and among them a son Benoni, and to this Benoni a son, James, was born June 18, 1688. This James and his father Benoni both possessed the "natural gift" of setting dislocated bones; to what extent it was exercised is not definitely known.

Job, the son of the second James, the first great "bonesetter," was born December 1, 1728, and died on a farm about a mile from Narragansett Pier in Point Judith, Rhode Island.

Job obtained an eminent and widespread reputation as a bone-setter. He was styled Dr. Sweet. During the Revolution he was called to Newport to set dislocated bones of the French officials, an operation their army surgeons were unable to do. After the war Colonel Burr invited him to New York to restore the hipbone of his daughter which had previously baffled the skill of the city surgeons. He had a son, Benoni, who also practiced and although totally unlearned in surgery Dr. Job Sweet seldom failed in his bone-restoring operations. Benoni, a son of Job, born October 17, 1762, removed to Lebanon, Connecticut, where until his death he was celebrated as a natural bone-setter. Jonathan, another son of Job, born September 6, 1765, settled at Sugar Loaf Hill near Wakefield, Rhode Island, and he restored many broken and dislocated bones.

He removed to Boston where he died 1827. On the removal of Job to Boston, William his brother, born October
25, 1802, resided at Sugar Loaf Hill and commenced in the bone-setting line but gave way to his brother John, son of Gideon who had relinquished farming to devote all his time to the business of bonesetting. After a time John moved to New Bedford and then William again resumed bone-setting in South Kingstown and has probably been as successful in his calling as anyone of the name. Job, his eldest son, is now (1879) a skillful bone-setter practicing in New Bedford, and vicinity. George, a younger son, lives with his brother Job, and sets bones when his brother is away. William N. Sweet, another son of William, lives with Job but practices principally in Boston, Fall River and their vicinities. He, too, is said to be very successful in his calling. Jonathan, another son, also practiced in Providence for ten years until his death in 1867. Edward, youngest son of William, lives in the homestead at Sugar Loaf, and occasionally sets bones when his father is absent.

Jonathan Sweet, son of the last named Job and grandson of William, practices bone-setting in Newark, New Jersey. James, also a son of Job; and Samuel, son of Gideon, now both live in South Kingston, inherit the gift and occasionally in cases of necessity replace dislocated and broken bones. In consequence of existence and enforcement of laws in New York, making it a misdemeanor for natural bone-setters, so many have had to forego their calling in the state of New York.


Copyright 2000
Yvonne James-Henderson

1. The SWEET SAGA, by Belle Smiley and Iola Young (1960)
2. Recollections of "Ye Olden Times" by Thomas R. Hazard, 1879
3. American Folk Magick by Silver Ravenwolf
4. Photos from the private collection of Yvonne James-Henderson
5. In Defense of Granny Women  by Janet Allured
6. Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed