Strange birds: a case of Bubo virginianus
In 2004, Karla was five. Her father was of Colombian indigenous descent, a Yoga teacher and shaman. Her mother was French, an artist. They live in a little two-story house, in a forest central southern France, in the “Montagne Noire” region, about thirty kilometres from the closest town, which they overlook.
Her parents, whom I had already seen in consultation, invited me to spend a day with them, to enjoy the surrounding nature and a sauna. During this visit, they shared with me their concern regarding their daughter. She is starting school next year and barely utters a word. She understands all she is told; she smiles, laughs and plays with her older sister but does not say a word; “As if she was observing the world.” Their worry concerns her social life, including school, but not her mental health. With other children, she is uneasy, keep herself to herself, a bit wary, out of synch, and the others end up ignoring her.
Watching her, I notice that she sits very straight in the sandpit, where she spends long moments. If her sister does not play with her or nothing is asked of her, she just stays there, immobile, looking in the distance, turning her head from time to time, just to check the origin of a noise. She likes to take refuge in the tree hut facing the house, far from the noise and the children playing below – always quiet, showing no fear or excitation, as if she has no concern. One could think of autism but she quickly answers to calls, often with a smile.
She has good appetite. As they follow a vegetarian diet, I ask her mother how it goes with the children. For Anita, the oldest, there is no problem, she is happy with the food. For Karla, however, it is different: when she went to the neighbours for a meal, she literally pounced on the meat dish! So, we put some chicken on the table at home but we had to tell her to slow down, otherwise she would eat everything at once, without even chewing the food.
Looking at little Karla, quiet, smiling, proud, kind, never violent or angry, always happy with her life, calm and serene, I wonder how one could imagine her jumping on red meat or chicken, wolfing it down without even chewing it and not leaving a bit?
“Something else besides her mutism worries us,” says her mother. “After all, I like her as she is – as if she was the reincarnation of a ‘bruja’ (witch) – but she doesn’t sleep at night. She gets up every night, goes down the ladder and goes to the kitchen or outside.”
Claude Gezhi (CG): Is she sleepwalking?
Mother (M): “No, not at all, she is awake, she talks with me.”
CG: About what?
M: “About her day or what she has seen, what others have done.”
CG: So, she talks then! I understand better why you are not worried about her mental health or a possible deafness!
M: “Yes, but she’s tired during the day. She gets up at the same time as us; she doesn’t sleep much.”
We enter the house and then I see the ladder mentioned earlier: a hand-made ladder, very steep and high with irregular rungs, which leads to the bedrooms of the second floor. There is no handrail; the whole floor opens onto the void.
CG: If my daughter had to go down on that in the middle of the night, I’d be very scared. Do you go down with her?
M: “No, most of the time I get woken up by the little mouse-like noises she makes. In fact, Karla sees the mice in the house, even at night.”
CG: She does not turn on the light?
So, here is Karla’s case.
It was too good to be true. I was discovering the world of Birds through Jonathan Shore, whom I had listened to last year in Paris. This case made me think for the first time about the idea that there might be a difference between a “totem-animal” and a remedy, which represents a real suffering. It is not because Miss X thinks she’s an antelope that she necessarily needs that remedy. Here, however, the suffering was very real.
What are the elements of this case?
- She does not speak, except at night
- Aversion for company but resembling indifference more than aversion
- Desires solitude
- Observes the surrounding world, on her guard but without emotion
- Desires meat, which she eats without chewing
- Proud, imperial but without arrogance
- Absent but quickly answering when called
- Calm, silent, kind, serene
- Fearless of void and darkness
- Sees at night; nyctalope
- Hears the slightest noise; hyperacusis
Prescription: Bubo virginianus MK, the owl
Ten days later, she stopped getting up at night and is now sleeping well. She started to speak like girls of her age and integrated into school without problems; she is now doing very well. The following year, they left France for Martinique (French West Indies). Two years later, I got news of Klara from her father, who was in France for a visit: she was doing well and had taken the remedy once more when they arrived in their new home.
In 2009, they move to Colombia, in the Guajira region. A friend visited them and told me that Karlita was doing very well. She’s been baptised by the Indian tribe of the area “Ocolote”, which comes from the word “Tocolote”, meaning “Owl”!
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