Watch Vav Simon sorting out this greyhound. Tiny - racing name Hint of Promise -
has gone lame in one hind leg. He is so highly strung that when his owner took him
to the vet, the dog had to be sedated before anyone could examine him. Now in his
kennel, he is wearing a muzzle in case he tries to snap - but in fact he has no intention
of attacking his healer. On the contrary: he is almost asleep on his feet, clearly
enjoying the sensation of skilled hands working on his spine. Occasionally Vav murmurs
a soothing endearment, sometimes in English, sometimes in Gaelic, and every few seconds
makes a sharp, sideways flick with her fingers.
"I'm putting a vibration into his vertebrae," she explains. "Rather than force the
bones into place, I'm encouraging the body's own healing system so the bones vibrate
and centre themselves before the ligaments contract and pull them elsewhere."
She explains that the nerve supply passes from the brain down the spine and out through
pin-head sized holes in each vertebra, to all the muscles, joints and major organs
in the body. "If one of the bones is slightly displaced, the nerve supply has to
deviate. The effect's a bit like putting your foot on a hosepipe: it cuts down the
message the nerve gives to whatever part it supplies."
Vav's hidden asset is the energy that emanates from her hands - an inherited power
which her mother long wanted her to suppress, but one which she now deploys freely
to make a living. Although most of her patients are horses, she also heals dogs,
cats and humans, working in a wide radius from her home on the Isle of Wight.
A direct and friendly person, she came from a farming family on the Isle of Lewis.
One day when she was six, she was sitting at her grandmother's dressing-table, admiring
the mirrors, hairbrushes, and powder bowls. In one of the mirrors she saw her granny
approaching with a blue velvet cloth in her hands. From the cloth the old woman brought
out a crystal ball, which she handed over with the words: "One day you'll know what
to do with this."
At that moment, Vav's mother entered the room, and a terrible argument broke out,
the mother screaming from a mixture of fear and anger that the child was being initiated
into dangerous mysteries. The scene has haunted Vav ever since, and it took her many
years to understand the cause of the tension. The truth was that ever since Christianity
had become established in the Outer Isles, "the old ways" - the ancient methods of
healing - had come to be seen as sinister, and women like her grandmother who practised
them "were put into the witch class". So for much of her life she hardly dared trust
or speak about the gift which had been passed on to her.
Her own career has been varied, to say the least. After dropping out from a physical
education college in Dunfermline, she went to live with her boyfriend, whom she later
married, and with whom she had two children. She worked in a bank until she found
it too boring, then became personal assistant to a potter. She also trained as a
dancer with Scottish Ballet, and taught dance.
All this time people were bringing horses, cats and dogs to her. She was also treating
dancers, but she thought it important to get proper qualifications, and so she trained
in massage and physiotherapy, took a degree at the McTimoney Chiropractic College
in Oxford, then an MSc in [ ] chiropractics [for animals]. After the break-up of
her first marriage she spent time on her own, then met her present husband, David,
a psychologist: with her own two children, two of his, and two more jointly, they
have amassed a brood of six.
Now she is in non-stop demand, treating 10 or 12 animals a day. She still uses Gaelic
phrases to soothe animals, but in fact her grasp of the language is fragmentary -
once, when urged by a journalist to explain an aside she had made to a horse, she
invented a translation: "I told him I'd said, `Stand up, you silly bugger. The knackerman's
Although her methods are gentle, and usually send her patients to sleep, strong forces
are involved. On one occasion, as she finished working on a horse, the stable-girl
holding the animal was hit by such a charge of negative energy that she went into
a trance and began to sway. As Vav moved to help her, she too was hit. "I felt as
if I'd been kicked in the solar plexus. I called, `Get her out of the box!' I was
gasping for breath, and had tears streaming down my face. My husband said, `Oh, my
God - is the horse dead?' The horse was fine, but I had to rebalance the girl, ground
the energy and settle her down. She didn't come back to work for a week, but when
she did, she felt terrific, and had no memory of what had happened."
Vav sees herself as a channel for the powers she possesses, and feels honoured to
act as such. As she says, "I'm not God. I can't walk across the Solent. I have to
pay for the ferry, like everyone else." Yet she is by no means as ordinary as she
looks. She now knows that the energies to which she tunes in work through the prehistoric
stone circle at Callanish, on Lewis - but she found this out only through a chance
meeting with a Mohawk elder at a healing conference in Cirencester. Her ambition
is to take part in scientific research which may establish exactly what is happening
when she heals.
She isn't surprised that her three-year-old daughter seems to have inherited her
gift. The child once saw a horse in a field, and said, "Mummy - that horse has a
sore foot". When Vav asked, "How d'you know that?" the reply was, "I can hear it".