Sepia, storytelling and delusional seductions

fairy story

By Vera Resnick

Now you tell me, which of the following is more interesting:

“Sepia is suited to tall, slim women with narrow pelvis and lax fibers and muscles; such a woman is not well built as a woman… the remedy seems to abolish the ability to feel natural love, to be affectionate… she may even be estranged and turned aside from those she loves. This is on the border land of insanity… (Kent’s lectures)”


Sepia is suited to all men and women who exhibit symptoms pertaining to that remedy, to be determined first with reference to the proving and subsequently to other materia medicas. (VR et al, 2015)

Sepia is one of those remedies where the temptation to get into lyrical storytelling is often irresistible. I recall with much embarrassment a time when I used to teach the “washerwoman” characteristics of Sepia, drawing a pitiable and indelible picture of the suffering charlady (see Tyler’s Homeopathic Drug Pictures) that almost brought me to tears.

Because of these caricatures, Sepia is one of the hardest remedies for case management. When patients learn they have received Sepia and are drawn to do some independent research on the remedy, they inevitably get to the “washerwoman” picture. I try to explain that I work from provings, not from the “easy reading” materia medica they are likely to find on the web. I try to explain that by prescribing Sepia I’m not pigeon-holing the patient as a washerwoman type, an exhausted mother of a large family type, the woman who is unable to feel natural love, the woman who is not well built as a woman…

Could the “washerwoman” identity of Sepia have begun with a case mentioned by Constantine Hering in his Guiding Symptoms, concerning a “washerwoman, aet. 23, affected since 3 years old; profuse sweating of hands”? Perhaps – it’s one of the few cases which have more identification than “man” or “woman”. One thing is clear – the “broken telephone” nature of the development and understanding of materia medica is very evident here.

Working from provings, beginning with the provings does not rule out subsequent materia medica. But it does give the homeopath a context for anything else he or she reads about a remedy. If you read about washerwomen and then read the proving – your take-away from this study is first and foremost the washerwoman image, and then the proving. It’s much more beneficial to work in the other direction.

When you begin with the study of the remedy in the proving, in ways I’ve suggested in previous posts, you’re actually setting up a context. When “washerwoman” comes up, you can see whether it fits into that context, in physical symptoms and psychological outlook. But when you are trying to fit your patient’s case into the context of “washerwoman”, so much of the proving of Sepia becomes inaccessible, and your patient now really has been well and truly pigeon-holed.

Sepia has many symptoms relating to the emotional and mental state in Hahnemann’s proving. I’ve copied some symptoms below. I recommend simply reading through, with the understanding that you are setting the context for the washerwoman, the slim manly woman or any other images you may read in later materia medica. To get the full context for these images, I recommend reading the proving in its entirety, and looking for the symptoms that could have given rise to such images. The context is both broader and more focused than these narrow examples of “personas” that are so seductive to so many homoeopaths, but as in most seductions which make use of an artificially built illusion – never a good basis for a long-term relationship…

1. Dejected, sad.
2. Sad, especially in the evening.
3. Sad and troubled, most of all when walking in the open air.
4. Very sad with unusual weariness.
5. Sad about her health.
6. Troubled thoughts about his disease and about the future.
7. Melancholy, especially in the morning.
8. Troubled about her health, anxious, irritated and very weak.
9. She has none but troubled thoughts about her health, thinks she is getting the consumption and will die soon.
10. All her troubles present themselves in a very sad light to her mind, so that she is despondent.
11. If he only thinks of his past troubles, his pulse is quickened and his breath fails him.
12. Great sadness and frequent fits of weeping, which she could hardly suppress.
13. Lachrymose.
14. Irritably lachrymose.
15. She might have wept for displeasure at every thing, without cause.
16. Melancholy, she feels unhappy without cause.
17. Dread of men.
18. She wishes to be by herself and to lie with closed eyes.
19. He must not be alone for a moment.
20. Solicitous and anxious, with peevishness.
21. Apprehensive trembling, with cold sweat on the forehead.
22. Anxiety, in fits.
23. Intense anguish in the blood.
24. Anxiety, apprehension, at various times.
25. Anxious, toward evening.
26. Anxiety in the evening, she becomes quite red in the face, and the flushes of heat keep alternating from time to time.
27. Great internal restlessness, for many days, with hastiness; he wants to be done with his work even as he begins it.
28. Restless and lacking serenity, for many days; occupied with sad memories, and anxious, she has not the patience to stay long in a place.
29. Discouraged and peevish.
30. Entire lack of spirits (aft. sever. h.).
31. Extreme loathing of life; he felt as if he could not any longer bear this miserable existence, and as if he would pine away unless he made away with himself (aft. 24 h.).
32. Very easily frightened and timid.
33. Discontent.
34. Very readily offended.
35. Peevish and indisposed to all work.
36. Depression, especially in the morning.
37. Sorrowful mood, as after secret vexation.
38. Excitableness.
39. Very much excited all over her body.
40. The nerves are sensitive to every noise.
41. Very much affected from playing the piano.
42. The remembrance of past trouble puts him into extreme ill humor.
43. Vexatious occurrences from past times keep recurring of themselves, which makes him so irritable that he gets quite beside himself, and cannot contain himself, with anguish, palpitation, and perspiration all over the body (15th d.).
44. She finds fault with everything, does not wish what others desire; with weeping and heat of the face.
45. She finds fault with everything, approves of nothing.
46. He gets vexed at every trifle.
47. Peevish and disposed to quarrel.
48. Vexatious sensitiveness.[Gff.].
49. Peevish, especially in the morning.
50. Great inclination to get vexed.
51. From vexation, she is so excited that she fears an apoplectic fit, and everything turns black before her eyes.
52. Inclined to anger.
53. Angry, peevish.
54. Very morose and violent.
55. A trifle may produce a violent ebullition of anger, with trembling (especially of the hands).[Gff.].
56. Very sensitive at the slightest cause; a fit of desperately furious gestures with sobbing; she throws herself on the bed and remains lying there all day, without eating (just before the menses).
57. Indolence of spirit and dejection (aft. 23 d.).
58. Indolence of spirit (aft. 6 d.).
59. Great indifference to everything, no real vital feeling.
60. Indifference.
61. Very indifferent to everything, insensible and apathetic (aft. 6, 7, 8 d.).
62. No disposition to work, inattentive, distracted (aft. 6, 7 d.).
63. Alternately merry and sad.
64. Alternate involuntary laughing and weeping, without corresponding moods.
65. Weak memory (aft. 20, 48 h.).
66. He often makes mistakes in writing.
67. He was distracted, talked incorrectly, using the wrong words (aft. 9 d.).
68. He thinks, what he does not wish to think, uses expressions which he himself knows are incorrect; he resolves to do what is against his intention, and is thus in conflict with himself and, therefore, in a disagreeable, restless mood (aft. 24 h.).

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