A gift of healing through prayer, the Secret is said to be an ancient practice that can be traced right back to Christian antiquity and perhaps even further. Various formulae can be used to cure or ease a wide range of ailments and injuries such as burns, ulcers, warts, angina and headaches, as well as certain psychological problems. This type of intervention, which may be performed via a third party and even on animals, is special because it does not require any form of manipulation or indeed any direct physical contact with the patient. Swiss hospitals and care homes often have lists of phone numbers for practitioners orfaiseurs de secret, stating which complaints each one can treat. The gift is passed on between individuals, most often to the younger generation and in strict confidence, and is primarily an act of charity and devotion that must be performed free of charge. Attempts to profit from it are rare and can meet with an indignant backlash. While highly popular in Jura, the Secret is also practised in a number of other Swiss cantons like Fribourg, Valais, Appenzell and in central Switzerland. It is generally more widespread in the French and Italian-speaking parts of the country than in the German-speaking area. With no governing body and no official organisation as such, it is a world of its own, shunning publicity, financial gain and glory, a mystical power beyond words and modern reason.

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