Category Archives: Med. and Magic

Cosmetic, elective and women’s surgery

Elective surgery was only a concept in the Greek tradition that Northern Europe didn’t learn until the late medieval, when textbook education about surgery spread north from Bologna. I’m still not sure if the Greek world had been using opium … Continue reading

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Paul of Aegina: basic Greek surgery

We think of a surgical patient as passive, lying down, unconscious. In medieval surgery, the patient was a participant in that he was certainly conscious, and therefore he could help out by putting his (or her) body in various useful … Continue reading

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Greek medicine’s pathway into Europe

The Big Story of Europe’s medieval period is something like, “How the rude northern tribes took over for Rome and then gradually learned to adapt to and surpass Rome’s standards of civilization.” You see this same shape in every topic: … Continue reading

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Surgery in early medieval Northern Europe

The medieval candidate for surgery could be described with four Ms: Male, military, moneyed, and mangled. Most surgery developed around the war games that gradually grew more rule-bound and civilized but never ceased to be nearly as deadly as real … Continue reading

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Theriac, the uber-medicine

Theriac was more of a concept than a single recipe. It was a cure-what-ails-you brew with multiple ideas of remedies. Its focus was on counteracting poison, but “poison” was as loose an idea as “toxin” is in alternative medicine today. … Continue reading

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The frenzied and the moon-mad

We can only guess how much early medieval doctors thought of insanity as an illness or as a devil-infliction. In Bald’s Leechbook, some remedies for mental illness sound like they are definitely intended for a physical problem, and it is … Continue reading

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Magical obstetrics

There is something ultimately mysterious about the birth of a child, even now. We don’t know what governs sex selection in conception of a child, why some babies are stillborn, why some identical twins are conjoined, or how mutations happen. … Continue reading

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Medieval gynecology

Early medieval traditional medicine gave due respect to the particular needs of women.¬†Irregular periods and infertility, labor that’s timely and complete, and post-birth appearance of milk were the three basic problems for women.¬†Some of the herbal remedies are still used, … Continue reading

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Mad dogs and Englishmen—and chickens

I’m passing over many remedies in Leechcraft that follow a sensible, generic pattern: “take these 3 herbs and boil them in wine, let the patient drink it.” “Boil this herb in butter, mix in another herb, apply to wound.” Many … Continue reading

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Henbane and Horehound

Toothache must have been a frequent problem in medieval times. With our standard of dental care, we lose awareness of just how chronic and potentially dangerous tooth problems can be. From chronic minor tooth pain (the sort that gets “referred” … Continue reading

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