Monthly Archives: August 2016

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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Egyptian Days: magical science

Anything handed down from the distant past had extra authority, and when it came from the East, even more so. Until well into the early modern period, one of the firmest universal beliefs was in the unlucky Egyptian Days. The … 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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Breast milk and virgins

Medieval herbal and traditional remedies come mainly from native Celtic or Germanic roots, not from the Greco-Roman tradition that they considered more scientific. And although only a few of the remedies include women in the actual recipe, they tell us … Continue reading

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