Medicine and its links with religion and beliefs.
This list is intended to provide a range of examples of the way that religious and spiritual beliefs have been linked to medicine over time. The list will be updated as I teach different periods of the course to this years cohort.
|The Prehistoric period||Stonehenge is an excellent example of the way that people in Britain worshipped at this time. The official website provides historical context and outlines the types of worship.
Cave paintings such as those found at Lascaux, France provide a vivid illustration of the way of life at the time and offer clues as to the way in which some injuries and ailments were treated. They also show us some of the things that prehistoric man believed about gods and spirits.
Charms were used by shaman and medicine men. These were used to ward off evil spirits.
Aboriginal beliefs and practices are also a useful indicator of what prehistoric medicine may have been like.
Finds such as those in the tomb of the Eagles at Isbister provide us with artefacts relating to everyday life, beliefs and practices.
|The Ancient World||The Valley of the Kings and the tombs in Egyptian pyramids at Giza provide us with examples of the way in which the ancient Egyptians prepared for death and the journey to the afterlife.
T he Papyrus Ebers and Papyrus Edwin Smith are the two oldest medical documents in the world. They show us the links between beliefs and medical practices and show us how prayer and treatment were prescribed alongside one another.
The remains and finds at ancient sites such as Pergamum provide us with evidence of how Greek ideas developed and spread.
Cult of Asclepius – evidence from temples and ancient texts show that the god cured patients overnight and tell us of of cleansing rituals.
Druidic medicine continued to be practicsed in Britain. The Romans attempted to destroy the druids.
In China (Shang dynasty) oracle bones were used to determine what cures the spirits advised.
Imhotep (cBC2600) was worshipped as god of healing in Ancient Egypt.
China: Yellow Emperors Manual of Medicine warns against looking for spirits and ghosts when determining treatments (c350BC)
Greeks in Alexandria develop idea of the body being linked to the movement of the solar system.
Hippocrates c400BC wrote of the need to carefully observe patients and to record symptoms (Clinical observation).
C60AD: The New Testament records a number of medical miracles linked to people’s faith.
Roman and Greek authorities prohibited dissection – apart from in Alexandria.
200AD, India. The Susruta Samhita states that childbirth should be carried out by 4 women, and that doctors should be called in the case of complications.
|Medieval||Monastic hospitals were established throughout Europe.
AD534 St Benedict writes of the Christian duty to the sick.
St. Bernhard in the 12th century teaches that: “To buy drugs or to consult with physicians doesn’t fit with Religion”
The Kings Touch was believed to cure people of diseases such as Scrofula. This practise continued in England until 1714 and in France into the 19th century.
The teachings of the Catholic church was, in general, that “The cure comes from God.”
Islamic law forbade the dissection of bodies.
The Hospital of St John, Cambridge, was opened.