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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2000 B.C: A different view of contagiosness

Most primitive people speculated disease as caused by the following:
  • Evil spirits
  • Upset gods
  • Dead people, especially those who died with unsettled business
  • The evil eye (witchcraft)
  • Evil mouth (witchcraft)
  • Evil tongue (witchcraft)
  • Evil finger (witchcraft)
  • Black magic, spells by people who want to do you harm
  • The breaking of taboo
  • Ghost of the dead (roam the earth in search of a body, or ghost of body unburrried "He that lieth in a ditch... He that no grave covereth... He that lies uncovered, whose head is uncovered with dust, the king's son that lieth in the desert, or in the ruins, the hero whom they have slain with the sword."  Or the ghost of children, or of women who died in childbirth, who died of hunger in prison...
Each cause of disease had a remedy, such as an incantaion.  If you thought you were sick due to an unburried, the following is an incantation you can use:
Whether thou art a ghost unburied,
Or a ghost that none careth for,
Or a ghosst whith none to make offerings to it,
Or a ghost that hath none to pour libations to it,
Or a ghost that hath no posterity.
The breaking of taboo was a common cause of illness.  For example, you drank from a sacred river, you ran in front of a black cat, you touched an evil spirit, were unclean, you were impure, you were thus contagious. 

When you were contagious anyone who slept in your bed, touched you, sat in your chair, ate off your plate, could be cursed with what curses you.  Such was mentioned in Ancient Babylonian stone tablets, in cuneiform.  One could be catch a contageous disease:
While he walked in the street,
While he made his way through the broad places
While he walked along the streets and ways,
He trod in some libation that had been poured forth, or
He put his foot in some unclean water,
Or cast his eye on the water of unwashen hands,
Or came in contact with a woman of unclean hands,
Or glanced at a maid with unwashen hands,
Or his hands touched a bewiched woman,
Or he came in contact with a man of unclean hands,
Or saw one with unwashen hands,
Or his hand touched one of unclean body.
While the technique and superstitions changed, even the Bible mentions such taboo.  For example, John and Jesus had to be bathed, purified, cleansed, before performing certain acts, or approaching certain sacred temples of worship. 

The following is from a tablet that now appears at the British Museum in Sumerian and Assyrian and has the following exorcism:
Oh witch, whosoever thou art, whose heart conceiveth my misfortune, whose tongue uttereth spells against me, whose lips poison me, and in whose footsteps death standeth, I ban thy mouth, I ban thy tongue, I ban thy glittering eyes, I ban thy swift fee, I ban thy toiling knees, I ban thy laden hands, I bind thy hands behind.  And may the Mood-god (Sin) destroy they body, and may he cast thee into the Lake of Water and Fire. 
It was due to such black magic that you must keep yourself pure.  You must be clean,  As often as possible you must bathe.  You must be clean shaven.  You must be careful who you touched. 

This was even mentioned in the Bible, Leviticus, because the Jews, unlike the Ancient Greeks, were concerned about congeousness of diseases.  They segregated the sick from the healthy, especially the Lepers.  If you had Leprosy in Babylonia you were separated from society as to not infest others with your disease.  The Leper was an outcast, he was a sinner.  He was impure.  You must not associate yourself with a Leper. 

  • Sigerist, Henry E, "A History of Medicine," volume I, second edition, 1955, page 445-6


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