Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/158

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the priests had charge of the health of the people, and in time of plague and pestilence relied wholly on religious methods of cure. According to the accounts that have come down to us, these methods were most successful. In highly civilized Greece, priests, the direct descendants of Æsculapius, cured disease by mysterious ceremonies, music, offerings, fastings, and such like. In Rome, when a plague broke out, the priests endeavored to combat it by feasting the gods, or driving nails into the right wall of the Temple of Jupiter. The early Christian Church was strongly opposed to the progress of medicine. It believed that the power of curing disease had been transmitted from Christ and his apostles to their bishops and elders. They discarded altogether the use of medicinal agents, and healed the sick by prayer, the laying on of hands, and the anointing with oil. This form of treatment, being of he miraculous order, needed no knowledge of the nature of disease, or of the structure of the human frame. Heathen priests and physicians were regarded as sorcerers and dealers in witchcraft, and so were burned or otherwise put out of the way. For some centuries the monks monopolized all the medical practice and quackery. They made a good living, selling for large sums of money remnants of ancient martyrs, waters of holy wells, portions of the true cross, etc., as a protection against sickness, witchcraft, evil spirits, and other ills that flesh was heir to in those dark ages. They prayed to St. Anthony for inflammation, St. Valentine for epilepsy, St. Clara for sore eyes, St. Appolonia for toothache, St. Vitus for madness and poison, and so on.[1] It was not till after the breaking up of the powers of the priesthood by the Reformation, and the introduction of printing, that medicine began to escape from the grasp of quackery and made rapid strides toward the truth, perfecting knowledge of disease by accurate observation and the study of the human frame and its workings in health. That the emancipation of medicine from superstition did not immediately take place is evidenced by the wonderful hold the belief in the cure of scrofula by the royal touch had on the people, both medical and lay, for many years after the Reformation, nay, almost down to our own time. This most remarkable form of quackery, and one, according to

  1. The Medical Rose offers a peculiar and very approved remedy for epilepsy. Advising the patient to stand upright, saying the Lord's prayer with the mouth wide open to prevent the first attack, and informing us that a lunatic, an epileptic, and a demoniac were the same, he gives the following sacrophysical directions: "When the patient and his parents have fasted three days, let them conduct him to a church. If he be of a proper age and in his right senses, let him confess. Then let him hear mass on Friday, during the fast of quatuor temporum, and also on Saturday. On Sunday let a good and religious priest read over his head in church the gospel which is read in September in the time of vintage, after the feast of the Holy Cross. After this, let the same priest write the same gospel devoutly, and let the patient wear it about his neck, and he shall be cured. The gospel is, 'This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.'"—("Rosa Anglica," p. 78, edition 1491; ib., p. 415, edition 1595—quoted in Willcock's "Laws of the Medical Profession," p. 25, edition 1830.)