The Gruesome History of Eating Corpses as Medicine
By Maria Dolan | Smithsonian.com
The last line of a 17th century poem by John Donne prompted Louise Noble’s quest. “Women,” the line read, are not only “Sweetness and wit,” but “mummy, possessed.”
Sweetness and wit, sure. But mummy? In her search for an explanation, Noble, a lecturer of English at the University of New England in Australia, made a surprising discovery: That word recurs throughout the literature of early modern Europe, from Donne’s “Love’s Alchemy” to Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” because mummies and other preserved and fresh human remains were a common ingredient in the medicine of that time. In short: Not long ago, Europeans were cannibals.
Noble’s new book, Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture, and another by Richard Sugg of England’s University of Durham, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians, reveal that for several hundred years, peaking in the 16th and 17th centuries, many Europeans, including royalty, priests and scientists, routinely ingested remedies containing human bones, blood and fat as medicine for everything from headaches to epilepsy. There were few vocal opponents of the practice, even though cannibalism in the newly explored Americas was reviled as a mark of savagery. Mummies were stolen from Egyptian tombs, and skulls were taken from Irish burial sites. Gravediggers robbed and sold body parts.
“The question was not, ‘Should you eat human flesh?’ but, ‘What sort of flesh should you eat?’ ” says Sugg. The answer, at first, was Egyptian mummy, which was crumbled into tinctures to staunch internal bleeding. But other parts of the body soon followed. Skull was one common ingredient, taken in powdered form to cure head ailments. Thomas Willis, a 17th-century pioneer of brain science, brewed a drink for apoplexy, or bleeding, that mingled powdered human skull and chocolate. And King Charles II of England sipped “The King’s Drops,” his personal tincture, containing human skull in alcohol. Even the toupee of moss that grew over a buried skull, called Usnea, became a prized additive, its powder believed to cure nosebleeds and possibly epilepsy. Human fat was used to treat the outside of the body. German doctors, for instance, prescribed bandages soaked in it for wounds, and rubbing fat into the skin was considered a remedy for gout.
Blood was procured as fresh as possible, while it was still thought to contain the vitality of the body. This requirement made it challenging to acquire. The 16th century German-Swiss physician Paracelsus believed blood was good for drinking, and one of his followers even suggested taking blood from a living body. While that doesn’t seem to have been common practice, the poor, who couldn’t always afford the processed compounds sold in apothecaries, could gain the benefits of cannibal medicine by standing by at executions, paying a small amount for a cup of the still-warm blood of the condemned. “The executioner was considered a big healer in Germanic countries,” says Sugg. “He was a social leper with almost magical powers.” For those who preferred their blood cooked, a 1679 recipe from a Franciscan apothecary describes how to make it into marmalade.
Read the full article at: smithsonianmag.com
Horrifyingly, Ground Baby Pills Are a Real Thing
In news that will make you want to shut the blinds, go back to bed until next week ... there’s disturbing news out of South Korea that since August, officials have found over 17,000 pills filled with human flesh, in particular the placentas and ground up bodies of dead Chinese babies.
Feel free to walk away from your computer and shake your head for the next few minutes. Perhaps as equally disturbing than the dead baby "bodies were chopped into small pieces and dried on stoves before being turned into powder." (Now you’ll really want to walk away as we tell you that people were, as the Associated Press’ Hyung-Jin Kim reports, consuming these pills as stamina and enhancement boosters and putting themselves at risk. "It was confirmed those capsules contain materials harmful to the human body, such as super bacteria. We need to take tougher measures to protect public health," a customs official said in a report by The Korea Times (which was translated and picked up by the BBC).
Brazilian Man and Two Women Accused of Murder and Cannibalism
Creepy Cannibals: Bones Show Ancient Britons Ate the Dead, Used Skulls as Cups
Cannibal Restaurant Has Berliners Disgusted: Looking for Body Part Donors
Latest News from our Front Page
Kanye West says in his VMA 2015 speech that he's running for president in 2020
'And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.'
Kanye West received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at tonight's MTV Video Music Awards, and he closed his acceptance speech by announcing he's running for president in 2020. Yes, really!
The segment started with a bang when West was handed his ...
White students in Australia rejecting "multicultural" agenda, this is a problem apparently
According to Dr Christina Ho from Sydney’s University of Technology, White Students have not obeyed the command to become “multicultural”.
White Students have very rarely mixed with non-White groups, and Dr Ho thinks that this is a problem which must be solved.
“Schools are becoming more segregated in terms of both class and ethnicity,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “More and more ...
Sweden: The De-balling of the Vikings
For some reason, the deliberately-injected moral and mental cancer known as 'liberalism', aka 'progressivism' has always seemed to metastasize faster in the Nordic countries, particularly Scandinavian ones. This phenomenon is also observable among the American descendants of Scandinavian immigrants in places like Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The hypothesis of this reporter is that the innate, perhaps even genetic, altruism and human ...
New Monsanto Spray Kills Bugs by Messing With Their Genes
In a fascinating long piece in MIT Technology Review, Antonio Regalado examines the genetically modified seed industry's latest blockbuster app in development—one that has nothing to do with seeds. Instead, it involves the industry's other bread-and-butter product: pesticide sprays. But we're not talking about the poisonous chemicals you convinced your dad to stop dousing the lawn with. The novel sprays ...
Obama to speak with Jewish groups on Iran deal
President Barack Obama is using a Friday webcast to try to allay concerns from Jewish communities about the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Obama will deliver remarks about the agreement and take questions from participants. The webcast is being organized by two major Jewish organizations that have held similar events with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
The Israeli ...
|More News » |