Religion and Medicine Through Time

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Religion & Medicine Through Time

Religion has had positive and negative effects on the development of medicine through time.

Prehistoric Times

Because prehistoric times were before written communication was developed, there is no record of prehistoric beliefs, however, we can draw upon knowledge of groups of people like the Aborigines, who still live in a very similar way to those who lived in the pre-historic times today.

Spirits were at the heart of the Aborigine's world. They believe spirits created the world, and that every person has his or her own spirit, they use to explain why people become sick - if your spirit left your body you became ill, or if an evil spirit entered your body you became ill.

If an aborigine believed that a spirit was causing sickness, they would visit the 'medicine man' also known as a 'shamen'. The medicine man would sing and dance to send the patient into a trance before asking the spirit to leave the body.

Aborigines wore charms in order to ward off evil 'disease causing' spirits. They made these charms from a variety of things, including seeds from plants, all the way to parts of the human body. They also buried their hair, nails and excrement, in order to prevent evil spirits using them to cast a spell. An accidental benefit of this, was better hygiene, which must have prevented disease.

Although the Aborigines believed in spirits and medicine men, they also used more practical methods like herbs and plants to treat some sickness.

Egyptian Times

Religion had a fairly big impact on medicine in the Egyptian times, it helped to increase medical knowledge. Egyptians beliefs in the afterlife led them to embalm dead bodies - mummification was the beginnings of formal anatomical knowledge.

People still believed in Gods and Spirits, Imhotep was the Egyptian god of healing, alongside other gods such as Sekhmet, whom Egyptians believed could cure/cause epidemics. They also still used charms or 'amulets' in order to ward off evil spirits.

Priests had quite a big role in medicine, they were the beginnings of professional doctors - often turned to for medical advice. They also kept themselves clean - for example, shaved heads which was arguably public health - cleanliness was a religious idea, not a medical idea.

Again, aside from their spiritual beliefs, Egyptian people had other cures such as herbs, they also began to develop the first natural explanation for the cause of disease with the 'Channel Theory'

Greek Times

The Greeks had numerous different Gods, covering pretty much all aspects of laughing, the god of healing was Asclepius. A large number of temples dedicated solely to Asclepius were built throughout Greek times, these temples were…


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