History of sickness and medical art 7 : in preliterate society 4

A Mask dancing of Dogon( agricultural tribes) in the Middle West Africa

< A Mask dancing of Dogon( agricultural tribes) in the Middle West Africa  >


An etiology: Recognition of the world

 Although native’s recognition about the sickness and the medical art is unscientific and superstitious, the base of it is a thinking that gives on to modern society.

First, they have caught logically the principle of cause and effect about the sickness in their own way.

For example, they thought that a swelling of hand and foot originated in an abnormality of the internal organs, or when a sickness prevailed in a village, it was carried with insect or the wind, or an epilepsy began from temporary cutting of a brain.

Although they did not need explanation beyond it, and could not make the exact medical treatment, they always have tried a certain understanding and explanation for it.

They think that most of mental diseases depend on the supernatural causes (evil spirit).


In order for people to advocate a general etiology with physical element (body fluid and blood, etc.), we had to wait for the city civilization birth.

Medicinal herb use and magic of medical treatment was still the main thing.


 Her diseased part is purifying with leaves in Mexico. 

< Her diseased part is purifying with leaves in Mexico. >












Medical treatment and magic:  Animism

To think that the magic and the evil spirits are causes of the disease are that they are thinking with separating the soul from the body, and moreover assume that the natural world have human nature.

Possibly you might have thought, “While clouds come out and it is raining, the sun is escaping to want not to get wet to rain.”


Bushman living in Kalahari Desert may cure a poor bag of hunting.

First, the root of certain plant and the hoof of certain game animal are burned, and it becomes powder.

Subsequently, the droppings of the animal are mixed with it and it becomes a mash.

Several body surfaces of a hunter are injured with a razor, and the powder is rubbed in.

I guess that this is a courtesy to control misfortune by the indirect contact to the object, and the dirty things (impurity).

Thus, all medical treatment and the courtesy will develop from abundant experiences and the analogy.



< Bushman >


治療と呪術 : アニミズム











a dancing to cure

< a dancing to cure >


Magic, science, and religion   

The anatomy of the animal might deepen understanding to the physiology and the sickness.

Therefore pastoral people would be able to escape easily from a conception of magic more than agricultural people.

This may be one reason that pastoral people have little mask culture (where the magic is thought as important in).

I think that this had made a difference of scientific development, along with the growth of the city civilization.

Moreover, by ethnic group, the ultimate responsibility contracting a disease included a difference in whether it was caused by self or outside.

These might have given a big influence on religion that was born in ancient civilization.












Categories: culture+society, history+evolution, <english language, <japanese language, Series: History of sickness and medical art | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “History of sickness and medical art 7 : in preliterate society 4

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    This is UTTERLY fascinating. Fantastic post. This is fascinating!!

  2. いつもとても勉強になります。とても興味深い記事ですね。

  3. Your series on the History of Medical Art is very interesting. While modern people seem to enjoy much with the advancements of science – I think there is also some recognition in trying to understand how humor works to heal and how animals can bring comfort. The human mind/brain still has so much to teach us in regards to how we can heal ourselves sometimes though with the help of manufactured drugs and surgery.

    While there are some people who only believe in one or the other, faith or science – it may be a mixing of the two that can help more people recover quicker from both small and larger health issues.

    • Thank you for commenting a precious opinion. Faith or science, a heart or brain, the one-sided recognition has a problem. I want to indicate that the human beings have been raveling relations between the both ideas, by looking back on the history of medical art.


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