By Vincent Di Stefano
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Additional resources for Holism and Complementary Medicine: Origins and Principles
A few such documents related to the practice of medicine. The most detailed were the two papyri named after their discoverers, Edwin Smith and George Ebers. These are among the oldest written records that tell us how medicine was practised in earlier civilisations. These papyri were destined to open up the complex world inhabited by Egyptian priest-doctors. The Smith Papyrus, discovered in 1873, was written around 1600 BCE. It carried a great deal of medical knowledge drawn from the records of the Old Kingdom over the previous thousand years.
New arrivals would bathe in the healing mineral springs around which many of the temples were built, and would be massaged with fragrant oils. They would then make their way to the central abaton, or incubation chamber, where they would sleep and await the visitation of a healing guide in a dream. The dreams of patients were heard by their Asklepiad attendants, who would then devise a treatment based on these nocturnal intimations. Patients who were cured of their condition would often present the temple with a gift in the form of an effigy, crafted in wax, stone or precious metal, of the diseased body part which had been healed.
This priestly aspect of physicianship has, perhaps, been overshadowed by the present Western style, based as it is upon high rationality and the use of powerful technologies, yet will always remain available as a source of both healing and comfort. Comp Medicine Pages 3/11/05 2:57 PM Page 19 Chapter 2 Middle times The gathering light Nature is the physician, not you; from her you take your orders, not from yourself; she composes, not you. Paracelsus, c. 1530 1 The greater physicians of the past, reasoning from what seem to us to be very faulty premises, somehow got their patients well, otherwise they would have had no clientele or following.