Magic and Healing


Those who were in need of healing often had several options. Some of these we would approvingly view as scientific and medically sound, such as consulting a physician or surgeon and then following a prescription or receiving treatment. Similar op tions included visiting an herbalist, "root-cutter," or someone else who peddled traditional folk remedies.[[1]] As is still common today among the pious, a different approach was to pray and make offerings while calling upon a god for help; so me who seriously needed medical attention might even stay at the healing shrine of a god such as Asklepios or Sarapis in order to receive a nighttime visitation from the god and thus awaken cured. Other means of healing were seemingly less rational: com bining the use of herbs and animal parts with magical invocations and prayers; wearing medical amulets that invoked a divine power and commanded it to cure; using various minerals and gems that were believed to have special healing properties; analyzing the patient's horoscope to determine a cure; and even, in some parts of the world, exorcising the spirits that were held to cause disease. It should be noted, however, that in antiquity such matters were not viewed so categ orically, and that there was much overlapping. Thus, for example, some physicians might approve the use of amulets, or the priests of Asklepios might prepare a potion of animals, vegetables and minerals that resembled the concoctions of herbalists and he alers. And even though not everyone believed in magic, even skeptics might turn to amulets and other forms of healing magic when all else had failed.[[2]]