2018 Key Note Lecture: Magical Medicine for Plague and Pox; Desperate Diseases Require Desperate Therapies
According to many myths throughout the world, the origin and cause of infectious disease is a curse on humanity. Various disease deities, from the Greek Apollo to the Aztec source of disease Xipe Totec, have been attributed to causing and then frequently curing disease, particularly infectious disease. Prior to understanding the etiology of a given malady, people attributed illness to being a curse or punishment from the Gods or ancestral spirits. While most infectious diseases were extremely feared, and considered life threatening prior to the advent of modern medicine and antibiotics/chemotherapy, little was available to the healer as curative measures or preventative prophylaxis. Treatment options often included a combination of herbal medicines, rudimentary surgical procedures and magico-religious practices. Those desperate for cures and remedies often turned to healers who used magic and witchcraft in their healing preparations. The practice of magically curing or treating infectious diseases, particularly smallpox and plague throughout Europe and India, will provide the framework for my analysis of these interesting folk magical/medicinal practices. In addition, I will provide a brief overview of some lesser known disease deities and how the indigenous flora is used in their worship to better appreciate this neglected compendium of magical healing and esoteric botany.
Jeremy Bechelli received his Ph.D. in infectious disease pathology from the University of Texas Medical Branch and his M.S. in microbiology from the University of Rochester. Jeremy is currently an Assistant Professor of Biology studying tick-borne infectious diseases and endothelial pathobiology. Jeremy is a long-time student of European folk magic and studies occult herbalism, folk medicine and the traditional witch-lore and practices of the British Isles. Jeremy also owns Phytognosis, a business focused on plant based spirituality, incense, resins, and botanical curious.