Medieval medicine is more than the traditional thoughts of leeches and bloodletting; charms, plant remedies, shamans, priests, and a hint of supernatural are easily incorporated into describing the medicine of the time. Throughout this period of time, all of these elements combined together to create, what was then seen, as the most efficient way to heal someone. By studying how medicine was practiced, one can better understand the way the Medieval society worked in times of sickness.
Charms, at the most basic structure, tended to be written letters or symbols, sacrifices of animals, or gathered herbs or stones (Alonso 7). When the charms are in written form, Middle English is the language of choice; however, occasionally Latin will be used. The sentences are “syntactically complete and the contents are varied” (Alonso 6). For example, there is the use of headaches, nosebleeds, or astrological advice (Alonso 6). Since literary was not a common skill in the Middle Ages, the readers of these charms were restricted to a low number of people (Alonso 7). Even though many people could not read the charms, Christian traditions showed disappointment to the use of these charms. In order to not seem so Pagan, many “biblical names and prayers” were used to disguise the charm’s Pagan nature (Alonso 11). However, historians have found many charms in existence, showing that religious influence did not have a great effect on the people who practiced the charms.
Plant remedies were often used throughout the Middle Ages. Many believe it is possible that pre-Conquest England knew how to use the plants for healing (Voights 251). Many plant remedies were discovered and passed down from mother to daughter. The reasoning behind this assumption was women had to work with numerous plants to fix meals, preserve food, and make dyes (Weston 282). In the process of many of these tasks, women had to basically use a trial and error method until they discovered the most inefficient way to accomplish the chore.
Shamans and priests were the two significant people, in the Middle Ages, that were allowed to actually...