by Glennis Byron
The headline in the Toronto Sun today certainly caught my eye. Wills and Kate? Say it isn’t so.
The reference is to this book by Richard Sugg, lecturer of literature and medicine at Durham University, called Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians. How can you lose with all those hot words in the title? The book is to be published by Routledge on June 29.
According to Sugg,
‘The human body has been widely used as a therapeutic agent, with the most popular treatments involving flesh, bone and blood … I can’t give an absolutely general answer re their medical reasoning, but in many cases they believed they could absorb the intrinsic vitality of living or dead bodies. Bluntly, they were trying to swallow the soul.’Royalty themselves would take distilled human skulls, which were used against epilepsy, convulsions, diseases of the head and, in the case of both Queen Mary II and her uncle King Charles II, on the deathbed to hold back the dying of the regal light.The author says the rich and educated slowly turned against the practices from the mid-18th century onward, when a rise of enlightenment gave royalty and commoners something more to chew on.
If you want to learn more, there is an article that Sugg published in 2009 in The Lancet that is available on line. The recipe for human blood marmalade does sound tasty… Aspasia? One for you?