Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/169

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165
MAGICAL MEDICAL PRACTISE
MAGICAL MEDICAL PRACTISE IN SOUTH CAROLINA
By JOHN HAWKINS

AS chemistry began in alchemy and astronomy in astrology, so medicine, to a great extent, has grown out of magic. Its first professors were sorcerers and priests; and its beginnings are to be looked for in the juggleries and mummeries of holy men and women who, by fastings, narcotics, or other means, enabled themselves to communicate with the benignant or malevolent spirits which savage philosophy finds in every object of nature. Among rude peoples the physician is often a priest and always a magician.

Alchemy is dead and astrology as it exists to-day is no longer to be considered seriously by the student of culture; but, owing perhaps to the religious factor in its origin, the science of medicine, as it is understood by a very large number of persons, is still encumbered with the dead husks of its earliest growth. Even in the most enlightened countries physicians are constantly confronted with the idea that disease is a sort of demoniacal possession which is to be relieved by prayer, or that it is some mysterious entity which can be removed only by the use of some equally mysterious remedy. Charms, medals impregnated with virtue by ecclesiastical benediction, and so-called electric and galvanic belts, pads, rings, brushes and other appliances are sold by thousands; and patent panaceas, compounded of drugs brought from strange lands or discovered in some unusual way, are bought and used by millions of credulous and afflicted persons in all parts of the world.

In view of these facts it is not remarkable that one occasionally finds in the United States, as well as in secluded nooks of the Old World, regions in which superstitious medical practises, handed down from father to son for no one knows how many hundreds of years, not only survive, but also show an astonishing degree of vitality.

Such a region occurs in the central part of South Carolina. It is a strip of country about one hundred miles long and from thirty to fifty miles wide, lying along the Santee, the Congaree, Broad and Saluda rivers, and embracing parts of the counties of Orangeburg, Lexington, Newberry and Saluda. The early European settlers of this region were Germans who came, about the middle of the eighteenth century, from the Lower Palatinate, Baden, Würtemberg and Switzerland. At a little later date small groups and isolated families of Scotch-Irish, of English and of French from the Huguenot settlements of the coast region established themselves among these peasants from the banks of the Rhine. But, broadly speaking, this part of Carolina was in the