Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/235

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'PSYCHOTHERAPY IN FOLK-MEDICINE 231

was some moss off a dead man's skull (sent for a present from Ireland where it is far less rare than in most other countries) though it did but touch my skin till the herb was a little warmed." Mere contact with the gruesome object was sufficient.

Will it be objected that Boyle was deceived and that his nose-bleed could not have been stopped as he says it was ? Let it be remembered that the possibility of controlling hemorrhages by suggestion has been demonstrated repeatedly by experiment on subjects under hypnotism. The Emmanuel practitioners have done it by their methods. The Bible reports a case, and the popular devices for stopping nose-bleed are about as numerous as for curing warts — one of the most favorite being to slip a cold key between the skin and the clothes. Boyle tells of another case, that of a young man, whose nose-bleed was stopped by the external application of an agate, and in his collection of household remedies he mentions, among other instances of suggestive therapeutics, the holding of a certain herb in the hand as another excellent measure against nose-bleed.

The horrible was relied upon by the Eomans to give them the requisite psychic shock. They drank the blood of gladiators for epi- lepsy, and to-day in Denmark, China and Switzerland, curative sug- gestion for epilepsy, hydrophobia and consumption is obtained from the blood of decapitated criminals. The Egyptian kings took baths of blood to cure elephantiasis, and the Vikings drank from the skulls of their conquered foemen at solemn festivals. Next to the horrible, the loath- some and nauseating have been utilized. The bitter medicines that used to be prescribed by the old-fashioned doctors, and the vile compounds made from the excreta of goats, cats, dogs, mice and other animals owed their curative properties to the same principles. Nor have the worst of these medicines passed away from civilized lands, as a little inquiry among some of the latest arrivals from rural Europe has demonstrated.

Belief in the curative power of the means employed is the most important element in its success. "We know now that it does not so much matter upon what the belief is based so long as the belief is strongly present. Faith, in former ages, was almost entirely at the com- mand of religious ideas. To-day, faith in scientific conceptions and scientific authority has largely taken the place of religious faith. Let a man feel that a certain mode of procedure rests upon scientific prin- ciples, and the method, whether right or wrong, will have therapeutic value. Cures recommended by popular tradition are contemptuously dismissed as mere relics of ancient superstition, but any remedy admin- istered with a show of scientific reasoning and authority is sure to produce results. A slight examination of the scientific remedies for whooping-cough will show how true are these observations.

The number of approved remedies for whooping-cough is about as

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