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Witchcraft, impotence, and indigestion

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Chapter Summary

This chapter deals with the relationship between witchcraft and disease. Such a treatment is not an ad hoc concoction but is surely appropriate, for, as is well-known, "witchcraft is an almost, if not completely, culturally universal explanation for illness, injury, and slow recovery". According to the author, medical texts frequently associate symptom syndromes centering on the stomach, lungs and mouth with witchcraft diagnoses. These problems relate especially to the digestive tract. The fear of witchcraft grew in importance in Mesopotamia. The growing emphasis on an external human cause as an explanation for failure and suffering took place in an increasingly complex urban world in which the individual was losing some of his traditional supports and was confronted by more extended, impersonal, and hostile social forces. His reaction was to blame witches for his illness and impotence.

Keywords: digestive illness; human behavior; impotence; medical texts; Mesopotamia; witchcraft



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