InfoErbe

Medicina medievale (inglese)
Article Index
Medicina medievale (inglese)
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8
Page 9
Page 10
Page 11
Page 12
Page 13
Page 14
Page 15
Page 16
Page 17
Page 18


Thus, although there is no doubt that 'medieval writers...frequently saw disease as a condition to be avoided...it is also true that sickness and suffering were sometimes seen as conditions "to be endured" rather than "cured" '. (Bynum, 1989, p. 167)  Moreover, the so common cases of fustigation, punishment, or torture of the human flesh, considered today as a negation of the physical, were at those times a way of elevating the physical to the divine (nota 6). 
According to Bynum (1989, p. 162), this somatic aspect is
derived from the fact that by the 13th century the prevalent concept of person was of a psychosomatic unity, [in that] the orthodox position in the eschatology required resurrection of body as well as soul at the end of time, and the philosophical, medical, and folk understandings of body saw men and women as variations on a single physiological structure.
Nowhere is the concept of embodied spirituality described so poetically as in Dante's quartine.   The Poet, in XXV canto of his Purgatory, does not use the scholastic concept of a separate anima but follows instead an Aristotelian idea of matter and form where the anima is the form of the body and as such not separable.  At the embryological level, he makes Stazio say, the rational spirit is blown into every single human being by God, and it assimilates in itself the already formed vegetative and sensitive spirits (Dante Purg. XXV, 68-75).  But it is in the following verses that the Poet describes the ineffable unity of body and soul and reveals how the rational spirit ('the heat of the sun') and the animal spirits ('the juice which flows from the vine') become one new substance ('wine').


    E perche' meno ammiri la parola,
guarda il calor del sol che si fa vino,
giunti a l'omor che de la vite cola.


And so that you should wonder less at my words, look how the heat of the sun becomes wine when joined with the juice which flows from the vine.
(Purg. 25, II.  76-8)


This new corporeality was as much the result of the theological approach and Aristotelianism as of the humoral paradigm.  This paradigm meant 'that persons could be born in a wide range of shapes and with clusters of characteristics produced by the constellation of cosmic, climatic, somatic and humoral conditions of conception and generation' (Rubin 1994: 106), and meant, for example, that the coexistence of male and female characteristics in hermaphrodites could be explained by the medical theory. (Rubin 1994: 103 ss.).
This idea, together with the cult of relics as a site of the sacred, the Sacred Host as the ultimate and unique relic of Jesus, the visions of the Host as flesh and the Eucharist as symbolic, but quite real, cannibalism, the use of bodily functions and excretions as means of salvation, healing, elevation - swallowing the sputum of saints, the drinking of their bath water, of their breast milk - moreover, the manipulation of bodies through fustigation, self-torture, starvation, crucifixion, hanging that, as we have seen before, where seen more as means of elevation through the body than in spite of the body, all this reveals how different the conceptualisation of the medieval body was.


    II. 2.  The Humoral Paradigm
At the very base of the medical theory Medieval authors derived from Arabic medicine is the concept of the basic constituents of the human body, the so-called 'things natural' (humours, members, virtues/energies, operations, spirits), which were one of a group of three categories: the naturals, the non-naturals and the contra-naturals.  For the present purposes we will detail the dynamics of the humours only.  Mention of other categories will be made in the remainder of the text when needed.

a.  The Things Natural
The humours
In humoral theory the human body, like everything living or inanimate, is composed of four elements (elementa): fire, air, earth and water. The four qualities (commixtiones) of hot, cold, moist and dry are attributed, two by two (compound qualities) to each element: fire is hot and dry, water is cold and moist, air is hot and moist and earth is cold and dry.  Pure elements (elementa) are not visible per se in the world, and they show themselves as compound elements (elementata) and are represented in the body as humours (compositiones): air as blood, fire as red or yellow bile, water as phlegm and earth as melancholia or black bile.   Medicine and physiology are thus put in a correspondence schema of cosmic representation.  (Johannitus, 1974.  Jaquart & Micheau, 1990).
The humoral system possesses a great capacity for organising the world, because it underlines both the identity of cosmic elements (macrocosm) and human beings (microcosm).  It defines the four principal temperaments and it associates them with seasons and life stages; it allows for the association of the somatic sphere with the  psychic one (Thomasset 1994).
Like everything else, food and drink are composed of those elements and are transformed in the organism into humours through various digestions that refine the matter and discard those components of food which are in excess or are not good.  The refined humours circulate through the entire body and provide appropriate nutriment to the different members according to their different temperaments (Figure 2).  Thus, they guarantee the nutrition, the balance, the temperamentum or crasis, and the good health of the body.
Moreover, foods can be easily classified under these categories, and used in a rational dietetics in order to correct imbalances.  As for herbal remedies there is
---------------
nota 6: "body is not so much a hindrance to the soul's ascent as the opportunity for it.  Body is the instrument upon which the mystic rings changes of pain and of delight.  It is from body - whether whipped into frenzy by the ascetic herself or gratified with an ecstasy given by God - that sweet melodies and aromas rise to the very throne of heaven (Bynum,  1987.  p.  170)



Licenza Creative Commons
Il database InfoErbe
├Ę pubblicato con
Licenza Creative Commons

Marco Valussi
Luciano Posani

Copyright 2000 - 2005 Miro International Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. Mambo is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.