Mar 8, 2010

Ancient Irish Medicine

photo via creative commons by Exotissimo Travel
It may surprise people that medicine and surgery was studied in Ireland from early times. Physicians were professionally trained. Medical practice and knowledge was handed down in families in treasured books and the great physicians were accounted for in the Irish annals during Christian times.

The O'Callanans were physicians to the Mac Carthys of Desmond; the O'Cassidys, of whom individuals of eminence are recorded, to the Maguires of Fermanagh; the O'Lees, to the O'Flahertys of Connaught; and the O'Hickeys, to the O'Briens of Thomond, to the O'Kennedys of Ormond, and to the Macnamaras of Clare. The O'Shiels were physicians to the MacMahons of Oriel, and to the MacCoghlans of Delvin...~Van Helmont of Brussels, a distinguished 17th century physician and writer on medical subjects according to PW Joyce in A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland.

What I think is really interesting is what Joyce (writing in the early 20th century) added almost as a footnote: It is worthy of remark that in our legendary history female physicians are often mentioned: and so we see that in ancient Ireland the idea was abroad which is so extensively coming into practice in our own day.
Women doctors in ancient Ireland? Apparently so, and they were not novelties. It does make you wonder what happened to change the role of women. Most people think it was the influence of the Roman church. What do you think?

You cannot talk about disease in the early middle ages without talking about plague. I will talk more about that in my next post and follow that will a discussion on healing herbs.

1 comment:

  1. Cool. Interesting to see how 'progressive' Ireland was when it came to women, and yet so much of it changed over the years.