The Renaissance was an extraordinary period where nascent science and ancient techniques walked hand in hand. Until 1666, aspiring physicians were required to pass their astrology exams to obtain medical licenses. Root workers, ‘wort cunners’ (herbalists) and bone setters roamed the realm under the protection of King Henry’s Herbalist’s Charter (1542). And university trained, Latin speaking “establishment” doctors practiced exorcisms as ably as they concocted
Following in the footsteps of the great 16th century physician-astrologer Nostradamus were several highly skilled medical astrologers of note: William Lilly, herbalist Nicholas Culpepper, physician Joseph Blagrave, and plausibly Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer-advisor John Dee. Students of Renaissance medicine owe a particular debt to the great Blagrave for his astonishingly detailed and instructive book and journal: Blagrave’s Physick (1671). Herein is a remarkable, firsthand account of the period’s comprehensive astro-herbal system, some detail of his patients, and the healing paradigms he considered normal.
In the early 1700s, the advent of significant anatomical discoveries overthrew the ancient Galenic paradigm. Simultaneously, the ancient system of astrological-herbal medicine was tossed and buried. Today, we give deserving respect and patronage to traditional Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurveda. In fact, both Renaissance Medicine
and Ayurveda derive many paradigms and treatment methods from the same Greek root of Galenic medicine.
Today, when reminded of Renaissance or medieval European medicine we chant only “leeches and bleeding.” Due to the determined suppression campaign of the scientific movement, it appears that this is all we can remember. It’s true. Period physicians used leeches and bleeding, sometimes, and for certain specific cases. And yes, some doctors nearly bled their hapless patients to death. However, these were only two of scores of techniques used at the time. Our firmly imbedded prejudice prevents us from looking any further into this comprehensive healing system. (Curiously, leeches and bleeding are still used when warranted in medicine today.)
The wholesale suppression of European astrological-herbal medicine was linked to the religious and scientific suppression of witches, non-Christian paradigms and, as usual, women. Coincident with the rise of university licensing and medical councils was the active suppression of female doctors. For instance, in 1421, English physician Gilbert Kymer and friends petitioned the British Parliament to ban all female physicians. (Previously, Jewish women doctors, while never numerous, practiced in many parts of Europe.) The discouragement of female doctors in Europe and America only lifted in the last generation. Unfortunately, the rancor toward medical astrology has not.
Five Lost Etiologies
Compared with the Renaissance, today’s medical practitioners and psychologists are working with a grossly reduced palate of etiologies (causes) and cures. At the first Lost Secrets of Renaissance Medicine Conference in 2013, I defined five lost etiologies, no longer in use. These are: astrological causation, bewitchment, spirit possession, fairy revenge, illnesses of God (or what might be seen in India as karmic causation from past life actions).
The Renaissance practitioner also fully acknowledged genetic inheritance, diet, poison air, psychological shock (trauma, PTSD) and physical accident. We see then, that our current doctors are now aware of only the most obvious physical etiologies. This is in keeping with our modern biochemical model of medicine and psychology pushed forward in the 1700s. Clinical physicians remain either incredulous or ignorant of all causation by subtle frequencies or spiritual/karmic patterns. Is this one reason why Americans and Europeans flock to alternative practitioners?
Should astrological energies influence health, then their denial is a big deal. If bewitchment or possession do sometimes occur, even rarely, then ignoring these etiologies is to the patient’s misfortune. Shouldn’t we at least investigate the effects of past life memory (as accepted by many authorities, ancient and modern) upon our psychological and physical health?
So, we see that the Renaissance physician had access to paradigms both old and new. It’s a pity that, at this historic juncture, the bridge between these two paradigms was destroyed. If our knowledge of subtle energies and medical astrology had survived, then scientific research might have been applied to the now abandoned mysteries of nature that were once held self-evident. How much more we would have learned, to our great profit.
Where does astrology come in? Although many etiologies were recognized, the Renaissance physician used the astrological chart to determine the correct cause behind the health crises. The chart revealed if an illness was of physical or supernatural origin, what type, length, seriousness and proposed cure. Furthermore, astrology was a preeminent tool in selecting dates for surgery, herb harvesting, tincturing and treatment.
Crown Jewell of Renaissance Medicine
Astrology, alongside physical examination established the prevailing excesses and deficiencies of the four traditional humors, and the four astrological elements (humors and the elements are not identical). The Renaissance physician was concerned with determining if the patient’s energy was hot, cold, wet, dry, fast or slow.
This is similar to the approach of today’s practitioners of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Once the doctor established the patient’s energetics, then herbs or foods could be administered that counteracted the excesses or deficiencies. Truly then, astrology combined with the expert use of herbs was the crown jewel of Renaissance medicine.
It is true that many Renaissance doctors were expert herbalists and master astrologers. Blagrave’s diary elucidates how by using astrology, herbs and other methods he cured what appeared to be schizophrenia and other serious problems (described but unnamed), perhaps epilepsy and paralysis, etc. Furthermore, the Renaissance physician was expert at what I’ll term DNA exchange therapy. They realized that the patient’s DNA resonates with them when removed from the body, and created marvelous cures with this knowledge.
Recently, physicists established Entanglement Theory by proving that two atoms once entangled, then separated apart, would remain in synchronized motion no matter their distance removed from one another. This announcement should have rocked both the metaphysical and science worlds because it fairly explains so much about some healing miracles.
For instance, Joseph Blagrave made bloody brandy by placing some of a patient’s blood in a glass of brandy. No matter how far his patient travelled, he would know their state of health by observing the preserved blood in the brandy. His book is replete with similar techniques. However, those that read his book should take heed not
to go about boring holes into the pith of trees (because this can kill them by allowing the entry of bacteria). Indeed, Blagrave exchanged tree pith and client DNA in order to heal some diseases.
A Renaissance doctor would be rightfully horrified to schedule surgery on an eclipse, much less a full Moon. Or, to prescribe medicine without first determining: a) if the cause was supernatural or physical; b) the elemental and planetary energies causative to a disease in their excess or deficiency; c) what the astrological decumbiture chart advised (the decumbiture was the chart drawn for the taking to the bed); and d) that the selected herb and planetary energetics were harmonious.
Timing is Critical
Furthermore, some Renaissance physicians would select their own herbs by a careful examination of both patient and decumbiture chart, and pluck them at exact days and hours (an echo of shamanic healing practice). In some countries, more ancient techniques were yet in vogue – for example, introducing the living herb personally to the patient, or watering it with the patient’s urine. These practices remained in use among the southern Slavs of the 20th century. Many ancient traditions remained and were incorporated into the Renaissance physician’s tool bag.
To reiterate, the 1700s brought the wholesale and vigorous suppression of Renaissance medicine. It didn’t die, but remained practiced underground by maverick physicians right up to our present era. However, the tolerant partnership of ancient knowledge and budding material science was abandoned in favor of an exclusively biomechanical model of medicine with it’s drug-centered cures.
Today, we blithely schedule surgeries under eclipses and full moons, prescribe a lifetime of chemical drugs to someone tortured by evil voices (when just maybe an exorcism might give instant, permanent relief) – and we don’t believe in fairies. So who is primitive? However, today’s doctors transplant organs, perform delicate brain surgery, and understand the body in a depth unimaginable to the Renaissance physician. Our mistaken twist is in assuming that advanced technologies render ancient
The awareness of astrological influence upon the body is not only amazingly accurate, but readily witnessed (by those who take the time to observe). The five lost etiologies should never be ignored.
Herbalism is making a significant comeback for some very good reasons (including affordability). It’s time we overcome our establishment sponsored prejudice against, and suppression of our more holistic ancient medical models and revisit the lost secrets of renaissance medicine”.
Lacking microscopes and x-ray machines, Renaissance physicians had in the astrological chart a viewing device so deftly capable of peering into the subtle energetics behind disease. Forty years of blind tests have made me a believer.
Editor’s Note: Those who have read this far may wish to attend The Lost Secrets of Renaissance Medicine Conference August 12-13 in Portland, Ore. For more information click here.