woensdag 24 februari 2016

Bread of Dreams - Digest: '3. Sacred and Profane Cannibalism'

"Marsilio Ficino, son of a doctor, prescribed the drinking of blood drawn from the veins of
adolescents as a remedy for the exhaustion of old age, following a universally adopted usage, in his De sanitate tuenda: 'Thus the good doctors, using blood distilled and refined by fire, are
able to recreate and restore those who are eaten away and consumed, little by little, by the consumptive fever of old age. Now why can we not also, with the same liquid, occasionally restore and almost bring back to vital strength those people who are half dead simply because of old age?
There is a certain ancient and popular opinion that certain old women, whom we call witches, suck the blood of babies to rejuvenate themselves as much as possible; why should our elderly, who find themselves bereft of any other assistance, not likewise suck the blood of a yound boy, of robust strength I mean, who is healthy, cheerful, even-tempered and who has - perfect blood and, by chance, in abundance. Then suck it as would a leach or bloodsucker, from the open vein of the left arm ... and during the waxing of the moon. "
(Camporesi 1996, '3 Sacred and Profane Cannibalism', pp. 44-45)

"In terms of therapeutical characteristics "not all skulls were considered of equal value: Those which are stolen from cemeteries, from people naturally dead, are not valued at all [by druggists and doctors]. But they take singular care to choose those skulls belonging to men who suffered violent deaths, and that, purified and cleansed of all filth, have been in the open air for a few years, like those which justice, for the public infamy of great bandits, exposes in iron cages on the gates of the city to the view of others. The reason why this choice is best, according to them, is that the skull of whoever has passed to the other life by means of a natural death is believed to have none of its innate spirit which has been dissipated in the disease; whereas those which met violent deaths still preserve a part of this spirit and because of such a death this powerful spirit, they say, lies concentrated and nearly hidden inside. This is confirmed by the usnea of the human skull, which (according to Olmonte) is a small plant which, by a seed fallen from the sky, grows in the skull on the nourishing sauce of its alcoholic liquid." [...]"Aqua divina was the name of a distillation from corpses, and not a few doctors 'proclaimed its supreme magnetic virtue'. It was prepared by following this recipe: 'The whole corpse (killed, of course, by a violent death), with bones, flesh and intestines, is separated into tiny pieces, and this done well, every part of the body is ground up, so that nothing remains unmixed. Then it is distilled with favourable results." [...]


 
Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, De Fractura Cranii, 1651


"The flesh of the mummy mixed with mother's milk was the main ingredient in the preparation of a 'human plaster' manufactured in Carpi by the Barigazzi family, a clan of barber-surgeons from which Berengario emerged, a famous anatomist at the University of Bologna and author of De fractura calvae sive cranei (1518):
'Among the medicines for external use, I have never known the equal of my head plaster, known also as the human plaster, because a notable part of human, or rather mummy, substance enters into its composition. I have always heard from the oldest of my family that the mummy which enters into this plaster must be part of a man 's head, and the mummy is dried human flesh. In Venice I saw nearly intact bodies of such a mummy. From what I learned from my father and also from what I have seen, the old people of our family kept one or more such mummified heads in the house, from which they took certain parts for the preparation of the plaster." [...]

[about the 17th century writings of Alessandro Venturini]: "With a preventive prophylactic aim in mind, or else in curative procedures, hair, menstruum and mother's milk and butter were all utilized. Even more numerous were the 'virtues' to be extracted from the body, starting from the 'marrow of dead bone', to 'human fat', blood, the dried flesh of mummies, the excrement and urine of men and
boys, sweat, the 'filth of the ears', the 'mucus of the nostrils', the dirt to be found around the neck of a man's penis' (to be spread on a scorpion sting), and 'testicles given in powder to the woman after menstruation' to make her conceive, according to the recipe attributed to Trotula da Salerno (eleventh century). From the druggists' and herbalists' workshops came ointments, pomades, elixirs, syrups, pills and electuaries: products not dissimilar, in their 'repugnant' composition, from the philtres and ointments attributed to witches."
(Camporesi 1996, '3 Sacred and Profane Cannibalism', pp. 45-48)

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