Information On Healing Practices Of The Ancient Maya Indian Civilizations

An essay on the fascinating ancient healing practices of the Maya civilization in Mexico. Itincludes treatment for many aches and diseases.

Maya shamans (priests) performed superstitious rites for the purposes of healing, and bleeding was a common practice to cure illness. Bleeding (also called bloodletting) involves the cutting of the affected painful area of the patient using stingray spines, thorns, or obsidian blades, and allowing it to drain blood. Areas such as the ears, nose, tongue, lips, or genitals could also be pierced to induce bleeding for the ceremonies. It was thought that this would rid the person of their affliction, which he or she had brought upon himself/herself by some previously committed sin.

Some specific cures are very interesting, especially that of a toothache. This treatment included crumbling soot from cooking stones, wrapping it with cotton wool, and applying it to the broken tooth. An alternative to this was to take the tooth of a crocodile, grate it with fishskin and wrap in it cotton wool, and apply it to a throbbing tooth to cease the pain. An interesting method of tooth extraction is recorded by Ralph L. Roys in his book, The Ethno- Botany of the Maya, which describes the procedure as follows:

"Pulling a tooth. There is an iguana that is yellow beneath the throat. Pierce its mouth, tie it up and burn it alive on a flat plate until it is reduced to ashes. These ashes of the iguana you are to anoint. You shall set your forceps and then you shall draw the tooth without pain. Try it first on a dog's tooth, before you draw the man's tooth with the ashes of the iguana which is yellow beneath its throat."

In the same book by Roys, he mentions the solution to excessive sneezing as applying boiled orange leaves to the foot and body to prevent death from extreme episodes of sneezing. He proceeds to claim that the cure for insanity lies in a beverage of mashed testicles of a black cock, mixed with water and consumed daily before breakfast. The confidence with which these prescriptions are written, and the obscure ingredients and methods of application which the recipe requires, make these recommendations difficult for the modern reader to comprehend, much less have faith in. While doctors and patients today might scoff at such a prescription, the priests and shamans of Maya culture used what resources were available to them at the time. Their ideas were followed by the Spanish upon their conquest and some of their remedies are used to this day.

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