Prehistoric Medicine - Treatments For Disease - Magic and Medicine Men

Magic and Medicine Men

Medicine men (also witch-doctors, shamans) maintained the health of their tribe by gathering and distributing herbs, performing minor surgical procedures, providing medical advice, and supernatural treatments such as charms, spells, and amulets to ward off evil spirits. In Apache society, as would likely have been the case in many others, the medicine men initiate a ceremony over the patient, which is attended by family and friends. It consists of magic formulas, prayers, and drumming. The medicine man then, from patients' recalling of their past and possible offenses against their religion or tribal rules, reveals the nature of the disease and how to treat it.

They were believed by the tribe to be able to contact spirits or gods and use their supernatural powers to cure the patient, and, in the process, remove evil spirits. If neither this method nor trepanning worked, the spirit was considered too powerful to be driven out of the person. Medicine men would likely have been central figures in the tribal system, because of their medical knowledge and because they could seemingly contact the gods. Their religious and medical training were, necessarily, passed down orally.

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