Magic and Witchcraft in Medicine Explored in Special Halloween Talk

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On the eve of Halloween, a special event is being hosted at the University of Worcester, exploring the use of magic and witchcraft in treating the sick.

In the 17th Century the absence of any ‘scientific medicine’ led to a surge in desperate people seeking alternative cures.

Dr Darren Oldridge will talk about cases involving the Elizabethan magician and physician, Simon Forman, who believed that he could predict and cure plague by astrology; and Richard Napier, a physician in Buckinghamshire whose patients in the 1630s were menaced by evil spirits and witchcraft, as well as more familiar ailments.

The talk will take place in the Jenny Lind Chapel at the University’s City Campus on Friday, October 30th at 7.30pm. It is free to attend and open to all, although not suitable for young children. It is being hosted by The Infirmary Museum, as part of its Halloween programme.

“My presentation explores the lost world of medicine and witchcraft in the age of the English Civil Wars,” said Dr Oldridge. “This was a time when the power of medicine was extremely small, and magic was often used in attempts to cure people of various ailments.

“By today’s standards, some of the techniques used may seem incomprehensible. For instance, Simon Forman believed that you could contract plague merely by thinking about it. But while Forman was wrong about this, he appears to have grasped the power of the placebo effect, and the importance of having a positive mental attitude.”

Dr Oldridge, is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University, whose research and teaching focuses on the Devil, witchcraft and the concept of evil.