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The evolution of medicine from a primitive fight against evil spirits, demons, witches and astrological omens into a rational science was a long and tedious process. The modern outlook on disease and healing as the manifestation and treatment of purely natural phenomena only dates from the 17th century. Popular beliefs in the grossest superstitions even among civilised peoples to the present day show how difficult it is to dislodge the deeply-rooted faith in super­natural and occult forces. Throughout almost the length of human history, the disposition of the stars was considered a more potent cause of illness than indifference to cleanli­ness. Amulets and magic formulae ranked equally with herbs and minerals among the main materia medica, while impostors skilled in sorcery and witchcraft competed suc­cessfully with the scholastically proficient alumni of the medical schools as advisers of the sick.

There were, of course, periods when some gleams of reason penetrated the clouds of obscurantism. The medical systems of classic Egypt and Greece, in particular, had been remarkably free from the aberrations of sophistry and in­tellectual blindness. Yet, among the often quite rational prescriptions in the Egyptian papyri we also find references to magic and exorcism.[1] In the opinion of one scholar, "there cannot be the slightest doubt that Egyptian medicine is the direct offspring of Egyptian magic, and that it never became really emancipated from its parent".[2] In Greece,

again, Hippocratic medicine flourished side by side with the cult of AESCULAPIUS whose popularity among the masses remained virtually unaffected by the early progress of medical science.[3] GALEN himself is said to have sought healing in a temple of AESCULAPIUS[4] and to have rec­ommended amulets and other charms for various diseases.[5] The Greek assault on human credulity and superstition met with a notable, even relatively lasting, success; but eventu­ally, with the decay of the civilisation born a thousand years earlier, rational medicine also retreated before the wave of unreason and mysticism in the first few centuries of the Current Era. The introduction of magical elements into classical medicine was due mainly to the two Greek writers, ALEXANDER of Tralles and AETIUS of Amida, both of the 6th century;[6] thereafter the essential characteristics of European medicine, with comparatively few exceptions, differed little from what they had been for more than a millenium before the emergence of Hellenistic thought and culture.

To appreciate the historical background to the relevant Jewish literature, a further consideration is necessary. Due to a variety of factors, historical and especially perhaps religio-cultural, neither Egypt nor Greece—the two homes of rational medicine in ancient times—appears to have exerted any material influence on the scientific outlook of the Talmud. The foremost historian of talmudic medicine, PREUSS, regards it as significant that there is no trace in the Talmud of the three chief factors in the Egyptian system of dietetics and prophylactics: the use of enemas, sneezing-stimulants and emetics.[7] Again, although scores of Greek names occur in the Talmud, none (as has been observed[8]) is of a man of science. It is perhaps also not without significance that even the Zohar, in discussing the religious attitude to healing, of all classical physicians men­tions only KRITO.[9] It is, therefore, apparent that whatever foreign influences were brought to bear on the development

of talmudic thought came from the East rather than the West, particularly when it is remembered that it was the Babylonian Talmud, and not its Palestinian counterpart, which became the accepted guide to Jewish religious life.

The countries in and near Mesopotamia were not merely the cradle of human civilisation; they also represented the original home of astrology and the occult virtues. As a specialised study[10] has shown, on the basis of numerous sources, it was particularly in Babylonia and Assyria that the widespread "Volksmedizin" still practised today had its origin. Their ancient medical systems were, almost entirely, of an irrational character. Among the Parsees, "those who cured diseases by prayer alone were looked upon as the most excellent doctors; they were, so to speak, 'doc­tors of doctors'. Then came those who ordered medicinal herbs, and the lowest place was assigned to those who handled the knife".[11] The very word "Chaldean" (Baby­lonian) is used as a synonym with "soothsayer".[12] Babylo­nia possessed no medical schools as Egypt did, and its sys­tem of medicine was mainly of a supernatural order[13] in which it was "the task of the priest-physician to discover and interpret the intention of the gods in order to placate them".[14] Such, then, was the cultural background in which the foundations of rabbinic law were laid; it was in this climate of magic and superstition that the medical concepts of the Jewish people and its leaders first took shape.

In the middle ages, too, Jews found themselves mostly in an environment where the popular form of medical thought and practice was of the crudest order. As an ex­ample of the widespread belief in supernatural forces, ref­erence might be made to the extraordinary part played by astrology in medieval medicine. As late as 1699, the Paris Faculty discussed the thesis: "Whether comets were har­bingers of disease".[15] At Bologna University astrology was one of the regular studies in the medical department.[16] No less a scholar than ROGER BACON had stated: "If a doctor is ignorant of 'astronomy' [i.e. astrology], his medical treatment will be dependent upon chance and fortune", while another doctor had asserted early in the 14th century: "Those doctors who are ignorant of astronomy kill many patients".[17] The common belief in the effect of heavenly bodies on illness is well illustrated by the term "influenza", short for "influenza coelestia".[18] To this day, the long-lived association between medicine and astrology is still symbolically indicated by the R-sign at the head of doctors' prescriptions—probably a remnant of Jupiter's zodiac sign used on medical prescriptions since shortly after the be­ginning of the Common Era.[19] The irrational outlook on medicine, therefore, was not peculiar to ignorant laymen alone; its universality was virtually unchallenged in medi­eval times.

Whether the human addiction to unreasoned beliefs has, in fact, produced only negative effects in the wider sphere of social relations is open to some doubt. In his learned "defence of superstition", the leading authority in this field, FRAZER, has put forward a convincing claim that "among certain races and at certain times, superstition has strength­ened the respect for government . . . , private property . . . , marriage . . . , and human life . . . ".[20] In any case, it is not, of course, the task of theology or religious leadership to correct all human illusions and errors of scientific judg­ment, and it would be illogical to hold the teachings of religion responsible for the persistence of such fallacious beliefs as are strictly outside its province. There is, there­fore, nothing intrinsically irreligious in the approbation of medical teachings which do not correspond with the more enlightened outlook of our age, except in so far as these teachings may involve idolatrous practices[21] or resort to remedies causing greater spiritual damage than physical benefits.

The reality of demons, magic and other occult virtues has been acknowledged by religious guides of all faiths. In Christianity, the tradition of exorcising people "possessed of devils" goes back to the New Testament, where such cases are quite frequently found,[22] though there is no mention of them in the Hebrew Bible.[23] In the 5th century, St. AUGUSTINE declared: "All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons",[24] and this belief was shared by ORIGEN, TERTULLIAN and GREGORY of Nazianzus.[25] Pope INNOCENT VIII issued a bull to provide the faithful with an efficacious formula for exorcising in­cubuses who assailed the chastity of women.[26] His bull "Summis Desiderantis" of 1484, which regarded witches as a factor in disease, storms and various human misfortunes, paved the way for what has been called "one of the most fearful monuments of theological reasoning and human folly"[27]—the massacre of witches, involving 100,000 vic­tims in Germany alone, between the years 1550 and 1650. Much of early Arabian practice, too, was based on amu­lets with a distinctly religious flavour. Often they would consist, for example, of a phrase from the Koran which had to be written by a priest on a Friday, shortly before sunset, with ink containing certain drugs.[28]

From time to time we also hear more enlightened voices raised against the prevailing superstitions in the name of theology. Already in the 7th century, St. ELIGIUS, or ELOY, Bishop of Noyon, declared in a sermon: "... you shall observe none of the impious customs of the pagans, neither sorcerers, nor diviners, nor soothsayers, nor enchan­ters; nor must you presume for any cause, or for any sick­ness, to consult or enquire of them, for he who commits this sin loses unavoidably the grace of baptism . . . Let none presume to hang amulets on the neck of man or beast; even though they be made by clergy, and called holy things, and contain the words of Scripture . . . , for they are fraught . . . with the poison of the Devil. . . . Moreover, as often as any sickness occurs, do not seek enchanters ... or make devilish amulets . . . , but let him who is sick trust only in the mercy

of God . . . and faithfully seek consecrated oil from the church . . . ".[29] In general, the Church offered strong op­position to witchcraft and astrology, even though the latter in particular was widely tolerated and taught everywhere.[30] But, on the whole, neither Christianity nor Islam regulated the employment of occult remedies in precise terms show­ing the border-line between lawful and unlawful cures in­volving magic and the like, as was done by the masters of Jewish law.

Jewish sources, and more especially the Talmud,[31] abound with references to the occult virtues both in legend and law. Those mentioned in the Talmud are almost all of Babylonian or Persian origin. Already HAI Gaon, the head of the Pumpaditha Academy, wrote at the end of the 10th century: "Sorcery and amulets sprang from the Sura Acad­emy, because that lies near to Babylonia and to the house of NEBUCHADNEZZAR".[32] But in general the Talmud largely retained the biblical hostility to superstition. The next great influx of demonological and magical ideas into Jewish writings occurred mainly in the 13th century. GUEDEMANN, who has subjected the superstitious prac­tices among Jews at that period to a very thorough compara­tive study, has adduced various parallels from non-Jewish sources for every such practice found in Jewish literature.[33] He has shown that the intrusion of these beliefs into Jewish works on such a large scale was an entirely new phenomenon for which no precedent could be found either in the Talmud or in rabbinic writings before the 13th century.[34] He regards the exclusive use of Latin, French or German expressions—-or their crude translation into an artificial Hebrew—to describe the different categories of demons in Hebrew sources as conclusive proof that "we are not dealing here with originally Jewish superstitions".[35] It is also significant that the "epidemic of superstition" affected predominantly the Jewish communities in the Franco-German regions of the Rhineland, where the general level of enlightenment

was very low, whereas the Jews of Spain and Southern France[36]—and, to a lesser degree, of Northern France, too[37] —were protected from the crudest excesses of such irrational beliefs by the superior standard of culture around them. The essentially foreign character of occult usages is again revealed by the fact that Jews evidently repaired to monks for the exorcising of evil spirits, as suggested by the refusal of AMATUS LUSITANUS to treat a Jewish boy in such circumstances.[38]

Among medieval Jewish authors, there were especially two who distinguished themselves by their enlightened at­titude in this sphere.[39] ABRAHAM IBN EZRA denied in set terms the very existence of demons.[40] This was indeed "a remarkable feat for the 12th century",[41] making IBN EZRA "one of the first medieval theologians of church or synagogue to denounce the popular belief in the ubiquity of minor representations of the supernatural".[42] The second, and in many ways even more radical, protagonist of this view was MAIMONIDES[43] who even modified some halachic rulings through the re-interpretation of talmudic laws based on the existence of demons.[44]

The chief medieval codes, in their outlook on supersti­tious practices, contain some elements of all these diverse currents. In the main, they faithfully and uncritically reflect the approach of the talmudic savants. The great majority of the irrational beliefs these codes recorded are drawn di­rectly from the Talmud; so is their strong opposition to sorcery and the generally sober discretion with which they repeatedly sift the true from the dubious. While incor­porating some of the occult usages which had intruded into Jewish life in the earlier Middle Ages, they also assimilated important features of the enlightened attitude of MAIMO­NIDES, particularly his belief in the futility of magic charms and incantations[45] (Y.D., clxxix.6). Significant, too, is their complete silence on the many folkloristic prescrip­tions for strengthening one's memory and the warning against acts thought to impair it—based on popular beliefs found in the Talmud[46] and medieval rabbinic writings[47] often strikingly similar to the views on aids and impedi­ments to memory given in Mohammedan sources.[48] There is, therefore, no complete uniformity in the general outlook on irrational practices in the classic formulations of Jewish law.

The codes naturally reveal but few clues to the rabbinic theories of aetiology. But such hints as there are betray a decidedly rational tendency and a pronounced aversion to assigning the cause of all diseases to fortuitous chance or divine punishment. Thus the law distinguishes between "accidents" and "negligence" as factors leading to illness; a person is "negligent" if he falls ill through walking in the snow in the winter or in the heat in the summer[49] (H.M., clxxvii.2). Similarly, it was recognised that a man's repro­ductive faculties could be impaired by persistent immersion in water or snow (E.H., v.13) and that disease could be aggravated by disobeying the doctor's orders (H.M., cdxx. 20). The limitation of fate and other adventitious causes is also indicated by the assumption that superior medical skill is likely to result in more effective cures (ib., 22-24). Again, the widespread mystical fear that dispositions made during life, and especially on the sickbed, for the eventuality of death may portend evil is boldly challenged as unfounded; one should advise a gravely sick person to settle his affairs in time, "and he should not be afraid of death on this ac­count" (Y.D., cccxxxv.7)—for "words cause neither life nor death".[50] In the same way, the dying should be en­couraged to recite the confessional prayer with the assurance that "many have confessed and did not die, and many who did not confess died" (Y.D., cccxxxviii.1).


The most important factor determining the attitude of Jewish law to superstition is, of course, its prohibition of sorcery and allied practices. The biblical interdict under this heading expressly includes, apart from sorcery and witchcraft, the practices of divination, soothsaying, the con­sulting of auguries, magic spells and necromancy (Deut. xviii.10 and 11). Moreover, the closely attached command "Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God" (ib., 13) is rabbinically interpreted to extend the ban to prognostica­tion by horoscope or the casting of lots (Y.D., clxxix.1, and gloss).

Among the various superstitions, sorcery and witchcraft are the most severely condemned. The reality or possible efficacy of the sorcerer's powers was not in question; even the Shulhan 'Arukh on two occasions still objects to certain practices in the exercise of bodily functions "on account of sorcery" (O.H., iii.3 and 11). On the other hand, the rabbis went so far as to make some religious concessions in order to remove from Jews even the suspicion of sorcery among their Gentile neighbors. Thus the talmudic law to lower the couch as a sign of mourning[51] was no longer ob­served, "lest the non-Jews will say they practise witchcraft" (Y.D., ccclxxxvii.2). Several more concessions for this pur­pose can be cited from various rabbinic works.[52] It has been shown that this fear of arousing the suspicion of Gentiles originated mainly in the 15th century, when the dreaded resort to witchcraft by the "heretics" was popularly attrib­uted to Jews, too.[53]

Whether the use of sorcery for medical ends was ex­empted from the prohibition was a moot and much debated question raised by various medieval authorities.[54] Accord­ing to some views, the appropriate usages in the Middle Ages were no longer of the idolatrous type banned in the Bible as sorcery proper; hence, the consideration of the pre­cept to "be perfect with the Lord" could be waived if such measures were adopted to effect cures.[55] But others held that the original ban continued to stand, and that it could be overridden only in cases of grave danger to life; all agree that sorcery may then be resorted to.[56] According to yet another view, such cures may be used only to heal con­ditions believed to have been likewise caused by witchcraft.[57] Rabbinic literature, in fact, mentions several instances of Jewish patients invoking the aid of sorcerers.[58] But it is significant that the practitioners consulted were nearly al­ways non-Jews.[59]

Closely akin to sorcery are the idolatrous customs termed in rabbinic writings "the ways of the Emorites"—the nearest rabbinic equivalent to "superstitious practices" in general.[60] Their identification with the cult of another specified nation illustrates once again the Jewish consciousness that such practices were essentially foreign in origin and character,60a and banned because of their heathen, if not idolatrous, nature. A very long list of acts falling within this category is given in the Talmud, particularly in the Tosephta.[61] But the Talmud expressly excludes from this category "any­thing done for the sake of healing".[62] The codes, too, accept this ruling (O.H., ccci.27); hence, it is permitted (even on Sabbaths) to carry as amulets the egg of a certain species of locust (against ear-ache), the tooth of a fox (against insomnia or drowsiness), or a nail from the gallows (against swelling)[63] (ib.).


The rabbis often discussed the question whether incan­tations and amulets were, in principle, included among the general provisions regarding "the ways of the Emorites".[64] ADRETH,[65] who dealt with this issue at great length, in­clines to the view that the ban extends only to the practices expressly enumerated in the Talmud. ASHERI[66] also rules that charms used for the promotion of health are covered by the exemption of "anything done for the sake of healing". But RASHI[67] holds that the exemption does not include

charms, although even he appears to restrict the prohibition of magic therapy only to acts not performed on the patient himself.[68] KARO decides that all magic measures are per­mitted, so long as their futility has not been conclusively exposed by trial;[69] but he adds that there are some who ob­ject to any "untested" amulet as belonging to "the ways of the Emorites"[70] (ib.). In this latter view he follows MAIMONIDES, who permits only such supernatural cures as have been found efficacious on the evidence of physicians, particularly when their employment would violate any re­ligious law.[71] KARO also agrees with MAIMONIDES that such charms as whispering an incantation over a scor­pion's bite "are of no avail whatever"; they are permitted only in cases of grave danger, "so as not to distract the patient's mind" (Y.D., clxxix.6)—that is, to calm him by suggestive treatment.[72] As with sorcery, the practices listed as belonging to "the ways of the Emorites" are likewise, in the opinion of various authorities, to be treated as heathen beliefs only "in the former times" when idolatry was ram­pant.[73] The 13th century Sepher Hasidim, for instance, mentions with approval several practices which had been prohibited in the Talmud as "Emorite" customs, because— as a commentator[74] explains—they were no longer peculiar to the pagan cult of the "Emorites" who had long ceased to be identified with them.

Sharply differentiated from sorcery are some supernat­ural aids to therapy, especially incantations and amulets to which reference is made most frequently in the codes. The general attitude to their employment, as far as they border on sorcery or idolatry, has already been considered. It now remains to collect and classify these distinct beliefs and cus­toms, largely on the basis of the many quite incidental ref­erences to them in the codifications of Jewish law.

The medical effectiveness of incantations was, as we have seen, never in doubt. But that such procedures were re­garded as quite harmless is shown by the permission to

resort to heathens for cures by the whispering of charms, notwithstanding the general ban on accepting medical treat­ment or drugs from them "because we are afraid of blood­shed" (Y.D., clv.1), there being no danger to the patient's life in this case.[75] Incantations to heal a scorpion's bite are permitted even on the Sabbath (Y.D., clxxix.6), despite the rabbinic objection to indulgences normally incompatible with the spirit of that holy day.[76] Similarly, it is allowed to charm snakes or scorpions to prevent injury by them (ib., 7), and such acts are not deemed to violate the Sabbath law against hunting or capturing animals (O.H., cccxxviii.45). But there are restrictions—detailed in the preceding chapter[77] —on the incantatory recitation of scriptural verses over wounds or stricken children, unless life is in danger.

The amulets mentioned in our sources usually were pen­dants containing some written text—presumably a mystical formula or biblical verses. These were generally worn by the user at all times to cure, or more often to prevent, cer­tain ailments.[78] Various other objects, too, are mentioned as efficacious against specific complaints. We have already referred to some talismans and their purpose.[79] To prevent or heal bruises, a coin tied to the sole of the foot was worn (O.H., ccci.28); it was suggested that the healing proper­ties of this talmudic remedy[80] were derived "from the mois­ture exuded by the silver of the coin and also from the imprint stamped upon it".[81] Finally, mention is made of a "preserving stone" (O.H., ccciii.24.) which, as was widely believed in ancient times, was supposed to guard the wearer against the danger of miscarriage.[82]

Regarding the use of amulets in general, a distinction is made between their prophylactic and therapeutic employ­ment in the following ruling: "It is permitted to make medical use of amulets, even if they contain [divine] names; similarly, it is allowed to wear amulets containing scriptural verses, provided they serve to protect the wearer from fall­ing ill and not to heal him when afflicted with a wound or a disease. But it is forbidden to write scriptural verses on amulets" (Y.D., clxxix.12).82a Most references to amulets, as to many other subjects of medical interest, occur among the extensive Sabbath laws. The issue is whether, and on what terms, it is permitted to carry them outside private property, seeing that the removal of anything not strictly part of one's wearing apparel constitutes a desecration of the Sabbath (O.H., ccci.7). In the case of the above-listed charms and talismans, sanction for their wear on the Sabbath is invariably given if medically indicated, but there are reservations in regard to ordinary amulets. Only those may be worn in public places on the Sabbath as are "tested by experience". What constitutes such "experience" is defined in very great detail (ib., 25). Briefly stated, amulets are considered "approved" if either the script or its writer has proved efficacious in three separate cases where the same magic formula was used. A like "test" is also applied to amulets consisting of roots. All such "approved" charms may be taken out on the Sabbath by persons who suffer from, or are genetically disposed to, any ailment, however mild (ib.). Domestic animals, too, may carry amulets on the Sabbath, but again only if they are "tested"; at the same time, those "approved" for human beings are not necessarily efficacious, and thus sanctioned, for animals[83] (O.H., cccv.17, gloss). But the mere handling of any kind of amulet is per­mitted on the Sabbath, even if it is "untested" (O.H., cccviii. 33). Whether amulets containing biblical verses may be rescued from the flames on the Sabbath is the subject of a rabbinic controversy[84] (O.H., cccxxxiv.14.). Amulets, if they bear sacred inscriptions, may not be taken into a privy unless they are enclosed in leather (Y.D., cclxxxii.6).


In contrast to amulets and incantations, demons and their exorcism are only very rarely mentioned in Jewish law, although they constituted (as we have seen) an im­portant element in the medical theories of ancient and me­dieval times. While the codes (apart from that of MAIMO­NIDES[85]), following the Talmud, clearly affirm the belief in the existence of demons, references to them occur almost exclusively in entirely non-medical contexts. The marriage laws, for instance, twice accept the possibility that certain unauthenticated statements heard to come from a field, or a pit, or a ruin may have been made by a demon, thus in­validating the alleged evidence (E.H., xvii.10, and cxli.19). In the 16th century, faith in the power of these supernatural beings was so strong that a leading rabbi seriously discussed the question whether a certain woman, alleged to have had intercourse with "a spirit or demon called 'Tracht' ", should be separated from her husband as an adulteress.[86] It is all the more remarkable that the codes make no mention of demons as a cause of illness. The only two relevant refer­ences to them are (i) the rather cautious statement that "in regard to the consultation of demons, whatever is per­mitted on weekdays is also permitted on Sabbaths" (O.H., cccvii.18), and (ii) the warning, first found in the Zohar[87] that "most people who engage in this [employment of de­mons, even for the sake of the sick[88]] will not escape in peace from them; hence, he who wishes to guard himself should keep away from them" (Y.D., clxxix.16, gloss). But out­side the codes, some rabbis deal at length with the legal relationship between demons and sorcery.[89] KARO[90] holds that the recourse to demons for healing purposes need not generally be regarded as sorcery.

Apart from common demons, some other supernatural beings and forces also appear occasionally. A species of in­cubuses termed "destroyers" is mentioned twice in connec­tion with the laws of prayer (O.H., xc.6, and cdlxxxi.2, gloss). Another spirit, known as "bitter destruction",[91] was believed to rule at certain hours during the three weeks of national mourning ending on the Ninth of Av; hence, one should not walk alone during those hours or chastise pupils on these days. (O.H., dli.18 and gloss). The anxiety to put "the spirits of defilement" to flight, so that they shall not enter into the grave with the dead, accounts for the custom recorded by ISSERLES of setting down the bier every four cubits as it passes through the cemetery[92] (Y.D., ccclviii.3)) gloss).


Reference is made somewhat more frequently to "the evil spirit".   It finds its way into Jewish law in two entirely distinct forms.   Firstly it is to be found on one's hands or food.   Thus, one should be careful to pour water on one's hands three times every morning "in order to remove the evil  spirit resting on  them"[93]   (O.H.,  iv.2,  et pass.;   cf. dcxiii.2, gloss).   A similar spirit attaches to food or drinks under a bed[94] (Y.D., cxvi.5) and to water   used   for   the washing of hands after meals[95] (O.H., clxxxi.2).   The sec­ond manifestation of "the evil spirit" may well be of a more rational type.   In these cases "the evil spirit", by possessing or "pursuing" human beings, causes a condition which, as the context suggests and as MAIMONIDES[96] and others[97] assume, corresponds to any, or possibly some specific, form of mental disease.[98]   The matrimonial regulations refer to a husband, wishing to divorce his wife, who "is seized by the evil spirit and turned insane" (E.H., cxxi.I).   Again, "an individual pursued by the evil spirit" is regarded as being in immediate danger[99] (O.H., cclxxxviii. 10), and one may cry for him even on the Sabbath when expressions of grief should normally be avoided (ib., 9; and dlxxvi.13). Such a person should also refrain from fasting "so as not to break his strength" (O.H., dlxxi.3).   It was popularly be­lieved that a person "in whom the evil spirit had breathed" could  be  cured  by  milk  squirted  on  him  by a  nursing mother;[100] but in the absence of danger this procedure must not be carried out on the Sabbath (O.H., cccxxviii.35 gloss). Among other examples of folklore and superstition which have crept into the codes, the following should be men­tioned.  The "evil eye" has haunted men since immemorial times,[101] and Jewish law refers to two remedies against its harmful effects.   For humans there was a special charm,[102] which might be worn even on the Sabbath (O.H., ccciii.15), whilst horses could be protected against the "evil eye" by a fox-tail suspended between their eyes—a charm with which they must not go out on the Sabbath (O.H., cccv.11).   Fol­lowing an old talmudic belief,[103] for which the New Testa­ment[104] and TACITUS[105] also furnish parallels, the saliva of a man's first-born son served to heal eye-diseases;  in fact, the efficacy of such a cure could legally be relied upon to support the claim for a double portion of inheritance which is due only to a first-born son on the father's side (H.M., cclxxvii.13).   Other irrational  remedies  included the measuring of a sick person's girdle to restore his health —an act also permitted on the Sabbath[106] (O.H., cccvi.7) —and the preservation, or perhaps interment, of the pla­centa to keep a new-born child warm—an ancient practice which, again, does not contravene the Sabbath laws[107] (O.H., cccxxx.7).   ISSERLES records the advice of some authori­ties to draw water every Saturday night, "since the well of MIRIAM travels around all wells every Saturday night, and he who strikes upon it and drinks from it is healed of all his ills"[108] (O.H., ccxcix.10, gloss).

Among the few bad omens mentioned is a "tradition that there is a certain hour during the months of Teveth and Shevat, and that a slaughterer will die if he kills a goose at that hour without eating of the bird"[109] (Y.D., xi.4, gloss). Into a similar category belongs the law that distant visitors should not call on the sick before the lapse of three days   (Y.D., cccxxxv.1),  because  a  premature  visit  may "shake his luck" by attaching the name of "patient" to him too soon.[110] Another portent of ill-fate was to submit to blood-letting on the eve of festivals, particularly of Pente­cost[111] (O.H., cdlxviii. 10, gloss). The custom to respond "health!" to a sneeze—derived from popular fears which survived for very long—also finds legal expression[112] (O.H., clxx.I). In the only codified reference to spiritualism, KARO permits one "to abjure a sick person to return to the petitioner after death and to tell whatever asked" (Y.D., clxxix.14); ISSERLES adds that this request may be made even after the death of the medium, "so long as one abjures not his corpse, but his spirit[113] (ib., gloss).

The old belief—evidently also supported by modern scientific evidence[114]—that the cries of a foetus could be heard in the mother's womb appears in the codes, although the Talmud did not consider this feasible except if the head of the child had actually emerged from the birth-canal.[115] Such "vagitus uterinus" determines a child's birth-day for fixing, eight days later, the date for the circumcision, even if the birth was delayed by several days (Y.D., cclxii.4), unless the mother testified that the position of the foetus was entirely normal and that she felt no labour pains at the time[116] (ib., gloss).  As already noted, Jewish law also accepted the popular notion — which infiltrated into the Talmud from non-Jewish sources, lasted among the medical profession until the 18th century and still persists as a com­mon belief[117]—that a child born in the eighth month of gestation is not likely to survive and is to be treated as a non-viable birth (Y.D., cclxvi. 11); if such child neverthe­less showed no signs of prematurity (i.e. the absence of hair and nails), it is to be regarded as a seven-months' baby which had "tarried" in the womb for another month.[118]

We may conclude this list of folkloristic beliefs scattered in the codes of Jewish law by two examples indicating that concessions to superstitious fears were not always tolerated. It is forbidden to say: "Slaughter the cock that crows like a raven, or this hen that crows like a cock"[119] (Y.D., clxxix.3); but others permit this, provided one did not state why one wished the bird to be killed (ib., gloss). Again, an animal "slaughtered in the name of mountains ... or heavenly bodies" is ritually unfit for consumption, "even if the in­tention was not to perform an idolatrous act, but to serve medical ends ... on heathen advice" (Y.D., iv.5).


Finally, we have to consider a closely related group of beliefs which enjoyed a curiously widespread popularity. So universal was the faith in the healing powers of repug­nant substances that this strange department of pharmacology was given the special name "Dreckapotheke".   The pre­scription of drugs compounded of various offensive human and animal excretions was as popular in the Ebers Papyrus of ancient Egypt as it still was in 1862 when Dr. JOHN HASTINGS wrote the pamphlet entitled: "Value of the Excreta of Reptiles in Phthisis and some other Diseases".[120] Trust in such odd concoctions was not limited to quacks and wonder-healers.   GALEN, who had averred that he would "not mention the abominable and detestable as XENO­CRATES and others had done",[121] himself later included in his materia medica such items as dung of dogs, goats and doves, and burnt human bones in drink.[122] PARACELSUS used human excrements for his drug "Zebethum Occiden­tale"[123] and other repulsive medicines.[124] A hundred years later,  MOSES  CHARRAS's   The Royal Pharmacopoeia (published in London in   1678)—claimed as  "the  most scientific work of the day"[125]—was again full of scatological directions.

On the whole, Jewish sources are surprisingly free from this evident desire to repel the carriers of disease with the most nauseous weapons. We have the evidence of a Chris­tian scholar that "the 'Dreckapotheke' which could be assembled from the talmudic literature is greatly surpassed in unsavouriness by what is to be read in the Ebers Papyrus, PLINY and GALEN".[126] PREUSS, too, collecting all the relevant talmudic passages in a few lines, regards this group as  "strikingly small  in  comparison  with   the  Greek  and Roman 'Dreckapotheke' ".[127]   But his judgment that "this is manifestly connected with the general disgust of oriental people for anything unclean and vile" is open to doubt if one consults the Index to BUDGE's edition of the Syrian Book of Medicines under such entries as "dung", "excre­ments" and "urine".[128] One will discover that an important medical work of an oriental country situated between Pales­tine and Babylonia—where the two parts of the Talmud were produced a little later—was not at all averse to rec­ommending a wide variety of obnoxious compounds.   The reason for the paucity of such repulsive elements in Jewish sources must rather be sought in a different direction.

Judaism may well be the only religion which invested the abhorrence of filthy food with the authority of a legal enactment or which, indeed, offered any direct opposition to the consumption of coprolitic substances: "It is prohibited to consume food or drink containing an admixture of dirt or excrements . . . Similarly, it is unlawful to eat or drink from filthy vessels for which the human soul feels an aversion, such as vessels of a privy or glass-receptacles used for blood­letting and the like; nor may one eat with soiled hands . . . , for all this is included in the law: 'You shall not make your­selves abominable' (Lev. xx.25)" (Y.D., cxvi.6). For the same reason, it is forbidden to eat fish and edible locust in a live state (Y.D., xiii.I, gloss).

The codes refer only twice to specific scatological foods. While the authorities differ on the permissibility of the urine from unclean animals, they agree that human urine[129] is not forbidden (Y.D., lxxxi.I). But this ruling is con­cerned only with the ritual aspect of the question—that is, to indicate whether the biblical ban on consuming certain animals  covers  their  urinary   excretions;   moreover,  such sanction as is given can be utilised for sick people only.[130] The second reference permits the consumption of "a burnt unclean reptile" (including probably the carbonised remains of any ritually impure substance) for medical purposes, but only "because  it is  like  mere  dust"   (Y.D.,  lxxxiv.17). ISSERLES adds that the sanction extends even to mildly ill persons, but in all such cases the drug must be "known or prescribed by an approved physician"[131] (Y.D., clv.3, gloss). MORDECAI   JAFFE[132]  and  others[133] generally exempt articles taken for medical reasons from the law "You shall not make yourselves abominable".   In some rabbinical re­sponsa[134] we find further references to some offensive prepa­rations, items such as snake broth, mummies' flesh and the pulverised ashes of human skulls.  But the refining influence of Judaism must have been strong indeed to explain the absence from any code of Jewish law of references to the medicinal use of human bones, menstrual blood,[135] animal faeces or other "nasty recipes" which featured so prominent­ly in the pharmaceutical armoury of the medieval practi­tioner.

The small segment of the cultural history of man sur­veyed in this chapter may not be very edifying, nor can it be said that the role played by religion in freeing the human mind from its mystical encumbrances has been particularly conspicuous. Theology and superstition were only too often more in league than in conflict with each other. But the deeper causes for this strange alliance lay, perhaps, not so much in the fallibility of ecclesiastical leadership as in man's innate psychology. Fear of the unknown, especially when accentuated by acute physical or mental suffering, has al­ways encouraged human recourse to the supposed forces be­yond man's limited comprehension. The hiatus created by lack of knowledge must be filled by some belief. Creed and credulity, though at opposite poles, spring largely from the same human quest for security.   Their relationship is, therefore, essentially natural. But religion and superstition meet only at their lowest level where the element of fear is their common denominator; their association grows more tenuous in proportion to the degree to which the worship of God is sublimated and divested of its primitive urges and emotional origins.

Judged by this standard, there can be little doubt as to the place occupied by Judaism right up to the end of the Middle Ages. Many of the above illustrations make it clear that, by and large, Jewish law, where it did not al­together proscribe superstitious practices, at best tolerated them as a concession to human addiction.[136] It found very little space for the faith-healer and none at all for the pro­fessional quack — the favourite character in the medical legislation of the past millenium and more. It knew nothing of healing shrines or relics, and next to nothing of the exor­cism of demons. On the other hand, Jewish law treasured the protection of human life so intensely that it was pre­pared, as a general rule, to give the accepted claims of magic and the occult virtues, however questionable, the benefit of the doubt, often even at the expense of its own religious injunctions. For, whenever law and life are in conflict, Judaism usually shows a strong bias in favour of life. The problems created by such clashes, and their solu­tion, will engage our attention in the following chapters.

[1] See Sigerist, Medicine, p.9, where numerous references to magical elements are shown to occur in the Ebers, Hearst, Brugsch (Maior and Minor) and Berlin papyri.

[2] ERE, vol.viii, p.267.

[3] See Sigerist, Civilisation, p.138; and ERE,, p.540 ff.

[4] See Osier, Evolution, p.54; and Sigerist, Medicine, p.14.

[5] So Preuss, p.166; and Thorndike, Magic, vol.i, p. 172 ff.; against the claim of other scholars that there are in Galen's voluminous works "no recommendations of charms and magical procedures of any kind"; so F. J. Payne, English Medicine, 1904, p.95 f.; and Stern, Society, p.8.

[6] See Payne, op. cit., p.102 f.

[7] Preuss, p.4.

[8] Singer, "Judaism", in The Jews, p.1044. But it may be open to doubt whether this is altogether due to lack of scientific interest "by those whose lives were passed within the talmudic universe of discourse".

[9] Zohar, ed. Amsterdam, 1800, vol.iii, p.299a; see K. Preis, "Die Me­dizin im Sohar", in MGWJ, vol.lxxii (1928), p.184; cf. p.179. But the identity of the physician mentioned in the Zohar with the famous doctor at Trajan's court has been in doubt; see R. Eisler, "Zur Terminologie und Geschichte der juedischen Alchemie", in MGWJ, vol.lxx  (1926), p.197 f.

[10] G. A. Wherli, "Das Wesen der Volksmedizin", in Essays, ed. Singer and Sigerist, p.369 ff.

[11] Puschmann, Medical Education, p.33; quoting Vendidad, vii. 118—121.

[12] See Oxford English Dictionary, vol.ii, p.251, s.v. "Chaldean".

[13] See G. Maspero, The Dawn of Civilisation. Egypt and Chaldea, ed. A. H. Sayce, 1910, p.780 ff.; and Castiglioni, History, p.39 ff.

[14] Sigerist, Civilisation, p.132;  see also SigeristMedicine, p.2 ff.

[15] See Osier, Evolution, p.119 ff.

[16] See Rashdall, Universities, vol.i, p.242 f.

[17] For these and other sources on the importance of astrology for me­dieval doctors, see Zimmels, p.15 f. Among Jewish medieval thinkers, only Maimonides opposed astrology as a base superstition (especially in "Letter to the Men of Marseilles"); but it was generally agreed that faith in God could overcome the stars' influence on human destiny; see JE, vol.ii, p.244 f.; and A. A. Neuman, The Jews in Spain, 1948, vol.ii, p.104 ff. The importance of physicians knowing astronomy was also stressed by the classic medical writers of earlier times, such as Hippocrates, Galen and Abulcasis; see M. Steinschneider, Die Hebraeischen Uebersetzungen des Mittelalters, 1893, p.742. The association of medicine with astronomy may likewise be indicated by the surname "Yarchinai" ("of the moon", i.e. versed in lunar science) added to the names of the physicians Samuel and Asaf, as suggested by S. Muntner, "The Antiquity of Asaph the Physician", in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol.xxv  (1951), p.109.

[18] See H. W. Haggard, The Doctor in History, 1935, p.173; and Oxford English Dictionary, vol.v, p.271.

[19] See LaWall, Pharmacy, p.81.

[20] J. G. Frazer, Psyche's Task; a Discourse Concerning the Influence of Superstition on the Growth of Institutions, 1913, p.4.

[21] In Jewish law, the main provisions on superstitious cures are, signi­ficantly, featured under the heading of "Laws on Idolatry".

[22] For examples, see Matth. iv.24; viii.28 ff.; Mark v.2 ff.; Luke viii.27 ff.; xiii.32; and Acts x.38.

[23] See Friedenwald, p.104.

[24] See Haggard, Devils, p.298.

[25] See White, Warfare, vol.ii, p.27 ff. A long list of references to the belief in the power of magic by the Church Fathers is also given in ERE, vol.xviii, p.277. See also E. Worcester and S. McComb, Body, Mind and Spirit, 1931, p.346 f.

[26] See Zimmels, p.82, where Jewish sources referring to similar incubuses are also cited. Cf. infra, p.37.

[27] White, Warfare, vol.ii, p.75 f.

[28] See LaWall, Pharmacy, p.89.

[29] See Payne, op. cit., p.112 f.; quoting Maitland, The Dark Ages, 1841, p.150.

[30] See Osier, Evolution, p.119 ff.

[31] The first specialised study of the subject is G. Brecher's Transcen­dentale Magie und magische Heilarten im Talmud, 1850. Another useful work in this field is L. Blau's Das altjuedische Zauberwesen, 1898. See also JE, vol.iv, p.516 ff.

[32] See JE, vol.i, p.547. Chajes already pointed out that the supernatural element was much more in evidence in the Babylonian than the Palesti­nian Tamud; see Z. H, Chajes, The Student's Guide through the Talmud, ed. J. Schachter, 1952, p.233 f.

[33] M. Guedemann, Geschichte des Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden in Frankreich und Deutschland, 1880, p.199 ff.

[34] Guedemann, op. cit., p.219.

[35] Guedemann, op. cit., p.217 f.; see also Zimmels, p.80 ff. and notes.

[36] Guedemann, op. cit., p.222. See also Neuman, op. cit., vol.ii, p.112.

[37] See L. Rabinowitz, The Social Life of the Jews of Northern France in the XII-XIV Centuries, 1938, p.204 ff.

[38] See Friedenwald, pp.365 and 383; citing Amatus, Centuria I, Cur.34.

[39] Friedenwald (p.428 ff.) attributes the advanced views on witchcraft held by Amatus Lusitanus, Andres a Laguna (1499—1542) and Mon­taigne (1533—1592) to the influence of Maimonides, Isaac Abarvanel (1437-1508) and Levi ben Gerson (1288-1344).

[40] Ibn Ezra, on Lev. xvii.7; cf. also Nachmanides, a.l. See JE, vol.iv, p.519.

[41] I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, 1932, p.391 (note 4).

[42] Ib., p.312.

[43] Maimonides, Mishnah Commentary, on 'Avodah Zarah, iv.7; and Hil. 'Avodah Zarah, xi.16. Cf. also his Guide to the Perplexed, part i, chpt.6l.

[44] See Loew, Gesammelte Schriften, vol.i, p.328 f. See also H. S. Lewis, "Maimonides on Superstition", in JQR, vol.xvii (1905), p.485 ff.; I. Weiss, Dor Dor Vedarshav, 1924, vol.iii, p.223; and JE, vol.ix, p.85. Maimonides's refusal to accept the literal interpretation of the talmudic references to demons and magic was strongly attacked by Elijah of Vilna (Bi'ur HaGRA, Y.D., clxxix.13) and Z. H. Chajes (loc. cit.). Cf. also Nachmanides, on Deut. xviii.9.

[45] In fact, the strictures of Elijah of Vilna on Maimonides (see preceding note) were occasioned by Karo's repetition of Maimonides's critical views. Cf. note 107 below.

[46] Horiyoth 13b.

[47] See OY, vol.iv, p.230 f.

[48] See J. Goldziher, "Muhammedanischer Aberglaube ueber Gedaecht­niskraft und Vergesslichkeit mit Parallelen aus der juedischen Litteratur", in Berliner Festschrift, ed. A. Freimann and M. Hildesheimer, 1903, p.131 ff. Such systems of mnemonics have retained their popularity to the pres­ent day; see, e.g., D. Feldmann, Kitzur Shulhan 'Arukh,  1933, p.228 ff.

[49] According to Maimonides, this contingency also includes him "who ate food well-known to be injurious" (Mishnah Commentary, on B. Bathra, ix.4).

[50] Tur, Y.D., cccxxxv. The actual wording is based on the Talmud (Se­mahoth).

[51] bMo'ed Katan 15a. Maimonides (Hil. 'Avel, v.18) still codified the law in its original form. The fear of arousing the suspicion of sorcery as one of the reasons for the abrogation of the custom is first mentioned by the Franco-German authorities Tosaphoth (Mo'ed Katan 21a), Asheri (Mo'ed Katan, iii.78) and his son Jacob (Tur, Y.D., ccclxxxvii).

[52] Zimmels, p.88 f., and notes. See also Neuman, op. cit., p.111.

[53] Guedemann, op. cit., p.224. But cf. note 51 above.

[54] See Zimmels, p.221 (note 90). The question is not treated in the codes.

[55] So Samuel Halevi, rNahalath Shivah, no.76, where earlier authorities for this view are cited and discussed. See also note 73 below.

[56] See SHaH, Y.D., clxxix.1; and Jacob Ettlinger, rBinyan Tziyon, no.67.

[57] See Beth Yoseph, Y.D., clxxix; and Solomon Luria, rMaHaRSHaL, no.3.

[58] See Zimmels, p.193 (notes 186 ff.). Cf. also supra, p.30.

[59] See Zimmels, p.35.

[60] See JE, vol.i, p.529 f., s.v. "Amorites".

60a Cf. the statement that the belief in eclipses as bad omens belonged to non-Jews only (Mekhilta, on Ex. xii.2; based on Ter. x.2).

[61] tShabbath, vii and viii.

[62] bShabbath 67a; and bHullin 77b.

[63] For the uses of these amulets, see commentaries on mShabbath, vi.10 and bShabbath 67a. L. Blau (JE, vol.i, p.547) wrongly states that the Talmud "forbade the use of all such remedies as being 'heathen practice' ".

[64] See Beth Yoseph, loc. cit. For a summary of these views, see Hamburger, RE, Supplement ii (1891), p.82 f.

[65] rRaSHBA, nos.167, 413 and 825.

[66] Asheri, Shabbath, vi.19. Cf. also Kitzur Piskei HaROSH, a.l.

[67] Rashi, Shabbath 67a.

[68] There would otherwise be a contradiction between this view of Rashi and that he expresses on another passage (Hullin 77b), where he permits the recitation of a charm-formula over a wound; see J. Z. Jalisch, Melo Haro'im, on Shabbath 67a.

[69] Following RaN, on Shabbath 67a.

[70] So originally RaN, loc. cit., in the name of R. Jonah. Cf. supra, chpt.1  (note 69).

[71] Maimonides, Mishnah Commentary, on Yoma, viii.6; and Guide of the Perplexed, part iii, chpt.37. Cf. also Thorndike, Magic, vol.ii, p.209.

[72] See supra, chpt.1 (note 138). The Roman physician Soranus (though he, too, rejected charms and the like) permitted their use for women in childbirth, since "this soothes them and does no harm"; see Payne, op. cit., p.96.

[73] See rNahalath Shiv'ah, loc. cit. Cf. the view of R. Samuel of Meseritz (1625—1691): "The people should be permitted to retain the means of divining the fate of a sick person; for real magic existed only at the time when it was originally prohibited. To-day there is none" (cited by L. Lewin, in JJLG, vol.ix [1911], p.414). Earlier MaHaRaM ibn Haviv (Kunteres Yom Kippur, on Yoma 83) also regarded only such astrological and magic cures as forbidden as have emerged from the heathen cult of the Emorites, whereas supernatural methods proved effective by physicians might be employed; see D.T., clxxix.7. Cf. also the statement by I. Hagiz, in Etz Hahayim, quoted by Epstein, Torah Temimah, on Deut. xviii.11 (no.64).

[74] See D.T., clxxix.24; citing commentary on Sepher Hasidim.

[75] SHaH, clv.7.

[76] See Beth Yoseph, Y.D., clxxix; and SHaH, a.l, 8.

[77] See supra, p.22.

[78] See Preuss, p.167 f.; Krauss, vol.i, p.204; and JE, vol.i, p.546 ff., s.v. "Amulets".

[79] See supra, p.33.

[80] bShabbath 65a; see Preuss, p.192.

[81] So Falk, Perishah, O.H., ccci.35. But this measure may also well have been prompted by perfectly rational considerations.

[82] This is first mentioned in bShabbath 66b. A similar talisman is also described by Pliny (Nat. Hist., xxxvi.39.3). It was probably a hollow stone containing a small pebble making a sound like a clapper in a bell, no doubt a representation of the fruit in the mother's womb. On the properties of this stone (often identified with aetitis), with ancient and medieval parallels, see Loew, Lebensalter, p.63; Guedemann, op. cit., p.214; Preuss, p.446 f.; and Krauss, vol.ii, pp.4 and 425.

82a For a similar distinction between preventive and healing incantations, see supra, p.22.

[83] The Talmud (bShabbath 53b) explains that man has a guardian angel and thus a chance of recovery from diseases fatal to animals. Hence, his luck helps some amulets to be effective, which is not always the case with animals; see M.B., cccv.60.

[84] Generally, sacred writings may be rescued without question (O.H., cccxxxiv. 12).

[85] See sources cited in note 44 above. Maimonides omits the reference to demons in the rulings given here.

[86] Meir ben Gedaliyah, rMaHaRaM of Lublin, no.116. Cf. Innocent's bull, supra, p.28.

[87] Zohar, quoted by Karo, Beth Yoseph, Y.D., clxxix.

[88] So expressly Karo, loc. cit.

[89] See Zimmels, p.86 f.. and notes, a.l.

[90] Karo, loc. cit.

[91] Hebrew "÷èá îøéøé" (Deut. xxxii.24); the expression is demonologically interpreted by the Targum and Rashi, a.l. See also JE, vol.iv, p.516.

[92] See Jaffe, Levush, Y.D., ccclviii.3.

[93] This law is omitted by Maimonides; see Lehem Mishneh, Hil. Shevithath 'Asor, iii.2.

[94] Maimonides (Hil. Rotze'ah, xii.5) explains this law as due to the fear lest something harmful fall unnoticed into the food.

[95] According to the Talmud (bHullin 105b), the washing of hands after meals was to protect the eyes from hurt through contact with salty hands, but with the disappearance of the harmful sea-salt, the enactment was later revoked (Tosaphoth, Berakhoth 53b; and O.H., clxxxi.10). The reference to "the evil spirit" resting on water so used, though mentioned in the Talmud (bHullin 105b), is omitted by Maimonides (Hil. Berakhoth, vi.16).

[96] Maimonides, Hil. Gerushin, ii.14; and Mishnah Commentary, on Shabbath, ii.5, where he identifies "the evil spirit" with "melancholy". Cf. also his Guide of the Perplexed, part i, chpt.7.

[97] See, e.g., Epstein, A.H., O.H., ccxxxviii. 17, who regards a person possessed of "the evil spirit" as suffering from a dangerous disease which may lead to suicide.

[98] Similar attempts to rationalise classic references to "possessed people" are found in Christian sources, too. Preuss (p.360) recalls that Th. Bartholin, in a 17th century dissertation on the subject, "first dared to describe the demoniacs of the New Testament as epileptics and lunatics". Writing on "Angels and Demons", an official Anglican report recently stated: "For many of the phenomena recorded in the Gospels it is no doubt true that an alternative interpretation, based upon medical or psychological considerations, might in our time be suggested" (Doctrine in the Church of England, 1950, p.46).

[99] Cf. Rashi, Taanith 22b. See also Karo, Beth Yoseph, Y.D., ccxxviii.

[100] This belief is of medieval origin, but is not mentioned by Guedemann, loc. cit.

[101] For literature on the subject, see JE, vol.v, p.280, s.v. "Evil Eye".

[102] This charm, mentioned in the Talmud (bShabbath 57b), probably contained balsam (so Jastrow, Dictionary, p.436), though Rashi (a.l.) and the codes appear to interpret the word used for "balsam" (÷éèåó) as "sudden death" or "plucking" of the evil eye (so also Kohut, Aruch Completum, vol.iii, p.436).

[103] bB. Bathra 126b. Maimonides (Hil. Nahaloth, ii.16) avoids mentioning the belief.

[104] See John ix.6; and Mark viii.23.

[105] Tacitus, Hist., iv.81. For this and further Roman sources, see Preuss, p.321. Cf. also the widespread belief in the virtue of saliva jejuna to cure eye-complaints, found in Pliny and even Galen; see Thorndike, Magic, vol.i, pp.82 and 174. See also JE, vol.x, p.651.

[106] Guedemann (op. cit., p.215), referring to several Jewish and non-Jewish medieval sources for this occult remedy against head-ache, claims that this could also be found in the Talmud. But the passage (Shabbath 157b) on which the codes base this law deals with measuring for religious purposes in general, not with this particular practice which is unknown in the Talmud.

[107] This practice, too, is not mentioned by Maimonides, though it is re­corded several times in the Talmud and Midrash; see Preuss, p.463; and Krauss, vol.ii, p.8. But even the other codes omit reference to the many other magic customs and superstitions widely practiced in connection with child-birth; see Loew, Lebensalter, p.76 f.; Preuss, p.488; and JE, vol.iv, p.30 f.

[108] On the origin of this medieval legend, see L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 1939,, p.22 (note 135). Another health token men­tioned in the Talmud (jMo'ed Katan, iii.7) and codified by Karo (Y.D., cccxciv.4) is the belief that all the family will be healed if a son is born during the year of mourning.

[109] The source for this fear is to be found in the Sepher Hasidim; see Darkei Mosheh, Y.D., xi.2. The tradition is not mentioned in the earlier codes.

[110] So TaZ, a.l., 1, in the name of BaH, who bases his view on the Talmud (bNedarim 40a).

[111] See bShabbath 129b. But in cases of danger, the operation was per­mitted even on the eve of Pentecost; see M.B., a.l., 38. Cf. also supra, Introduction (notes 75 and 78).

[112] See supra, Introduction (note 74). On the ancient origin and wide currency of the belief that sneezing often proved fatal, see Preuss, p.83 ff.; and JE, vol.ii, p.255 f.

[113] These laws, first codified in the Shulhan 'Arukh, are based on stories related in the Talmud (bBerakhoth 18b; and bMo'ed Katan 28a); see Beth Yoseph and Darkei Mosheh, Y.D., clxxix. In the 19th century, one rabbi (Jacob Ettlinger, rBinyan Tziyon, no.67) permitted a patient to be treated by "magnetising" (Mesmerism) because the forces thus invoked could be attributed to purely "natural phenomena still undiscovered by us", whilst another (Solomon Kluger, rTuv Ta'am Vada'ath, 3rd ed., part ii, no.48) strongly objected to participation in spiritualistic seances as plain sorcery; see D.T., clxxix.6. More recently, A. I. Kook (rDa'ath Kohen, no.69), too, was inclined to view spiritualism as compromising the true faith in God; see Zimmels, p.219 (note 53).

[114] For numerous medical reports on such cases in recent times, see lists of articles in Index Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office, U.S. Army, Third Series, vol.x (1932), p.1021, s.v. "Vagitus Uterinus"; and Fourth Series, vol.x (1940), p.956, s.v. "Fetus, Respiration."

[115] bNiddah 42b; see Preuss, p.445. The inference drawn by Guedemann (op. cit., p.216) to the contrary effect is wrong.

[116] The Shulhan 'Arukh evidently held that the child's sounds could be heard in exceptional cases before the delivery of its head; for it declares the 8-day period to commence "from the day its head emerged or from the day it was heard to cry". Elsewhere, however, Karo (Y.D., cxciv. 12) states expressly that "it is impossible to hear the child's voice if it did not bring out the head outside the birth-canal"; but cf. P.T., a.l., 9. Mai­monides, therefore, follows the Talmud more accurately in omitting the reference to the child's crying altogether and in dealing only with the emergence of the head as determining the birth-day (Hil. Milah, i.15). According to  Isserles   (E.H.,  iv.14,  gloss),  incidentally,  it  was  possible that an embryo aborted after less than five month's gestation could be heard to cry at birth before its death; see He.M., a.l., 13.

[117] See Haggard, Devils, p.61; and McKenzie, Infancy, p.310 f. This belief was firmly held throughout antiquity and shared by Hippocrates and Galen; see Preuss, p.456. According to A. Stern (Die Medizin im Talmud, 1909, p.14), this notion was definitely of foreign origin; see Krauss, vol.ii, p.427 (note 26). In Jewish law, the idea that 8-months' babies could not live became so axiomatic that it was suggested that if such a child nevertheless survived, neither its puberty (bYevamoth 80a; and Novellae of RaSHBA, a.l.) nor its viability (Rashi, a.l.) would be definitely established before reaching the age of twenty years; see Loew, Lebensalter, p.49 f.

[118] So TaZ, a.l., 8, based on the Talmud (bYevamoth 80b; and bNiddah 38b); see Loew, loc. cit.; and Preuss, p.456. The same reasoning occurs to explain the circumstances of a pregnancy exceeding nine months (E.H., iv.14).

[119] This is among the original practices prohibited as "Emorite" customs (tShabbath, vii.3). Other authorities, however, were prepared to permit the act completely (sorMaHaRIL, no.118); see Guedemann, op. cit., p.209 (note 1).

[120] See McKenzie, Infancy, p.109 ff. Garrison (An Introduction, p.274) remarks that C. F. Paulini's Die heilsame Dreckapotheke (published in 1696) is "a title which amply symbolises the tendency of many 17th century prescriptions". In fact, this tendency was not at all restricted to that period.

[121] Galen, ed. Kuehn, xii.248, 284-285, and 290.

[122] Ib., 293; see Thorndike, Magic, vol.i, p.167 f.

[123] See McKenzie, loc. cit.

[124] See LaWall, Pharmacy, p.247 f.

[125] Osler, Evolution, p.15.

[126] H. L. Strack, Der Blutaberglaube in der Menschheit, 1892, p.83.

[127] Preuss, p.509. Krauss (vol.i, p.257 ff.) enumerates 72 kinds of do­mestic and pharmacological medicines mentioned in the Talmud; only six items in this list belong to the "Dreckapotheke" (nos. 51-56).

[128] E.. A. W. Budge, Syrian Anatomy, Pathology and Therapeutics; or "The Book of Medicines"', 1913, end of second volume.

[129] We may here remark that the long and notorious popularity of uro­scopy is hardly reflected in Jewish law; it refers only once to vessels used for the examination of urine (O.H., xliii.9). On the history of this quaint department of medieval medicine, see D. Riesman, The Story of Medicine in the Middle Ages, 1935, p.328 ff.  (in chapter on "Uroscopy").

[130] See SHaKH, a.l., 3. Cf. D.T., cxvi.100.

[131] Cf. supra, chpt.I (note 69).

[132] Levush, Y.D., cxvi.6.

[133] See, e.g., A.H., Y.D., lxxxi.10.

[134] See Zimmels, p.126 ff.; and the few illustrations given by Guede­mann, op. cit., p.216.

[135] See Preuss, p.140 (note 8).

[136] Cf. the pointed observation by Guedemann (op. cit., p.220 [note 4] ): "Even in the darkest times, Judaism never went so far as to grant dog­matic recognition to the belief in sorcery, as happened in the Church which set up the doctrine: 'Haeresis est maxima, opera maleficarum non credere' (Malleus Malefic, iii, quaest.25)".