Saturday, November 15, 2003

Secrets of the Ancient World

My name is Seshat. I was named after the goddess of writing and measurement. I received my training as a physician at the Sais Medical School in Alexandria. I am part of  an elite corps of women who are full physicians and not just midwives.  We are followers of Peseshat, the Lady Overseer of the Lady Physicians, who is the first female physician in the world. For many years, I studied the papyrus of recipes for diseases and symptoms gathered from the knowledge obtained by the embalmers. Previously Herodutus taught that all disease was produced by the food on which we live. Now, we know that many things contribute to our health including the climate, good hygiene and even our thoughts. Most women do not work outside the home. They are busy beating the flax into fiber that will be spun into linen for clothing and bedding. I have the opportunity to go to the homes of the craftsmen and the wealthy. I am lucky to have inherited the land that Pharaoh gave my uncle for his work on the tombs. If I do not find a husband, without my own property I would be forced to live with one of my sisters. The women are planning a pilgrimage. Tonight there will be a banquet of quails, ducks, geese, tilapia, perch, catfish, carp and eels. We will drink wine, milk and water. Wild barley is soaking into a mash that will be used to bake bread and fermented with dates into Beer. We will drink a lot of the Beer and use the rest as payment for incense, honey and sandles for our journey. We will take up a collection of gold, silver and copper rings so that we will not have to pay the interest rates on a loan from the grain bank in Alexandria.  I have commisioned the building of a bathroom. A coppersmith, who owes me for a Dead Sea Salt poultice I made for his arthritis, will craft a basin to catch waste water. Our current pipe is made of straw and clay which is very crude. We have to wash our hands and clothing with lye made of castor oil and saltpeter and wear heavy blue eye makeup to avoid disease. Before I leave, I will visit the home of our rabbi. He is old and suffers from cystitus, a recurring, very painful type of urinary tract condition. He will not wear the amulets that some do to break the spell from their enemies. After I take his pulse and examine him, I will make a tea of garlic, vinegar and coriander seeds. Garlic is known to relieve any kind of pain. 

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