This week has seen me revive some of my interest in non-Eastern forms of acupuncture and traditional piercing based medical practices. I’ve posted a working title for an essay on my articles page and started to think about all the topics to include. There are some obvious facts, like that the earliest indication of acupuncture seems to be Ötzi the Iceman, a 5300 year old mummy found in Europe who has tattoo markings on his body close to acupuncture points indicating acupuncture may have been in use in Europe long before the first descriptions were ever written in China. I intend to include some descriptions of how traditional medicine in Europe was based on similar principles with the notions of bloodletting and leechcraft having similar points to be used in the instance of particular illnesses. I also want to include some description of Jup and Tok procedures of Mayan curanderos using thorns and animal spines, claws or teeth to pierce specific points in the case of illness. I may even extend to the origins on electrotherapy for pain beginning in ancient Greece and being used in the West for a long time before electroacupuncture was developed in China.
In many of these cases a theoretical system similar to the traditional Chinese descriptions of stagnation or deficiency of qi and blood, invasion by wind or imbalance of a basic dual principle like yin/yang are present raising the question of whether they were also based on similar principles of healing subjective sensations of illness and gross observable signs rather than measuring the objective markers of disease we can use today. Perhaps we threw out the baby with the bathwater when we abandoned them wholesale for their descriptions not being accurate accounts of physiology. Our perceptions of our body are naturally based around medical metaphors rather than the reality of what is happening inside of us and sensations like stagnation or deficiency of blood or humours is perhaps inevitable in pre-scientific healing systems as that is how we experience illness to be like. They may still have value in the treatment of subjective phenomena like pain or mystery illnesses and provide a useful language for us to talk about symptoms. Working with correcting this symbolic level may also contain a key to tapping into our body’s ability to heal itself with psychosomatics. All interesting thoughts which I intend to expand upon in the coming months.
Also in line with this interest in piercing based traditional medicines I’ve been considering a part-time career in the donor services. With my skills in handling sharps, calming people before being needled and my previous career in managing databases it seems like I already have most of the skills needed to assist at a blood bank and some regular work besides my acupuncture clients could certainly be handy. It also catches my interest because just as I would like to see acupuncture updated for the modern age, blood donation is effectively blood letting but adapted and modernised for contemporary medicine and I always fancied having a career that included as many aspects of the ancient physicians work as possible. Next I’ll need to find a position on leech farm!