The Curative Chamber of Aesclepius

[300 B.C.]
N.N. from Argos, epileptic. The man during sleep in the curative chamber saw a vision: he dreamed that the god approached him and pressed his ring upon his mouth, nostrils, and ears – and he recovered.
Cited in The Falling Sickness, Tempkin 1971

Commentary by Adrienne Richards:

The afflicted man has brought himself from Argos to the healing temple at Epidaurus, the most famous of the day. There he has undergone rites and purifications, herbal emetics and physics, preparatory to his night in the curative chamber. When he is deemed ready, he sleeps in the sacred place, and there he dreams of Asklepious, the presiding god of both patients and physicians. Asklepious presses his ring against N.N.’s mouth, his nostrils, and his ears, the three openings where evil is most likely to enter. The ring itself is remarkable. Greek gods, to my knowledge, did not wear rings. It is possible that the ring arose spontaneously form the depths of N.N.’s being, when it was most needed, as an archetypal image of wholeness. It seems almost redundant, “and he recovered.”

The Fiery Wheel: Image and Experiences of Epilepsy; Adrienne Richard, Psychological Perspectives, Fall 1977, pages 349-361.
How is it that someone can be healed on the basis of a dream?
For a thousand years before Christ, pilgrims would go to the temples of Asclepious in search of healing. The supplicants woud travel long distances to go these temples, which were always in a poweful natural setting. Once there, they would eat well, see theatre, go through purification rites. When the time was right, they would be directed to a small chamber in order to have a dream that would guide the priests and the patients in what needed to be done to be cured. Given that this system lasted for a thousand years, they had to be doing something right.
The caduceus, the image of modern medicine with the snakes and staff, was developed from the cult of Asklepious. (Snakes, since they shed their skin, were associated with renewal and healing.)
The original Hippocratic Oath begins,
I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Aesclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods...
In the dream mentioned at the beginning of the blog, the epileptic profoundly experiences an image that apparently heals him: How does this happen?
Time to build a Curative Chamber.

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