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August 2019

Clio Med. 1995 ; 28(): 363-76.

The healing event in Graeco-Roman folk-medicine.

Gordon R.

The inexplicit character of Graeco-Roman folk-medicine, together with the distorted and haphazard nature of our evidence, has led to easy denigration of its aims and methods. Analysis of the structure of the healing event, especially its spoken component, the charm, provides some insight into tacit beliefs about illness, and into the skills through which folk-practitioners won reputations for competence. Just as in school medicine, the basic aim is acquisition of the authority to intervene: correct diagnosis, drawing upon folk-categories, is followed by the reassertion of order through setting the present contingency into the context of a natural law or regularity, drawing upon the stock of shared knowledge.


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