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October 2021

Rev Neurol. 1998 Jun; 26(154): 1064-8.

[Magical thinking and epilepsy in traditional indigenous medicine]

Carod FJ, Vázquez-Cabrera C.

Servicio de Neurología, Hospital Universitario, San Carlos, Médicos Mundi, Madrid, España.

INTRODUCTION: Witchcraft with regard to epilepsy in ancestral indigenous cultures has been modified by the presence of white doctors so that traditional and scientific-western treatments coexist. OBJECTIVE: To analyze traditional anti-epileptic treatment and the basis of the relevant magic in diverse indigenous cultures in Central Africa and in Central and South America. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Transcultural analysis of the Bassá, Fufulve and Bambiliké tribes (Log-bikoy, Camerun), Wangoni (Songea, Tanzania), Guarani (Paraguay) and Maya Tzeltal (Chiapas). RESULTS: In traditional Africa epilepsy is linked to the evil eye. In the Wangoni tribe the curative ritual requires complete shaving of the entire body using glass, or banishment of the person causing the evil influence. In the Bassá and Bambiliké, burns are a common complication and epilepsy is known as the disease of people with burns. In Meso-american culture epilepsy is caused by some abuse suffered by the animal soul which accompanies the person involved, following a battle between the naguales or spirits who serve the forces of Good and Evil. Traditional indigenous medicine employs herbal remedies, rituals, spiritual cures or combinations of all these. More than 80% of the epileptic patients of the Third World use only these remedies. CONCLUSION: The mythical concept of the disease is the basis for interpretation of epilepsy in traditional indigenous cultures. The psychological benefit obtained from the traditional therapeutic model has made this necessary and complementary to western-style treatment.


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