BLOODLETTING AND ASTROLOGY

February 25th, 2013 by Misty Lee

Most of you know me as Misty Lee the Magician, unhealthy Illusionist and Professional Creeper.  You may NOT be aware though that, before turning blood drops into critters and coaxing fingerbones to dance, my living came from dentistry. While these days I much prefer séances to sealants, medicine is still a huge trigger for me –   particularly 19th/20th century ‘quack’ doctors’ tools.  An avid collector of these sometimes ridiculous and not-so-modern medical implements, I’m stoked to show you all my latest find: a 19th-Century Scarificator.  I’ve named her April.  She’s Denis the Bonesaw’s kid sister.  (Oh, please just indulge me.  *grin*) So what is she?

Scarificators and Other Bloodletting Tools

Bloodletting (draining small amounts of blood) was a procedure medical folk used to treat everything from smallpox to amputation.  Believing that illness resulted from an imbalance of the four humors—blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile—doctors of yore prescribed bloodletting to restore harmony in the body. One of the favored tools for this gruesome task was the scarificator, used to create shallow incisions in the flesh.  They’d let some blood out, and Voila!  Healed!  Right?  No, but the tools they used for this (fleams, thumb lancets, and cool scarificatin’ pieces like April) sometimes pop up for sale, and they’re pretty awesome looking.  See?  Here she is:

April, Small but Mighty, or maybe just a mighty bad idea.

April, Small but Mighty, or maybe just a mighty bad idea.

 

Check her out!  April the Scarificator has gears that push twelve blades out through openings on her base.  A bar on the side allows you to adjust the cutting depth, and when you press her button, *snap* – the blades retract.  Isn’t April lovely?  Not sure whether the polish lines on her are original or were created to shine her up for sale, but I don’t care, because she’s perfect.  *grin again*  She even came with a little house they called her ‘box.’  As mentioned, Scarificators weren’t the only tools used to bloodlet – here are some of April’s co-workers:

Thumb lancets and fleams - slicin’ and dicin’ for your own good.  (Not really.) -Image courtesy of http://www.gutenberg.org/

Thumb lancets and fleams – slicin’ and dicin’ for your own good. (Not really.)
-Image courtesy of http://www.gutenberg.org/

 

Back in the day, doctors would have patients bleed until…when?  How did they know it was time to stop? When the patient passed out, naturally! Seems barbaric, but, hey, it was better than leeches.  Most everything is better than leeches, actually.  Leeches are pretty gross.

Scarification by the Stars

Though scarification was a popular method of treating disease from King Tut’s time until the late 1800s, the practice evolved over the years. In the fifteen and sixteen hundreds, physicians referenced astrology charts when determining where and when to bleed a patient. Because of a belief that body parts corresponded to particular signs of the zodiac, proper planetary alignment was crucial to ensuring the success of a procedure. Aries oversaw conditions of the head, while afflictions of the feet fell in Pisces’ domain. Doctors of old would use these charts to determine the best time to treat a particular injury. They also considered a patient’s zodiac sign when deciding the proper spot to scarify.  Some signs had it worse than others, too.  Let’s just say it was a major bummer to be a Cancer back then.

bloodletting chart

See? Told you. Sorry, Crab-folk. (image courtesy of http://www.awesomestories.com/)

 

Not planning on doing much scarificatin’ around the house (okay maybe a little – *ahem*), so for the most part April will live in peaceful retirement here on my Curiosities shelf.  Just thought it’d be fun to share a little of her history with you.

More from Magic’s Favorite Female Creeper

Will be sure to keep you updated with additions to my collection, but in the mean time, if you want to see more pictures of April the Scarificator (or Denis the Bone Saw), feel free to check them out on my website. That’s also the place to go for info on upcoming events and Séances at the Magic Castle.

Interested in working some magic together for corporate event, consulting, or a TV gig?  Please contact my booking manager, Lisa Reese by calling (800) 677-0860 or email her at info@mistylee.com.

Until then, keep your tetanus shots current…and your ‘humors’ in balance.   (Or else.)

In Good Spirits!

Misty Lee

Sources: http://www.awesomestories.com/, http://www.pbs.org