Saturday, July 26, 2008

mal à la tête

When I was younger, throughout most of my school career and into my early twenties, I suffered from terrible headaches. In the summer we used to visit my grandparents in Maryland, and sometimes made trips to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. At a young age I fell in love with the Smithsonian's collection of trepanned skulls.

Trepanation is the process of cutting a hole in the skull to relieve pain or pressure. The skulls at the Smithsonian were from ancient tribes who believed headaches were caused by evil spirits, and that by cutting holes in the skull the spirits would be set free. The holes were often made with stone tools while the patient was still awake. Many of the skulls had more than one perforation, sometimes cut into decorative shapes and often partially healed. I was fascinated by these skulls, and imagined what it would have been like to live in one of these cultures and be trepanned instead of sent to the school nurse.

This week I have been having headaches again. My dictionary of superstitions suggests that these could be caused by a thieving magpie using my hair in its nest. It also provides a spell for headache relief, in which lengths of red wool are wound around the affected part as a "measuring cure." Other helpful suggestions include rubbing a stone or salt on my forehead or wearing nutmeg.

Instead I think I might just have some ice cream and go to bed.


Rima said...

A great post...
Try some tiger balm on your forehead and temples - it works wonders :)

Mmm said...

And all to no avail. how ipped off those guys must have felt getting holes drilled adn still getting headaches! Ugh.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I've had migraine for years. The worst. Have you ever seen the charcoal drawing of a headache done by Georgia O'Keefe? The most perfect illustration of what a headache feels like ever!

Sorry about yours! Feel better!

Crista Noel Smith said...

Thank you thank you Rima! The tiger balm did help.

Pamela, you're right about the O'Keefe drawing. It looks like a particularly nasty one too! Hope you are currently headache-free.

Blog Princess G said...

I started getting migraines and they ceased when I gave up caffeine (ugh!). When I get a headache I try an accupressure technique: opening the space between my thumb and my forefinger and pressing hard on the muscle there.