History Of Epilepsy


The past has rarely been kind to people suffering with any kind of physical or mental issues. History books, especially the “religious” ones mostly relate to sickness as being a physical manifestation of sin and separated the “sinful” from the other citizens because apparently the others were “righteous before God”.

For mental illness, the conclusion was always that the patient was possessed by something evil like a demon or other dark entity. It is very sad to realize that ignorance is actually the source of the real evil because it has been proved time and again that knowledge is power. Those predecessors who suffered from epileptic seizures were treated with equal violence instead of caring and understanding. For the wise, knowledgeable folk, it was known that epilepsy was a severe disorder and they loathed the unjust treatment of patients.

Hippocrates famously wrote: “The popular superstition, the magicians, the wizards and charlatans, who named the disease sacred, are being attacked. The alleged divine character is only a shelter for ignorance and fraudulent practices. The assumption of the gods being its cause reveals those people as fundamentally impious, for the gods do not make men’s bodies unclean, as the magicians would have them believe. It’s cause lies in the brain, the releasing factors of the seizures are cold, sun and winds which change the consistency of the brain. Therefore, epilepsy can and must be treated not by magic, but by diet and drugs.”

Billod wrote: “The epileptic is avoided, on all faces he reads his sentence to isolation. Everywhere he goes, menacing and insurmountable obstacles arise to his obtaining a position, to his establishing himself, to his relationships, and to his very livelihood; he has to say goodbye to his dreams of success, for the masters even refuse him work in their shops; goodbye to his dreams of marriage and fatherhood, goodbye to the joys of the domestic hearth. This is death to the spirit”.

The Greeks are always known to be advanced in thought and philosophy. Many thought schools emerged from this region because they were practical with their teachings and treatment of other human beings. However, when it came to a mental condition like epilepsy, the Greeks were not so advanced. It was believed that the goddess Selene was angry with the patient and hence attacked them so that they experienced seizures. Epileptics were made to sleep in the temple, away from general society (so as not to infect the others and bring on the goddess’ wrath) and eat the leaves from fresh mistletoe.

The Romans were savages against those that opposed them and are known to have brought on many wars, even though they were patient towards their own citizens. But when it came to a mental affliction like epilepsy, they didn’t tolerate it one bit. Instead epileptic patients were shunned by society, believing that they were possessed by a demon. They had to live separately and could not even breathe upon others, because it was feared that it would make others evil as well.

In Europe in general, people were more tolerable in general, but still turned to saints and holy men for cures. They believed, to a certain extent, that any sickness, whether physical or mental had something to do with sin and evil entities, but were more civilized about the whole situation. They believed in the power of a metal ring that patients were supposed to wear to prevent another attack. Whether it worked or not is still a mystery, because as we know today, epilepsy has nothing to do with the presence or absence of any metallic object!

It was only during the Age of Enlightenment that people started thinking logically. But this was only for those who were knowledgeable; the common people stilled believed in the evil origins of epilepsy because they felt that it is contagious. Those suffering from seizures were isolated while severe cases were sent to the nearest mental institution, far away from society.

In the “modern times” even as recent as the 20th century, epileptics were ostracized. They were not allowed to marry, could not hold regular jobs and were forbidden from participating in the regular functioning of society. This was a time of general negativity on the earth, and those that did not, in any form, conform to societal norms were segregated mercilessly.

It is only now within the past couple of decades that scientific reasoning has taken place due to methods and machinery that are able to logically test the neurons in the brain and finally conclude that epilepsy is not demonic, neither should the person suffering from it be shunned for something that is completely and totally neurological.

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