Ceri Urmson, University of Nottingham
The Uses of Chicken products in Magic, Medicine and Ritual in Britain from the Iron Age to the Early Late Middle Ages
“A cock penned up without food for a day and a night, the sufferer fasting with him at the same time, feathers plucked from the neck, or the comb, being tied around the head”. It is difficult to distinguish between magic and medicine because the two were interrelated: Pliny’s headache cure, which from a modern Western perspective, appears to resemble sympathetic magic, would be to his contemporary’s just normal medicine. In terms of dietary-based medicine, the widespread use of chicken soup as a folk remedy to treat colds and sore throats features in Roman tradition in Pliny’s Natural Histories, as well as in modern Western culture and may also be found within Traditional Chinese medicine.
My dissertation aims to explore the Uses of Chicken products in Magic, Medicine and Ritual in Britain from the Iron Age to the Early Late Middle Ages, as well as addressing their modern-day usages for similar purposes, which should hopefully help to further my understanding of these ancient practises and some of the motives behind them. When I refer to chicken products, this includes the use of chicken-based medicines involving both the actual chicken (e.g. meat, internal organs or even the live bird) and by-products such as eggs or dung.
Pliny, 1989, Natural Histories, Volume 8 Books 28-32, translation by Jones, W., London: Loeb Classical Library, p.255.