10 Absurd Ancient Beliefs

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22 Jun 10 at 05 50 am | posted by Tanya
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10 Absurd Ancient Beliefs

We all need something to believe in. Kids believe that Santa Claus exists and adults believe that they can fool their kids by dressing up as a fat, red, bearded guy with a pot belly. Even in ancient times beliefs played an important role as they helped different civilizations define themselves and have a unique identity. These beliefs can arise out of some childhood incident, a common folklore, by observation, by parents trying to hide a dirty little secret (Oh you were brought to us by stork) or sometimes out of nothing. That is, it has no source of origin, no proof to support its truthfulness and no theory to justify it, yet people still hold them and live by them no matter how pointless and ridiculous they are. Presented below are examples of 10 such beliefs that are so senseless and absurd that you are guaranteed to have at least one WTF moment by the end of this article.


Drilling A Hole, Is The Cure

Drilling A Hole, Is The Cure

If you were alive several hundred decades ago and had a terrible migraine what would the doctor recommend? Oh you know, just the usual- some painkillers, caffeine, water or DRILLING A HOLE IN THE HEAD. While modern medicine tries to save lives and relieve people of their illnesses in the most painless way possible, ancient medical beliefs were bent upon doing just the opposite. One such belief was the use of Trepanation- carving out holes in the head using a crude piece of metal for cutting out a round piece of skull bone. In ancient times, it was believed that piercing the head would not only cure migraines and epileptic seizures, but could also be used on mentally ill people to ‘allow the bad spirits to escape’. Needless to say, if someone was not mentally disturbed before this absurd treatment, they would definitely lose their mind after the treatment.


Beaver Testicles as a contraceptive

Beaver Testicles as a contraceptive

Condoms, diaphragms, douching, IUD’s, creams, jellies, foams, the pill, the morning-after pill, tubal litigation… jeez what’s with all the gazillion birth control methods these days ladies? Why go through all the hassle when you can just do what the Canadians did several decades ago? In the 16th century, Canadians believed that the testicles of small furry animals were the key to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thus an interesting means of female contraception was devised: the testicles of beavers were ground up & mixed with alcohol and eventually the mixture was drunk. While there are doubts as to whether this concoction ever prevented a single pregnancy there are no doubts about the fact that this contraceptive came with an added bonus: puking your guts out all over the place like a sick inebriated hobo.


Mercury as a curative agent

Mercury as a curative agent

For centuries people believed that Mercury could treat pretty much anything and everything. Scraped your knee? Just rub a little mercury on it. Having some problems with regularity? Forget fibre, time to get some mercury up in there. More than a 100 years ago if you didn’t have enough shiny, silvery liquid running through your veins you simply weren't considered healthy enough.


Mercury, as we now know, is toxic as hell. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include chest pains, heart and lung problems, coughing, tremors, violent muscle spasms, psychotic reactions, delirium and hallucinations. Of course, people back then weren’t aware of even half of these side-effects because if they were, they wouldn’t keep trying to cure everything with it for 1,000 years.


There was a ‘silver’ lining, though, as it helped to fight the spread of STDs. Mercury was used as a cure for syphilis and to its credit, the "cure" usually resulted in one less person with syphilis in the world.


Puppy urine as a beauty treatment

Puppy urine as a beauty treatment

The hardest part about owning a pet dog is keeping up with the mess they make everywhere, especially new puppies that are not house-broken. Any puppies or dogs reading this will agree that they are taken for granted in this age, where people yell and scream at them for making a mess and that they would be better off in the Elizabethan era where puppy urine was a very sacred necessity.  Back in the 1500’s in old England, the women believed that the use of puppy urine was an essential beauty treatment that would do wonders for their complexion. Puppy urine was a luxury item that only rich men and women could afford. They would rub the urine on their faces, brush their teeth with it, bathe in it and many women even drank it- all in the name of beauty.


Premature ejaculation could suck the life out of you

Premature ejaculation could suck the life out of you

During the Chou Dynasty of China (770 BC - 222 BC), the Yin-Yang theory began to take shape. According to this belief, men and women were split up into the yin and the yang which was basically the life force of a person. Women were said to possess a limitless supply of yin while men were said to have a dangerously low supply of yang essence. It was strictly believed, then, that men should never use up their yang without first getting plenty of yin. Translated into normal English this would mean that men were expected to orgasm only AFTER their partner had orgasmed multiple times to which would increase the level of yin which the men could then use to increase their yang. If this was not followed, then the man's life force would be drained from him until he eventually died.


A Naked Bride Keeps Creditors At Bay

A Naked Bride Keeps Creditors At Bay

“Running into debt isn't so bad. It's running into creditors that hurts”. All those who are crushed under debt, running away from the clutches of their creditors, planning to change their name and identity and move to a different planet, look no further for a way out of your personal hell, because I have a solution for u. Read and take heed. In Eighteenth century England, it was widely believed that if a wealthy and prosperous woman married a man with debts, the creditors would be unable to reclaim their money from the newly married man. As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, there’s another catch to this situation. They believed that this solution would work only if the woman was married naked. So you get to marry a woman who is rich AND naked. Hallelujah! Awesome solution, eh? EH?


Donít sleep with your mouth open

Donít sleep with your mouth open

If someone took a picture of us sleeping after a particularly tiring day of work, chances are that the picture is going to turn out something like this: sprawled across the bed, mouth open, drooling copiously on the pillow. We may find it amusing and hilarious but to many ancient Romanians this was not a laughing matter at all. A popular Romanian belief was that it was dangerous for someone to sleep with his or her mouth open. They believed that the person’s soul would run out of the open mouth and escape in the shape of a tiny mouse, travelling freely through the night. And if in the morning, the mouse did not return, they would never wake up to see the light of the day. Remember when mama said you should close your mouth before you catch a fly? Well now you also have to remember to close your mouth to keep the soul-mouse in or you’ll die.


Having Sex with Strangers makes you fertile

Having Sex with Strangers makes you fertile

In ancient Mesopotamia, right after marriage, all women were ordered to visit the Temple of Ishtar (the primary deity of the era) because of the belief that this would bring fertility to the female. In other words, it was believed that having sex with a stranger BEFORE having sex with your husband was a good thing. At the temple, the women were required to sit and wait until a random stranger came by, threw a piece of silver in their lap and declared “I invite you in the name of Mylitta" (another name for Ishtar). Upon receiving the silver, the woman would leave the temple with the man and have sex with him, after which she could finally return home, assured of future fertility. Once a man invited the woman in the name of the deity, she had no right to refuse him and had to comply. While the good-looking ones had to wait for only a day or two before they were chosen by a stranger, the less attractive ones would have to wait years before they would find a piece of silver in their laps.


Screaming and blood-vomiting mandrakes

Screaming and blood-vomiting mandrakes

Mandrake is the ugly and poisonous cousin of the potato. They contain certain chemicals which give them a bulgy appearance and the roots have bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures. Because of their unusual guise, many strange beliefs and myths are associated with these vegetables. In the Middle- Ages, people believed that if a person dug up a mandrake, it would scream and vomit out blood and that the person responsible would die shortly afterwards. To prevent this, it was believed that to pull out this mystical plant, a dog should be tied to the root of it, after which the person tying the dog must get away. The dog would then try to follow him, pulling out the plant as it goes and then dying instead of his master. After this, the root can be handled without fear. Another absurd belief about this creepy looking vegetable was that it would only grow where the semen of a hanged man dripped to the ground.


Vaginal Massages for female hysteria

Vaginal Massages for female hysteria

Moodiness, nervousness, irritability and the ‘tendency to cause trouble’ were believed to be valid symptoms for a deadly serious medical condition called ‘Female Hysteria’ back in the 19th century. So, how exactly do you cure a so-called "condition" that coincidentally was diagnosed almost entirely to women who dared disobey their Victorian husbands? Glad you asked. The prescription for female hysteria was usually a good spot of doctor administered vaginal massage until the woman achieved "hysterical paroxysm." Yes that's right, the cure for female hysteria was believed to be a good old dose of a vaginal stimulation by the doctors. In those sexually repressed times visiting the doctor's office must have been like a trip to heaven and back for women. Doctors back then, on the other hand, were not too happy with women barging into their clinics requesting to be "cured" by their magic fingers. Nineteenth-century medical journals lamented that many hysterics taxed their doctors' stamina. Physicians complained of having trouble maintaining therapeutic massage long enough to produce the desired result. Necessity being the mother of invention, physicians began experimenting with mechanical substitutes for their hands. They tried a number of genital massage contraptions, among them water-driven devices and steam-driven pumping dildos and finally, after many tries, the electrical vibrator. Now THAT’S a happy ending.

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Comments (73)
  • Alan Greenspan

    What a crock. Much of this column is outright made up. For instances Trepanning, the practice of cutting holes in the skull, while documented to have peformed on living subjects, has never been explained. No one knows why the holes were cut, speculation says perhaps headaches, or madness, but no one knows for certain.

    The bit on the Mespotamia is again speculation. While the practice did occur, it is highly unlikely that a woman waited more than a few minutes for a man to help her with her burden. Mespotamians possessed beer googles and there were no unattractive women, only drunken men.


    Fun to read, but absolutely useless for garnering knowledge. At least make it interesting for the reader if you are going to indulge in useless speculation.


  • Drewish

    I have a lot of problems with this article. I will list them.

    1) trepanning - doctors still do this procedure to relieve certain conditions.  maybe olde timeys said it was to release evil spirits i.e. cure illness.  i don't see why it's absurd at all.

    2) beaver testicles - today we make medications from the urine of pregnant horses.  it works.  so let's not get all judgey about people who had the wild idea that the sexual hormones of another mammal would affect the hormone levels in humans. 

    3) mercury - a lot, and i mean a lot, of our current medications are "toxic as hell".  it doesn't mean they aren't the best of our current options.  does radiation treatment ring a bell, oh genius writer of this article?  and mercury was actually useful as a topical antiseptic - ever heard of Mercurochrome?

    7) sleeping with mouth open - maybe our ancestors noticed that people who slept with their mouths open had poor health.  do you think, wise author of snark, that maybe it was related to adenoids? and sleep apnea? which really does negatively affect people's health. 

    10) vaginal massage for hysterics - look, there's no doubt that the victorian period was one of the most sexually repressive societies - especially for women.  so i guess i'm not surprised that the "cure" was basically the opposite of the "disease" - in this case, the societal disease of sexual repression.  i was watching the news the other day, and a well-respected doctor was extolling the health benefits of an active sex life.  sound familiar?

    it only takes a little bit of effort to put yourself in the shoes of the people who practiced these alleged absurdities.

    dear author, stop shaking your head in patronizing disbelief and start admiring the inventive insight of the people who came before you!

  • MrSatyre

    "While modern medicine tries to save lives and relieve people of their illnesses in the least painless way possible..."

    You mean "in the most painless way possible". "Least painless" would mean modern medicine is trying to cause the most pain possible. 

  • Volterra

    If the author of this article can include a line such as this:

    "at least one WTF moment by the end of this article"

    Then you can well imagine what an immature, wanna-be and a person who has not done research to it's proper extent is.

    This article should not even exist on the net. You could have made a well informative article on this topic by delving deeper into history, You could have given an absurd belief and justified why it is considered absurd today.

    What a waste of time reading this list! Pathetic

  • kiiimiko
    Where in the world did you come up with these facts? All of them are completely wrong. It did make me laugh though so congratulations on that.
  • Eve

    For 'Drewish'. You really shouldn't be so offended by the autor's opinions. I agee with the author for the most part, most of those things were crazy!

    The people before us didn't have the advanced technology we have today, so they made up things to fill in as an explanation for the things they didn't know about.

    So you really need to calm the hell down.

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