RICHARD NAPIER

Richard Napier (1559-1634) was a physician who used astrology to treat his patients. He described a woman who sought his assistance with a compulsive washing symptom.

Extreme melancholy, possessing her for a long time, with fear; and sorely tempted not to touch anything for fear that then she shall be tempted to wash her clothes, even upon her back. Is tortured until that she be forced to wash her clothes, be them never so good and new. Will not suffer her husband, child, nor any of the household to have any new clothes until they wash them for fear the dust of them will fall upon her. Darest not to go to the church for treading on the ground, fearing lest any dust should fall upon them.

Richard Napier's unpublished papers, as quoted in Michael MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam: madness, anxiety, and healing in seventeenth-century England (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), 154.

NOTE: To treat patients, Napier "mapped the heavens at that moment, positioning the symbols of the planets and signs of the zodiac along the celestial frame," MacDonald says (p. 26).

 

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