The Casebooks of Elizabethan Astrologer Reveal Sketchy Cures for Cheating Spouses, Devils

Live Science | 5/20/2019 | Staff
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Cheating spouses, venereal disease and devils fill the pages of two newly digitized 400-year-old astrologer casebooks.

The books belong to the rather shady astrologist and healer Simon Forman, who lived between 1552 and 1611 in England, and his protégé, Richard Napier. Forman and Napier were astrologers, a role that included providing health care in the early modern period.

Species - Bird

A species of bird evolved to be flightless, twice!

And these individuals offered cures to the afflicted — cures that could range from bloodletting to "pigeon slippers," or a whole slit-open pigeon worn on each foot.

Forman - Wiltshire - Time - University - Oxford

Forman was born in Wiltshire and spent time at the University of Oxford studying medicine and astrology. He survived a brush with the plague in 1592, which bolstered his reputation as a healer. Six years of Forman's case notes, taken between 1596 and 1603, have survived. Now, all those notes, constituting 80,000 cases, are available online at

The books are searchable by date, practitioner, patient symptoms and other factors, some having to do with Forman's more unsavory personality traits — like his tendency to become a little too involved with his patients.

Category - Stalking - Kassell

"We had to create a coding category for stalking," Kassell said.

Indeed, Forman was an unpleasant narcissist, Kassell said. The astrologer frequently attempted to seduce his patients, and little about his work stands up to modern notions of medical ethics.

Notes - Trove - Information - Concerns - Elizabethans

But the notes are a treasure trove of information about the medical and personal concerns of typical Elizabethans. Some are tragic, such as the case of 38-year-old Alice Woodward of Stoke Hammond, whom Napier saw with regard to the woman's eighth pregnancy. All but one of Woodward's previous pregnancies had ended in...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Live Science
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