Strange Jobs of History: ‘Guardian of the Anus’ in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was a civilization that lasted from 3300 to 525 B.C.E. Within this fascinating culture, medical practices were deeply intertwined with spiritual beliefs. The ancient Egyptians believed that life and health were influenced by gods, demons, and spirits. This intricate belief system led to the concept that these spiritual entities could block the body’s channels, affecting its function and causing disease.
In their pursuit of well-being, Egyptian doctors employed a blend of prayer and natural remedies to unblock these channels. Interestingly, most healers were also priests, underscoring the spiritual nature of healing. Over time, a distinct profession of “medical doctor” emerged from the priestly ranks. Remarkably, the ancient Egyptian medical literature remains among the oldest documented medical knowledge known today.
One remarkable relic of this era is the Edwin Smith Papyrus, an ancient text that delves into various aspects of Egyptian medicine, from diagnosing injuries to devising treatments. This papyrus provides valuable insights into the medical practices and beliefs of this ancient civilization.
The ancient Egyptians had basic medical equipment and also believed that gods, demons and spirits controlled life and health and played a key role in causing disease.
Doctors believed that the spirits blocked the channels of the body and that this affected its functioning. They looked for ways to unblock these channels. They used a combination of prayer and natural or non-spiritual remedies.
Priests played a crucial role in healing, as most healers were also religious figures. With time, a dedicated profession of “medical doctors” emerged, separating medical expertise from religious duties.
Neru Phuyt: The First Proctologists
There were many ranks and specializations in the field of medicine. There were even proctologists, or Neru Phuyt, which literally translates as ‘Guardian of the Anus or Shepherd of the Anus‘.
It must be remembered that in ancient Egypt, the pharaoh was considered both king and God. Therefore, working in the god’s palace was considered a privilege. Touching the pharaoh was not allowed except in exceptional cases, as in this case, in regard to health.
As in all ancient cultures, the doctor was part of the priesthood. Each doctor was responsible for curing a single disease. The god-king was cared for by a large number of doctors, each specialized in a part of the body and with titles such as Royal Guardian of the Pharaoh’s Left Eye, Royal Guardian of the Pharaoh’s Right Eye or Shepherd of the Royal Anus..Wolf-Dieter Storl
‘The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners: The Healing Power of Medicinal Plants.’
[Neru Pehut was] a title for physicians qualified to prescribe and administer medication rectally. Herodotus frequently speaks of the alimentary canal: the Egyptians, he says, ‘purge themselves, for the sake of their health, with emetics and clisters’. Diodorus Siculus, writing four hundred years later, echoes this observation, saying that ‘to prevent disease they take care of the health of their bodies by means of baths, fasts and emetics’. Enemas were among the most common modes of treatment, used several times a month for preventive purposes.Bruno Halioua, Bernard Ziskind, Donald Redford
‘Medicine in the Days of the Pharaohs.’
Shepherd of the Royal Anus
In the land of ancient Egypt, caring for the sacred anus was a privilege. And it is that there were times when the god-pharaoh could have indigestion or maybe have eaten too much and had intestinal problems. In these cases, the guardian of the anus was called.
The anus blower had several tasks to make sure the pharaoh was healthy. On the one hand, this “proctologist”, dealt with all problems related to hemorrhoids, and on the other hand, his job was to empty the bowels of the pharaoh when he had swallowed more food than he could take to facilitate digestion.
Whatever butt-related problems the pharaoh had, the guardian of the anus would take care of it. The solution was simple: the Neru Phuyt used a golden cannula and filled it with hot water. Once this was done, he blew the contents into the divine ass.
Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like: an orally administered enema.
In both Mesopotamia and Egypt, it was recommended that these enemas be performed monthly; since it was thought that health depended on regular cleaning of the rectum, since if it was not washed often, residues could enter the bloodstream and cause disease.
Whether considering the spiritual roots of ancient Egyptian medical beliefs or the emergence of specialized medical professions, the civilization’s medical legacy remains a testament to its complexity and unique approach to healing.
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