Neurophilosophy

An ode to trepanation

Later on today, I’ll be travelling to Bristol to meet Heather Perry and interview her about the self-trepanation she performed. If you have a question for Ms. Perry, submit it here.

The first migraine-plagued caveman
who countered his aching cranium
with crudely pounded flint (and lived)
surely shared his medical breakthrough.

Headcutting is old as woodcutting.
Aztec shaman or Greek physician,
a good doctor knew the value
of airing out a fevered brain.

In dark ages before Lister and Pasteur,
chirurgeons didn’t know a virus,
from a curse, but they needed a name
for the rusty saw they used to open
a blow-swelled skull: the trepane
saved careless courtiers from coma.

Modern surgeons’ steel is clean, but treat
tyro trepanation with trepidation. Teen
mystics sing high of tuning third eyes
and praise their cordless doorknob drills
for opening new windows of perception
even as they lie blinded, bacterial feasts.

Trepanation, by Lucy A. Snyder.

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Comments

  1. #1 Damien Riley
    July 12, 2008

    Dear God, they still do those? And to oneself? I hope you’ll be posting an interview.