Lying Awake

Lying Awake Epilepsy through the years

Epilepsy as a phenomenon has actually been known about, with varying degrees of scientific precision, for thousands of years. However, though the disease has a long history of being understood as supernatural in some sense, it has not always been interpreted in a positive light, like Sister John's "divine revelation." In fact, epilepsy was often interpreted as the result of demonic possession -- no small wonder, considering that symptoms were often anything but pleasant. The history of cultural conceptions of the disease, though at times apocryphal, has been well documented by various academics over the years; for a brief but somewhat involved introduction to the topic, consider J. M. S. Pierce's review of Mervyn J. Eadie and Peter F. Bladin's 2001 study, "A Disease Once Sacred: A History of the Medical Understanding of Epilepsy" (this can be found in the ClassicNote's Citation section).