chapter  19
[Afterword to Demons and Illness from Antiquity to the Early-Modern Period]
ByPeregrine Horden
Pages 7

It is a daunting task that this collection of essays 1 has set itself: to write, if only partially, the history of demons in relation to health, a subject necessarily involving aspects of theology, medicine, natural science more widely, magic, and witchcraft (among other scholarly minefields). We might think of seeking momentary relief from the complexities of the topic with people who seem to have achieved enviable clarity. The Four Tantras (rGyud bzhi) remains a foundational text of Tibetan medicine. The tantras are believed by some to reflect, in translation from the Sanskrit, the authentic teachings of the Buddha ‘Master of Remedies’, but more probably they represent a quite original piece of systematizing by a medieval author, such as the twelfth-century Yuthog the Younger. Part of the text considers the 404 specific illnesses to which anyone might succumb, regardless of age or sex. There are 101 light illnesses, which do not necessarily require treatment by a doctor; 101 serious illnesses, for which medicines are indispensable; 101 illnesses caused by the intervention of spirits and demons, which require not only medical treatment but also religious rituals performed by monks to appease these malignant forces; and, lastly, 101 untreatable illnesses, which are caused by karmic predestination and thus cannot be cured by doctors or by monks. 2