The art of healing in the ancient world has been recorded and archeologists have been uncovering more facts of the work of ancient women healers. Archaeological finds have revealed high levels of civilization among people of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece as far back as the second millennium BC, including evidence that women were respected practitioners of medicine. In the grave of Queen Shubad of Ur (3500 BC), prescriptions for easing pain were found along with surgical instruments of flint and bronze. Several Egyptian queens were renowned for healing, including Queen Mentuhutep (2300BC), whose grave held a large cedar chest containing alabaster jars of ointments, tinctures, measuring spoons and dried herbs.
More specifically, people of Egypt relied on both male and female physicians and worshipped the goddess Sekhmet, an important icon of power; her name translates to “might and terror.” Sekhmet was seen as a bringer of disease as well as the provider of cures to those ills. Thus she was considered the Avenger of Wrongs, and the Scarlet Lady, a reference to blood. She also was seen as a special goddess for women, ruling over menstruation. During the Middle Kingdom, she became synonymous with physicians and surgeons. At that time, many members of Sekhmet’s priesthood often were considered to be on the same level as physicians.
Many of the prescriptions and healing methods of those ancient times were shared by male and female healers. Over time however, only male healers were able to lay claim to the rights of healing. Women’s healing work continued…. underground.