Speaker Series 2017 Recap: History of Madness Since Ancient Times

On January 25th 2017, the Aurora Historical Society kicked off our 2017 Speaker Series with Geoffrey Reaume who shared with us a portion of the History of Madness Since Ancient Times.

Dr. Reaume first described various stereotypes that were placed on people throughout ancient times and their origins of these stereotypes. For example, the word Lunatic is derived from that Latin word Luna, who was the Goddess of the Moon. In ancient times, you were considered a Lunatic when your moods and actions revolved around the phases of the moon. During these changes, the Goddess Luna would “tic” you on the head with the crescent moon when she wanted to communicate with you.

He went on to describe some common treatment methods the wealthy used to employ, such as prayer chapels. This consisted of the individual placed in a room, while others prayed over them.

By the 17th century, small institutions or “mad houses” were developed to treat individuals considered mad. Later, much larger institutions such as Bedlam (or the Bethlem Royal Hospital) in London, England and the Toronto Lunatic Asylum were formed.

Dr. Reaume ended his presentation by discussing the treatment and living conditions of patients of the Toronto Lunatic Asylum. He also noted individuals who rallied for the rights of patients in these institutions.