Bowssening for the Insane

From James Pettigrew’s Superstitions Connected with Medicine and Surgery, 1844, comes this delightful word, bowssening;  casting mad people into the sea.  Or, immersing them in water until they are well-nigh drowned.  This was a process recommended by high medical authorities in the 1700’s as a cure for madness.  I think it’s probably safe to assume that the high medical authorities in those days were all crazy as coots.

The Cornish call this immersion bossenning, from beuzi or bidhyzi signifying ‘to dip or drown’.  I googled “Cornish people” to see if they’re still around and they are!  Best to avoid Cornwall I think if you possibly can.  Or at least the parish of Altarnun where they took the disordered in mind to the brink of a square pool, tumbled him in with a sudden blow on the breast and proceeded to toss him up and down until he was quite debilitated and his fury forsook him.  Wow.  Sounds like a cure to me.  After that they carried him to church and sang masses over him.  Now seriously, would that not MAKE you crazy?

Altarnun looks like such an idyllic little spot.  Too bad now when I look at these pictures all I can see is some poor demented soul being dipped repeatedly off that bridge and then carried up this lovely little path dripping wet (although no longer screaming) to celebrate his miraculous cure.  And perhaps to silently pray for one little extra favor from God having to do with avoiding pneumonia.

Maybe they just practiced this emotion calming measure  on very rare occasions as an example to others.  Like a deterrent of sorts.  Act crazy and this could happen to you!  I’d be putting my sane face on every day since I take dipping and drowning very seriously and would go to great lengths to avoid both of those things.  Scary stuff when the cure is worse than the malady.