A day with a Yemeni medical astrologer [Archives:2007/1016/Health]

January 15 2007
 A l - F a q i   s h o w s   t h e   a s t r o l o g i c a l   b o o k   t h a t   h e   u s e s   t o   t r e a t   p e o p l e .
A l – F a q i s h o w s t h e a s t r o l o g i c a l b o o k t h a t h e u s e s t o t r e a t p e o p l e .
Amel Al-Ariqi
[email protected]

Al-Quladh is a small village located 30 kilometers from Yemen's capital city of Sana'a. To reach it, one must travel a long, rough, zigzagging road through agricultural fields.

Despite the distance, Al-Quladh enjoys some urban features in that most village homes are made of bricks and blocks. The approximately 1,200 villagers also enjoy electricity and water services. However, most residents don't complete their education because the village's lone school only takes students (mostly boys) to study at primary levels. Additionally, there's no hospital or medical center in the village.

Villager Ahmed Al-Faqi, who claims to be 110 years old, enjoys special social status among residents because they consider him the village's healer and therapist. “Ahmed Al-Faqi can treat all diseases – even those that doctors in Sana'a can't diagnose,” declared one 70-year-old woman.

Speaking with Al-Faqi wasn't an easy mission because he's nearly deaf; therefore, his 30-year-old son Yahya sat beside him shouting in his ear in an attempt to relay what others said. “My father isn't a juggler. He uses certain knowledge and medical science to help others coming from various areas both inside and outside the village,” Yahya insisted.

Al-Faqi receives his patients in his traditional Sana'ani style house. Men, women and children visit him all day seeking his advice.

“Last night, my 2-month-old daughter couldn't sleep. She kept us awake the whole night screaming and we don't know what's up with her,” with these words Mohammed Al-Marani described his daughter situation to Al-Faqi who later diagnosed her sickness as “a heart fever due to evil eye affected her when she was taking her shower.”

Al-Faqi asked the father to make his daughter drinking small doses of animal grease. Al-Marani was almost confident and satisfied with Al-Faqi's diagnoses “It's a natural recipe, so if it doesn't help my daughter, it won't harm her,” he said.

Nawal Zaid is not one of the village residents, but she visited Al-Faqi to ask him about her situation. “Most of the time, I feel scared don't know why have nightmares of dead people,” she told Al-Faqi, who said she was suffering “scruple” and that she went through a painful experience like witnessing an accident or someone dying in front of her, such incident affect her and cause “heart deviation.” He asked her to drink

pomegranate juice mixed with cardamom, chufa and cumin.

Nawal couldn't hide her astonishment, saying that she had indeed witnessed her cousin's death and later she suffered those nightmares, she also confirmed that she had heart problems since that time.

Al-Faqi never tests his patients clinically, he just listens to their complaints and then asks for their names and their mother's name, putting them on a piece of paper and gave each letter a number, collecting this number to find out the sign of zodiacs, then he read a very old, almost torn astrological book, which written in ambiguous letters look like Arabic but without dots, and according to the sign and the patient age he finds out the disease.

Al-Faqi then used another old book called “Al-rahma fi al-tibb wa al-hikma,” which means “Mercy in Medicine and Wisdom.” Written in the 15th century by Islamic scholar Jalal Al-Deen Al-Swti, the book contains more that 250 chapters, including details of diseases and how to treat them with different recipes. “This book covers all of the diseases man suffers, from head to toe,” said Al-Faqi, who claims that he inherited both books from his grandfather who worked in the same field.

Al-Faqi believes that astrological signs have great affect on human body, and by knowing patients signs and their zodiacs, it would be easy to find out the sickness.

What Al-Faqi mentioned isn't far from what's called “medical astrology.” Medical astrology is an ancient medical system that associates various parts of the body, diseases and drugs as under the influence of the sun, moon and planets, along with the 12 astrological signs. Each of the astrological signs (along with the sun, moon and planets) are associated with different parts of the human body. Also, many plants are referred to in old treatises on herbs as being “under the influence of” some planet.

It's been noted that the 12 signs cover from head (Aries) to toe (Pisces) because Aries is the first sign of the zodiac while Pisces is the last. Thus, after examining an individual's natal chart, a medical astrologer will advise a client about areas of the body they're most likely to experience trouble with — for instance, an individual with the sun, moon, ascendant or many planets in the sign of Aries is presumed to have more headaches than others because of the association of Aries with the head. A person with Taurus strong in the natal chart is predicted to have many sore throats and problems with the voice because of the Taurean association with that particular part of the body.

However, Al-Faqi has gone beyond that. According to his son Yahya, he can cure mental and psychological diseases such as depression, stress, epilepsy and scruple. “Most patients who come to us suffer psychological problems that through time can cause physical diseases,” Yahya explained, confessing that there are diseases that can't be cured neither by doctors nor his father.

Al-Faqi, who has started his job as the village healer since his age in 20s, asks his patients to buy the herbs from spice dealers. But sometimes he asks for more than herbs. “Rarely and only in very certain conditions do we ask patients to slay an animal like a black goat or a red cock and paint marks on their body with animal blood. Such a recipe is required as a ransom to dismiss any evil that lives in the patient's soul,” Yahya explained.

Needing to get rid of her pain and sufferings, Fatima experimented with this recipe. She told that she was experiencing chronic headache, constant sounds in her mind sometimes sounds like whispers that prevented her from sleeping or practicing her normal life. “I went to Sana'a and visited many doctors. I used alternative therapy such as cupping, but I finally decided to visit Ahmed Al-Faqi, who asked me to buy a black goat, slay it and anoint my body with its blood, so we looked for this black goat until we found it and I followed Al-Faqi's instructions,” Fatima recounted, confirming that she feels better, although she didn't get rid of the headache.

Al-Faqi isn't the only one practicing such treatment methods in Yemen. Astrologers, in general and medical astrologers in particular can be found in many regions, particularly in rural areas where residents are unable to access basic services such as education, medical services and transportation. “People's inability to access such services help these therapists gain people's trust because they're available all the time,” Mohammed Al-Marani noted.