Cathy Campbell

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JOHN PETROZZI:   Hi. Welcome to Living Is Easy with John and Josh. I’m John Petrozzi.

Today, we’re really lucky to be speaking with Cathy Campbell, who’s an Egyptologist. She’s done lots and lots of study and research on Egyptian methods of healing. That’s what we’re really going to talk about today.

Thanks for coming on the show, Cathy.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   No problem, John. I’m very glad to be here.

JOHN PETROZZI:   So, you’ve done your MA in Egyptology and at the moment, you’re doing your research as part of the research degree at Sydney Uni.

What’s going on? The Egyptians had healing methods – didn’t they?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yes, they did. Quite clearly, they were quite heavily into medicine and healing but one of the things I did was because I had a bit of background in energy healing already, I was really interested to see what even if it might be for the Egyptians, having used energy healing as part of their repertoire of medical treatment for people. What I found when I started to look into it was that there was actually quite a lot of evidence for it.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Energy healing – a lot of our listeners may not have heard of energy healing before. What is it?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Probably the most famous form of it is Reiki. I actually am a Reiki master so I’ve worked with that [tops] energy for quite a long time.

Basically, energy healing is where you draw energy into the body of the patient and to help heal whatever problems or issues they might have in the cellular level, I guess.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Okay. Energies – are we talking about things that we can measure on a scale that’s like put census on a person and measure energy like in a heart rate or a heart beat? Or are these energies a bit more subtle?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   I guess it’s a bit more subtle than that. There is a research being conducted to identify the reality of this, you know, if it actually does really work. My personal experience with Reiki before I got involved with looking at Egyptian energy healing is that it appears to have beneficial effects whether the person receiving the energy or not is open to the energy or not. It doesn’t seem to have to be that the person believes it. It seems to do things anyway, whether that person is open to it or not, which I think is very interesting.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Wow. Yeah, it is, isn’t it?

So, what was the background then? You’re doing your Egyptian studies at Uni and most of this you stumbled on a couple of little hieroglyphics or some pictures up in the books and thought, “Hang on a second. These guys are using energy healing here in the field of medicine.”

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yeah, it was a bit like that. I was doing some reading of a book by Dr. John Francis Nunn, who has written a tremendous text called “Ancient Egyptian Medicine.” He was describing various things in the book that he really couldn’t understand as a physician and an [ancientologist]. He spent a lot of time translating the medical papyri. He was describing things that the Egyptians called “metu,” which seemed to have a function, as described in the medical papyri, of carrying air and water to various parts of the body.

JOHN PETROZZI:   What was that? Sorry – carrying?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Air and water.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Air and water?



CATHY CAMPBELL:   To various parts of the body.

He was trying to relate these to veins and arteries and maybe the nervous system and various things like that. But he couldn’t actually make it really marry up with that. It sort of partially does but not fully. He didn’t really sort of understand why that was the case except to say, “Well, the Egyptians’ knowledge of anatomy was fairly limited.”

It seemed to me that, in fact, what he was referring to or what they were referring to in the papyri was something that more closely resembled meridians, which of course are the channels of energy that are recognised in things like acupuncture and in other sort of Eastern sciences like shiatsu, which works on pressure-point massage and is very closely related to acupuncture.

Now, I’ve done some work with shiatsu so I was familiar with the meridians and things like that. It seemed to me that that was perhaps what they were talking about. So, I started to do a bit more research into this because I became quite interested in the idea that this might be the case.

Also, one of the things that he talks about in the books is that he doesn’t really understand what it is. There’s a thing called “[werkadu],” which nobody seemed to understand. The people that studied the medical papyri really couldn’t understand what this was. It seemed to be some sort of illness or something like that – some sort of condition. But they couldn’t figure out what it was.

When I started to look at it, it became really obvious to me, being an energy healer, that really, what they were talking about were blockages in the points along the meridian that lead to disease or pain. So, it seemed to me that [werkadu] was really just a blockage in the meridian points in the system that would lead to pain, and they were related to toxins. They would sort of build up. It’s a buildup of toxins in the system that were leading to this [werkadu], which is some sort of imbalance in the system.

Of course, the Egyptians also identified not just [werkadu] but [werkaduit], which is the female version. So, it seemed to me that perhaps they were talking about an imbalance in these male and female energies within the system.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Kind of the yin- yang in Chinese culture.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Exactly – yeah. So, yin-yang tops the situation.

This got me really interested and I thought there’s got to be more to this. So, I do go to Egypt each year and one of my favorite places there is the place called “The Temple of Abydos,” which was built by Seti, who’s the father of Ramses II or Ramses the Great, as he’s known. On the walls of this temple, you’ll find lots of examples of Egyptian gods, holding up their hands in various formations, and out of their hands, seemed to be coming signs of the Ankh sign.

JOHN PETROZZI:   The which? Sorry.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   The Ankh sign. The ankh is like a loop with a bar across it.

JOHN PETROZZI:   A loop with a bar. Okay.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yeah. So, it’s sort of like a little bit like a cross but it was a loop at the top instead of the upper part of the cross.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Okay. Yeah, I can picture that.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yeah. This sign, of course, is known as the Breath of Life. It’s widely known as a sign of life in Egyptian hieroglyph. When you start looking at these pictures on the walls in the temples, you start to see that what the gods are doing is actually giving energy to each other and to the King Seti and to his son, Ramses. So, I started to think, “Well, hang on. This seems what they’re doing is actually like energy healing, because they’re putting their hands in various places which seemed to be transmitting something.” You can see the ankh signs coming out of their hands quite clearly in the pictures.


CATHY CAMPBELL:   Of course, there’s also the images showing goddesses with water signs on their hands, which they’re also offering to the kings. Water, of course, is the other sign of healing or cleansing. So, you’ve got the breath of life and you’ve got the water of life.

JOHN PETROZZI:   So, that’s the air and water you’re talking about before?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Air and water – exactly.


CATHY CAMPBELL:   They’d all start to fit together.

JOHN PETROZZI:   It does – doesn’t it? Yes, interesting stuff.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yes. So, that’s where I sort of started from and I started to build it up from there and sort of working with the information that I could find, I started to piece together the idea that the Egyptians really were involved with energy healing and the particular ways that they did that and the concepts that they were using to do that.

One of the things that’s particularly unique to the Egyptian system is the concept of “hebheb”—

JOHN PETROZZI:   What’s that?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   —which is, again, a term that was found in the medical papyri that the doctors didn’t really seem to understand. It seems really clear that hebheb is pulling through. So, unlike Reiki where you just put your hands on someone and sort of pump energy into them, if you like, hebheb is the process of pulling the energy through from one hand to the other. So, you might place one hand above and one hand below a certain point on the body and pull the energy through the body. So, the upper hand transmits the energy and the lower hand directs it to come through.

JOHN PETROZZI:   So, just to give us a visual, is somebody lying down or standing up? Do we have one hand on either side of the body or—?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   In most of the Egyptian pictures, they’re actually sitting. There are some examples where they lie down but that’s rarer. Experiments with this energy seem to be that it works quite well with the recipient actually sitting down and working through the system.

One of the things the Egyptians are very strong on is the concept of flushing the toxins out of the system via what they refer to as the “foot,” which equates to the anus.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Alright. Okay.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   So, you work through the nostrils and the top of the head and the heart as recipient points of pulling energy into the system and out through the base, “chakra,” that’s what they’re called, if you relate it to understanding of what chakras are.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Yes. So, really, the person who’s doing the hebheb— for instance, they’ve got a blockage with their heart and they put one hand on sort of around the chest and one hand around the spine and on the back. Is that right?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yes, that would be right.

JOHN PETROZZI:   And they’re sort of working to try and get everything flushed from the top down and out.


JOHN PETROZZI:   Will they have a physical sort of bowel movement? Do they sort of have that in papyri?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Well, they do talk about that sort of thing in the papyri. Experiments, where they said people seem to experience a little bit of malaise immediately after a healing, and that thing clears itself after a couple of days and they feel really good. So, the healing process seems to be quite powerful from the examples that we’ve so far found out in working with my students and things like that. They were finding some very interesting effects.

The first examples of people working with this are finding that yeah, initially, they do feel worse, and then, they feel better.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Interesting.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   So, that suggests to me that that is the healing process. Instantaneous healing, where people just immediately feel better is not necessarily an accurate reflection of how the system and the body actually works, because usually, if there are toxins in your system, they’ve got to work their way out of there. This seems to be the type of healing that the Egyptian system works on.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Okay. Cathy, we need to go to a break. When we come back, we’ll talk more about Egyptian form of healing. So stay with us.


JOHN PETROZZI:  Hi. Welcome back. You’re listening to Living Is Easy. We’ve got Cathy Campbell, an Egyptologist talking about ancient ways and ancient forms of healing.

Cathy, how old is the Egyptian culture? It’s 3,000 B.C. or so, isn’t it?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yes. The earliest state for unification of Egypt is around about 3,000 B.C. So, yeah, it goes back quite a long way.

JOHN PETROZZI:   So, the Egyptians were prolific documenters. They documented on papyri; they documented on Egyptians stone walls. What else did they sort of document their culture on?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Well, examples – we also found there are things called a “straka,” which are fragment potteries. We’ve found letters and various other information on those sorts of forms. Papyri is remarkably resilient in a very dry climate like Egypt, so certainly we had a lot of papyri survived all that time as well. Mostly, the sorts of records we get are, as you said, papyri, tomb walls, temple walls, straka, and of course, items, which might have inscriptions on them and things like that.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Okay. Way back in Egyptian culture, what would a health clinic look like? Do they actually have health clinics? Did they have doctors? Did they have nurses? What was the story back then?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yes, there were a number of different types of healers. The [swinu], who have medical practitioners like we would think of as “doctor” today, they work with diagnosis and in some cases, surgery. So, the Egyptians did perform quite complex surgery. In fact, we’ve even got evidence for things like tray panning, drilling holes in the skull, and setting bones, and various things like that so they [0:13:06] that sort of thing.

JOHN PETROZZI:   So, they had chiropractors back then?


JOHN PETROZZI:   Fantastic. I like it.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   They also have other people that would be more described, I guess, as apothecaries, who worked with potions and medicines.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Sort of like the pharmacist of today?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yes, sort of. Yeah, like that. But they also used spells, incantations, and hymns, and things like that. So, that was all mixed up with it. It’s part of their belief system.

Then, there were the energy healers. The energy healers appear to have been the web priests of Secmet. Secmet is one of the goddesses. She was the lioness head of goddess and the wife of the creator god, Pottar. They were worshiped at Memphis in the North, and her temple appears to have been the one where the healers were trained.


CATHY CAMPBELL:   They actually performed and practiced their healing out in the community. So, it seems that these wab priests would work alongside the physicians and the apothecaries (if you like, the pharmacists). Sometimes, the same person would have multiple skills, but sometimes, they would just be one or the other.

Also, in terms of some of the medical profession, they had specialists who would specialise in particular areas like gynecology, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, and things like that. So, they had specific areas that they would focus on that they would specialise in.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Cathy, through your studies of looking at the pictures and things, was there some sort of hierarchy or did all these people work together? Was there sort of a symbolic relationship between the surgeons of the day and the healers of the day?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Well, there was hierarchy because the Egyptians were highly hierarchical in the way they organise themselves so, we find titles like supervisor of healers. Dating from the old kingdom, we have a statue of a fellow who gives his title as supervisor of the wab priests of Secmet.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Ah-huh. So, there was a hierarchy. Okay. What would, say, a typical Egyptian of the day sort of a regular worker, If they got ill, they became ill or got sick, what would they do? Did they have some sort of health care that they could turn to or was it that they were too poor to manage to see doctors and healers?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   It would really depend on what level of society they were in and what their job was. If they were employed by the government, it does seem like they actually did get medical care. For example, the workers that worked on the building of the pyramids, they definitely were given medical care. There’s evidence of workers who had bones that were set that have been broken and were set. There’s evidence of them having wounds that were treated and healed. So, they definitely did get medical care as they were employed in state-run projects. We definitely have evidence for that.

The other example is we have from the villagers like [diromadina] in the Valley of the Kings, where they were working; these were government employees as well because they were employed to work on the king’s tombs.


CATHY CAMPBELL:   These guys definitely had medical care. There would be physicians and healers within the community who would give them medical care.

JOHN PETROZZI:   With the pictures that you’ve seen on the walls of the tombs and things of the healers particularly, did they look different than the physicians’, for instance? Did they wear different clothes? Did they appear to have different belief systems?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   We don’t have enough evidence to know exactly what they might have looked like. We do know—we’ve got one example that I’m aware of—of a wab priest and they wore a particular tilts with a specific type of apron on it or a [sparon] that had a particular design on it. A bit like a fork, I think, with three prongs.


CATHY CAMPBELL:   That seemed to have been the style of clothing that they specifically wore. I don’t have an example of what a physician might have specifically worn. We do have examples of what other kinds of priests wore, like the lector priest would wear a sash across his chest, which identified him. The same priest usually wore a leopard skin. Those we know about, but I don’t have any specific evidence to identify a clinic, for example, a physician.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Okay. Cathy, let’s go on to another break. When we come back, we’ll talk more about the energies and what you understand of the energies that they were using back then in ancient Egypt.


JOHN PETROZZI:  Welcome back to Living Is Easy. We’ve got Cathy Campbell, Egyptologist. We’re talking about ancient Egyptian healing.

Cathy, what was the Egyptians’ understanding of health? What did it mean, when someone became ill, did they have an understanding that it was just the body not working as it should or was it more like they thought they were possessed by spirits? What did they understand of health? What was their paradigm?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   I think they had a bit of both of those. They certainly understood that there was something wrong with the body but the courses of that, they would attribute to negative forces outside of the body – in many cases.

JOHN PETROZZI:   They would?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yeah, they did. So, the types of steps that they would take to repel those bad influences would include both expanded medical practices as we would perceive it today. In terms of treatment, from, as I’ve said, surgery through to applying medicines, taking medicines either topically (putting it onto the skin) or ingesting it.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Okay. These are derived from plants?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Yes. A lot of their medicines were derived from particular herbs but they also had some strange mixtures of things, which to our modern eyes can appear quite dangerous and in fact, sort of they’d be lucky if they didn’t poison them. But, you know, it would be all sorts of weird things in some of the recipes.

But a lot of those are from later periods of Egyptian history and I wonder how much we’ve got that’s actually can be traced back to earlier times, when their knowledge seems to have been better. Influence from other societies seems to have, I guess, a “suprematising” effect on a lot of Egyptian knowledge and they seem to have lost quite a lot of their stronger more esoteric knowledge from the earlier periods, I think.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Okay. You’ve got a vast education on Egyptian medicine and culture. The way that we’re sort of working now in health care, what do you think we could take as a really strong message from the Egyptian culture and actually start to implement it today that seemed to work back then and you think might work now?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Oh, that’s a hard one. I think the holistic approach that they took in looking at all aspects of the body and looking more widely than just sort of the narrow symptoms that have been presented.

Also, I think the aspect of looking at removing toxins in the body, I think, is really important because a lot of preventative medicine, I think, can be framed around that. I think that’s probably one of the strongest messages that we could take out of what they did.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Removing toxins – well, that’s great.

Cathy, we’ve come close to the end. We’ve only got a few minutes. Is there anything else you want to sort of tell us about ancient Egyptian culture? Any aspect that you think we might find interesting?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   I think some of the most interesting aspects is the fact that despite the ancientness of the culture, that they were extremely modern in a lot of their thinking. The superstitious aspects or side in terms of the sources and illness, that thing, residence and demons, and things like that, they did seem to have a very strong knowledge of the working of energy within the system at a subtle level. The idea that you could clear your system of toxins in a preventative way and thus remove [wikadu] or rebalance the system, rebalance the male and female humus, if you like in the system, it seemed to me to offer as opportunities that we could look at and benefit from in our modern way of looking at alternative medicine.

JOHN PETROZZI:   That’s great.

Cathy, is there any place that people can go and research and further their readings on Egyptian society, culture, and medicine?

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Well, I’d certainly recommend John Nunn’s book, Ancient Egyptian Medicine. It’s an excellent text written by someone who is very knowledgeable, both as a medical practitioner and as an Egyptologist. He’s worked with the medical papyri in their original form and translated them. So, it’s a terrific text. It’s a starting point to look at medicine. It’s probably the best one around. In terms of the sort of work that I’ve been doing, people can look at my website.

JOHN PETROZZI:   Yup. What’s that?


Also, of course, I’m running courses in ancient Egyptian medicine. If people are interested to participate in those, all the details are there. They’re on my website.

JOHN PETROZZI:   It sounds really interesting, Cathy.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   Thank you.

JOHN PETROZZI:   That’s great. Well, thanks for coming on the show today. I really appreciate it.

CATHY CAMPBELL:   No worries. Thank you.

JOHN PETROZZI:   That was Cathy Campbell, who is an Egyptologist. She’s currently doing a research degree at Sydney University.

So, that was Living Is Easy with John Petrozzi. I hope you enjoyed the show. Until next time, stay well and stay happy.

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