In Chaucer’s time, during the late Middle Ages, astrology and medicine were closely interlinked. This relationship can be understood through the following points:
Astrology as a Medical Tool: Astrology was considered a crucial tool in medical diagnostics and treatment. Physicians believed that the positions of celestial bodies like stars and planets influenced the health of individuals. They often created horoscopes to diagnose and treat illnesses, based on the belief that different astrological signs governed different parts of the body.
Humoral Theory: The prevailing medical theory of the time was the humoral theory, which posited that health depended on a balance of four bodily fluids or “humors”: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Astrological signs were thought to influence these humors, and physicians used astrological charts to help balance them in their patients.
Influence on Medical Education: Astrology was an integral part of the medical curriculum in universities. Medical students were expected to learn astrology along with traditional medical subjects, as it was believed that understanding the influence of the stars was essential to effective medical practice.
Chaucer’s References: Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of “The Canterbury Tales,” often referenced astrology in his works. This reflects the common belief in astrology during his time. In his stories, he sometimes used astrological terms and concepts to describe characters’ personalities or to explain certain events, indicating the deep integration of astrology into everyday life and thought.
Changing Perceptions: While astrology was widely accepted in Chaucer’s time, its influence began to wane towards the end of the Middle Ages as more empirical approaches to medicine emerged. However, during Chaucer’s lifetime, the relationship between astrology and medicine was still strong and largely unquestioned.
In summary, during the late Middle Ages, astrology was considered a legitimate and essential part of medical practice. It was intertwined with the humoral theory of medicine and was a standard part of medical education. Chaucer’s works reflect this close relationship, showcasing how astrology permeated various aspects of life, including health and medicine.