Awakened with a memory: incubation in the cult of Asclepius and its role in the memory consolidation process
Source document: Religio. 2016, vol. 24, iss. 1, pp. -17
ISSN1210-3640 (print)2336-4475 (online)
License: Not specified license
This article tries to reveal factors which could have contributed to the successful spread of the ancient cult of the Greek god of medicine Asclepius but are difficult to grasp by traditional historiographical methods. More specifically, this article analyses which processes within the human body and mind could be advantageous for the spread of mental representations connected with the cult of Asclepius using the theoretical framework of cognitive sciences (especially Dan Sperber's epidemiology of representations and Andy Clark's concept of extended cognition). The major ritual of the cult of Asclepius is known as incubation. Patients, who visited the god's sanctuaries as supplicants, spent a night in the inner sanctuary (abaton) and it was expected that Asclepius would appear in their dreams performing an immediate cure or giving remedies for their recovery. Also, the temples of Asclepius featured iconographical artifacts (e.g. inscriptions about healing miracles) that could trigger emotional reactions and expectations about the ritual. Results from neurobiological experiments suggest that emotional arousal in combination with subsequent sleep could lead to a vivid and long lasting memory of the previous event. These memories could be therefore prioritized in the person's memory and thus be more suitable for cultural transmission than others.
- Tato studie vznikla v rámci projektu specifického výzkumu "ITMEPRE – Inovativní teoretické a metodologické perspektivy v religionistice" (MUNI/A/1148/2014), řešeného Ústavem religionistiky FF MU v roce 2015.