Poison, Witches, bones and flesh

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Thu Nov 11 11:31:00 UTC 1999

On Sun, 7 Nov 1999, Richard Gendron wrote:

> I would also be grateful if anyone help me find references to bones being
> transmitted to the offspring by the father, whereas flesh is coming from
> the mother (again in Uttar Pradesh or in the Himalaya).

This idea is part of the classical system of Indian medicine, and is
described perfectly clearly in the earliest Sanskrit ayurvedic texts.
Caraka's interesting chapter on heredity, for example, has a discussion on
what contributes to the origin and growth of a foetus (Ca.sa.4, translated
in my book _Roots of Ayurveda_, p.93-103).  The conclusion is that five
factors contribute: father, mother, self, appropriate parental diet,
nutritive juices, and mind.  Concerning the first two, the author says:


The mother as cause

`This embryo is created by the mother.  For without a mother, no embryo
comes into being, nor do any live-born creatures get to be born.

`Some of the things which grow in the embryo are created just from the
mother, and it has them because it grows from the mother.  I shall list
them: skin, blood, flesh, fat, navel, heart, lungs, liver, spleen,
kidneys, bladder, rectum, stomach, site of digested food, upper excretory
orifice, and the anus, the small intestine, large intestine, omentum, and
what supports the omentum [mesentery].

The father as cause

`This embryo is also created by the father.  For without a father, no
embryo comes into being, nor do any creatures born in a caul get to be

`Some items that grow in the embryo are born just of the father, and it
has them because it grows from the father.  I shall list them:  head hair,
beard, nails, body hair, teeth, bones, ducts, sinews, pipes, and semen.'


In the other chief surviving ancient Sanskrit medical compendium, by
Susruta, exactly the same view is proposed.  See Su.sa.3.33.

In ayurveda, women's menstrual blood is described as a procreative fluid
analagous to male semen.  It is the merging of semen with menstrual blood
which leads to the creation of the foetus.  In this context, Susruta
offers the curious but logical observation that if two women have sex and
somehow manage to release their procreative fluids into each other's sex
organs, then the resulting foetus will have no bones (Su.sa.2.47).

Dominik Wujastyk
Founder, INDOLOGY list

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list