Magnetic phenomena have held a strange fascination for the human mind throughout the ages. Lodestone, as the natural deposits of magnetic iron ore were called in ancient times, was the first magnetic material known to man.
The word ‘lodestone’ or ‘loadstone’ is derived from the old English word ‘load’ meaning ‘way’ because, during the Middle Ages, it was discovered that when a piece of lodestone was suspended by a thread, one end always pointed North and the other South. It was known as the ‘Chariot of the South’ to the Chinese almost four thousand years ago, and helped them in direction finding.
In ancient Greece and Rome it was known that a piece of loadstone (today called ‘magnetite’) attracted bits of iron. It was believed that charms made of these stones could attract one’s lover; that if the wife of an unfaithful husband were to place a piece of magnetite beneath his pillow, he would have terrible nightmares; that if a piece of magnetite was placed on the head, one could hear the voices of Gods! It was also used as an amulet for headaches, cramps, gout, and a host of other ailments.
In ancient Greece, as legend would have it, while tending his sheep on Mount Ida, a shepherd boy by the name of
Magnes happened to place his iron staff on a piece of rock and found that he couldn’t pull it free. ‘Magnet’ could well have come from Magnes. However, the explanation that is closer to the truth is that the word ‘magnet’ is derived from Magnesia, a city in Asia Minor (Turkey) where magnetic iron ore was found in abundance.
It is difficult to guess how the ancients understood magnetism of the earth and other celestial bodies in the cosmos and its effect on life and disease. The age-old concept of fasting on new moon and full moon days, when the lunar effect on the liquids and all other fluids is tremendous, has now been scientifically understood. On those days, all the martial humours (the fluid and semi-fluid substances in the body containing iron) are attracted under the influence of the moon and can lead to severe mental and emotional problems. The fasting recommended ensures reduction in body fluids as a precaution against these abnormal effects.
Our ancestors believed that a person in the last moments of his life should be made to sleep with his head facing the north and feet facing the south to induce magnetic parallelism between the earth and the body. This brought peace, tranquillity, mitigation of pain and less suffering while departing the body.
Some scientists who have been working on the effects of the earth’s magnetism as well as the effects of solar flares and sunspot activities have found that these cause disturbances in the earth’s magnetism leading to severe biological changes in living beings.
It has also been found that different organs of the human body produce fluctuating magnetic fields due to the different chemical activities in the body. This only proves that every cell in the human body has a specific magnetic value. The highest magnetic field is produced by the brain during sleep followed by the magnetic field of the heart, which can now be precisely measured by science.
It has also been found that the North Pole has antibiotic properties (it can retard or control infection) and the South Pole has energy-giving properties (it can provide warmth and energy to different organs). Therefore, the North Pole has been found useful in diseases where infection is the root cause, while the South Pole has been found more useful in pains, swellings, stiffness, and related problems. For many years now, artificial magnets made by man have replaced the natural loadstone. Magnets these days have different shapes and different potencies. Some are bar-shaped, horseshoe-shaped, needle-shaped and disc-shaped.
Magneto-therapy, ironically, is both one of the oldest forms of medical treatment and one of the newest! It is only now that this remarkable healing modality is being explored. And it is returning the favour with impressive results.