How Depression Was Cured in Wales in the Middle Ages


Depression has dogged our species time out of mind.  While today we treat it with a combination of pharmaceuticals and counseling therapies, back in the 12th century, in Wales, they took a different approach.  I came across the account below in the Brut Y Tywysogion (The Chronicle of the Princes) of how joy was restored to the life of Prince Owain “Gwynedd” after his bout with depression back in 1161.

Spoiler alert–definitely NOT recommended for 21st century.

…In the same year, Howel, son of Ieuav, son of Owain got possession of the castle of Tavalwern in Cyveiliog through treachery; and on that account, Owain Gwynedd* fell into such grief, that neither the splendour of a kingdom, nor the consolation of any thing else, could assuage or draw him from his resentment.  And nevertheless, though insupportable sorrow affected the mind of prince Owain, a sudden joy from the foreknowledge of God raised him up.  For the same Owain moved an army into Arwystli, as far as Llandinam; and after they had obtained a vast booty, the men of Arwystli assembled together, being about three hundred men, under Howel, son of Ieuan, their lord, to pursue after the booty as far as the bank of the Severn.  And when Owain observed his enemies coming suddenly on, he incited his men to fìght; and the enemies took to flight, and were killed by Owain and his men, so that scarcely a third of them escaped home.  And when that joy had filled the mind of Owain he returned to hís former state, having been released from his sorrow; and he repaired the castle. …

That’s it.  Invade someone else’s territory, ravage the countryside, steal as much stuff as you could carry, kill two thirds of the pursuers and, voila,  headache gone.  As I said–definitely not a 21st century remedy.

And we think extreme sports are dangerous.

*Owain, son of Gruffydd, son of Cynan, son of Iago

The quote is from the Brut Y Tywysogion (The Chronicle of the Princes) edited by Rev. John Williams ap Ithel, 1860. Pg 197

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