Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit China and through family connections I was introduced to eminent people in the field of acupuncture. One of these was a charming lady, Dr Susan Wong. Dr Wong was the head of the Chinese acupuncture association. I was invited to take afternoon tea with her and inevitably I broached the subject of the Chinese origins of acupuncture. (You can see me with her on the Archive page)
I fully expected her to tell me that reflexology originated in China, imagine my surprise when she told me that this was not so! She went on to explain that the feet, because of their bad energy were not looked upon as portals to any kind of therapy using the hands, with the exception of massage of the feet in bathhouses to help with insomnia. I was so interested and at the same time pleased to hear this, here was a true kindred spirit!
This meeting lead to another - a medical doctor and acupuncturist in a hospital some distance away, which meant travelling in a rickety old bus full of farmers taking animals to market. The doctor spoke perfect English, which was due to the fact of him working in America for a few years. He also confirmed what Dr. Wong told me - that reflexology did not originate in China. He went on to describe in great detail about the fact that reflexology was comparatively new to China and many other interesting points of information.
Before going further , I wish to make an important point, which is - just because a picture from an Egyptian tomb shows somebody touching or holding a toe, does not mean they are performing reflexology! I do know the true origins of this illustration, because it was me who got the translation and a description of what they were doing from the British Museum many years ago. I can tell you it was not reflexology!
OTZI THE ICEMAN
This leads to something even more intriguing which is the case of Otzi the iceman. Otzi is the name of a valley in the Tyrolean Alps in Austria. In 1991 a group of climbers came across a body on the mountain, it was so well preserved by being entombed in ice they assumed it to be the body of a dead skier.
When it had been examined by experts it became evident that it was not the body of a modern - day skier, but a corpse who had died at least 5,300 years ago! Examination showed it be a male body of European race. There was something which puzzled the experts, which was the evidence of strange tattoos on the skin. These were not usual tattoos, but rather lines and dots which intersected at certain points.
Dr Leopold Darter, president of the Austrian Society of Acupuncture noted that most of the tattoos were on specific acupuncture meridians and points. Of interest was the fact that out of the fifteen groups of tattoos, nine were on the Urinary Bladder meridian points, many of these were on his back where Otzi could not have possibly put them.
Dr Darter implied that owing to the location of the points, the tattoos were made for therapeutic purposes. Forensic analysis of Otzi revealed that he suffered from arthritis and injury to the hip joints, lumbar spine and ankles. Nine of the fifteen tattoo lines were on the Urinary Bladder meridian, which is a meridian commonly used to treat back pain in acupuncture. There were also cross shaped tattoos on UB60 (Urinary Bladder acupuncture point) this is considered as the 'Master Point' for treating back pain.
Another surprising piece of evidence was discovered. Forensic testing revealed that his intestines were filled with worm eggs, which would have caused him severe abdominal pain. Some of the other tattoos were located on points associated with gall bladder, spleen, and liver meridians. These points are traditionally used to treat stomach disorders. This meant that somebody with a great knowledge of the energy channels of the body (meridians) put these tattoos on Otzi's body to show him where to apply pressure to help alleviate the pain of his ailments. The astonishing fact is that carbon dating showed the tattoos were put on the body at least 2,000 years before the earliest known evidence of the use of acupuncture in China!
This, to me was the final part of the puzzle and something I had suspected. The knowledge of where to apply pressure, either with fingers, sticks, knives is part of universal knowledge. After all did we have to be told whether to press or whether to rub or apply static pressure to alleviate pain in our bodies? No of course not, it is instinctive knowledge.
My feeling is that this knowledge became instinctively known by 'sensitive' individuals since mankind began to walk the Earth, and gradually built up to such a degree where they could be mapped on the body.
I have gone into this subject in more detail in my forthcoming book on ART reflexology.
I hope you found this of interest.