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What are the Health Humanities?

A common definition of "Health Humanities" goes something along the lines of: an interdisciplinary field that draws on aspects of the arts and humanities in approaching  healthcare, health and the general well-being of both patients and caregivers. Essentially, the core of the discipline is the the application of the creative or fine arts and humanities studies combined with questions of human health and well-being. Art is all around us, at any given time we are benefitting from an artist or artisan's hard work be it in the tools we use or the shows we watch. Just as important as the advances in medical care are to a person's physical care, the arts contribute incredibly to their mental and emotional health.  

Health Humanities Consortium

The HHC is an excellent starting point when learning just what the scope of this discipline is and has to offer.

"The Health Humanities Consortium promotes health humanities scholarship, education, and practices through interdisciplinary methods and theories that focus on the intersection of the arts and humanities, health, illness, and healthcare. 

Our goals are to:  

  • Promote understanding of the experiences of patients, caregivers, and communities as they are shaped in relation to models of disease, illness, health, and wellness.
  • Share practices and scholarship through an annual meeting.
  • Educate the public, healthcare professionals, and educators about the history, practice, and study of health humanities."

Artwork of the Month                                                                         Topic of the Month

 “Snuff Bottle & Stopper”                                                                                                                         Da Vinci's Anatomical Drawings 



Origin: China                                                                                                                   Title: “Vitruvian Man” 

19th century C.E.                                                                                                            Origin: Italy (ca 1490)                                        

Medium: pink quartz / jadeite stopper                                                                        Medium: ink on paper                                                  

(Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art)                                                                       (Source: Academies of Venice)

Previous Topics

    • Master of the sun, music and the arts, protector of cities as well as agriculture, prophecy and truth, healing and plagues, one can see why his worship spread the breadth of the ancient Mediterearan and western Europe.
    • Some of the oldest civilizations in the world began in the fertile lands around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Akkad, Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria are counted as some of the most influential city-states and empires of the ancient Near East. Like all contemporary civilizations, the worship of multiple gods was a fact of life - including many deities presiding over the realm of healing.
    • Hygiea, Iaso, Aceso & Panacea are four of the Asclepiadae, sons and daughters of Asclepius & Epione - the Greek god of medicine and goddess of recovery. Health in ancient Greece was perceived as a two-fold endeavour: one had to live sensibly, keeping the body fit with exercise and by keeping the mind sharp with educational matters.
    • As in all cultures, the experiences of birth, life and death all interceded with the necessity to acknowledge and please the deities associated with health. For the Aztec pantheon there are gods and goddesses who preside over the practices of medicine, the diseases which are inflicted upon mortals, and over the plants from which remedies are made. Two of these deities are Patecatl and Mayahuel.
  • Babalu Aye - December 2022
    • How we express ourselves, from the personal aesthetics in our home to the design of our holy places can all be designated as kinds of art. Yet when we delve into the realms of religious studies, be they visual, written word or music, we find the common amalgamation in the humanities known as syncretism. This practice is as old as humanity itself and can be simply defined as the blending of two or more components of various cultures to form a new entity/object/practice. One example of such blending between beliefs and cultures stems from the practices of the Yoruba people and the extended worship of their deities in the Caribbean and North as well as South America. Babalú-Aye can be noted as one of the syncretized deities.
    • Sukunahikona is a god associated with several domains including medical knowledge, protection from wild animals, the brewing of sake and the healing properties of hot springs. His story is closely tied with another god, Ōkuninushi, who found him not long after he fell to earth after being born and together they set forth to build the country destined to become Japan. Various ancient works of literature describe this divine friendship and expand upon the duties of Sukunahikona as a god of medical knowledge on top of crafting a country.
  • Bixia Yuanjun - August 2023 
    • Within Taoism are a menagerie of gods and goddesses that form a large pantheon. Many of them, just like in other mythologies, are regional and hold power over specific realms such as music, fertility, nature and so forth. They often have many names and titles as well, one of those goddesses is Bixia Yuanjun. Traditionally she oversees women and their concerns and health. She was immensely popular in the northern provinces and her holy site, a mountain, was the center of worship and pilgrimage.
  • Brigid - February 2024
    • “The daughter of the Dagda, the Father of Ireland, Brigid was associated with wisdom, poetry, and healing. The many domains that the rules over have given rise to theories that she may have been a triple goddess. In Celtic mythology, their gods and goddesses are seen not so much as the creators but as ancestors of the people. Brigid’s domains seem to be mired in confusion. Different sources cite different opinions about what she was actually the goddess of. However, it is universally stated that she was the goddess of wisdom and poetry. Poets and craftsmen revered the goddess, who was considered a fount of innovation."