|Taira no Sadamori (picture source)|
"The tale of Masakado offers a grotesque window into the superstitions and savageries of combat in the tenth century, not merely in his own behaviour, but in that of his opponents. In one of its sidebars, we hear of Sadamori's quest for a male foetus - the crucial ingredient in a magical cure for a bad wound that he has sustained. He first orders his pregnant daughter-in-law to give up what she is carrying, and is only thwarted by a doctor who tells him that his unborn grandchild would not be suitable. Instead, he slices up a pregnant kitchen maid, although her foetus is female, and hence useless. It is only with yet another death among his retinue that he finally obtains the foetus required. The horrific story may be an invention, although its details are true to folk remedies of the period, in which powdered foetus was indeed used as a cure for battle wounds."
Jonathan Clements, "The Samurai: A New History of the Warrior Elite" (Robinson, 2010)
Superstition? Magic? Or pragmatic medicine?
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