The always-interesting Mind Hacks has posted a story that is about as literal an interpretation of their name as could be imagined: on trepanation. Trepanation is a procedure in which a hole is made in the skull of a living person, and evidence for it reaches back into history in cultures around the world. Opinions are divided on why it was performed – from medical reasons, through to spiritual.
The story gives a quick link to a rather full-on video of a Kisi medicine man in Tanzania performing a seven hour trepanation operation on a young woman (let your breakfast settle for a bit before watching). There’s also a good link to an essay titled “An Illustrated History of Trepanation“, which moves from early evidence through to the evolution of the modern ‘trend’ of self-trepanation…that is, putting a hole in your own head (the reason for doing it yourself is, naturally, because doctors won’t do it for you):
The theory is based on the fact that human infants have an opening openings called fontanelles. During birth, these openings enable the bones of the skull to flex, so that the head can pass through the birth canal. According to Hughes, the closure of the fontanelles compromise one’s creativity and energy; trepanation, therefore, enables one to return to a creative, energetic childlike state.
The essay also points out that there is an hour long documentary about trepanation.