The Common Vein Copyright 2007

Galen, ca. 200 A.D.

Galen was a Roman anatomist  was a physician to the gladiators, and later to Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  Galen was influenced by Hippocrates’s idea of the Four Humours (blood, phlegm, yellow bile & black bile). He introduced the notion of using opposites to treat diseases.
He  suggested that the liver was the principal organ of the human body.  He argued that it emerged as the first organ during development of the fetus.  “The liver is the source of the veins and the principal instrument of sanguification,” (On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body.)  For Galen the gallbladder and spleen were subordinate to the liver, but worked in concert to produce and store three of the four humors of the body:  The liver was the source of blood, the gallbladder the source of yellow bile and the spleen the source of black bile.  Both the gall bladder and spleen protected the liver from contamination.

The gall bladder and spleen also regulated the emotions.  The gallbladder was the seat of  gall.  “Its substance is slender,” wrote Berengario a surgeon from Bologna University , “because it does not digest anything and hard so that it may resist the sharpness of the gall.”  Attached to both the heart and the brain, it was a truly sensitive organ that could affect other parts of the body.

Galen’s Concept of the Organs and their Faculties

Heat plays a central role part in the theory of Galen. The three ‘faculties’ of the body are the nutritive, vital and logical faculties. The nutritive faculty is related to the stomach which “cooks” the food and converts it into chyle. The chyle is transported to the liver by the portal vein. In the liver further heat converts the food into blood and adds natural spirit. Some of the blood is transported via the veins to the heart where more heat is added to create vital spirit. The blood becomes thinner is distributed to the body by the arteries giving warmth and enables growth. The vital spirit is measured through the pulse. The brain adds psychic pneuma, which provides the rational and logical faculty in the form of thought will and choice. These are distributed to the body via the nerves. The logical faculty reigns supreme and is followed in orderof importance by the vital and nutrtive faculties. The transport systems of the body include the nerves which transmit the logical faculty, the arteries which transport the vital spirit, and the veins which transport the blood with nutritive faculty from the liver. Galen faculties of the body nutrition portal vein stomach liver vein heart vital faculty pneuma lungs brain logical faculty animal spirits Davidoff art Copyright 2008 13169c18b01.8s

Zulu  Culture


In Zululand, South Africa,the Sangoma are practitioners of folk medicine and counselling in traditional Zulu societies.Sangoma initiations take place regulary in the Eshowe area. The dress code of a Sangoma highlights the importance of his/her relationship with the ancestors. Although the dress code is determined by the symbols of the colors, in South Africa there is no fixed list of equipment or specific dress code. While there is great variety within the dress code, one characteristic element of the dress code of many Sangomas is the wearing of a goat\’s gallbladder that is tied into the hair at the back of the head. This gallbladder comes from the goat that was slaughtered at the time of a Sangoma’s graduation, and it is said to \”call the ancestors.\” In most cases, a cluster of goat horns and bead containers filled with an assortment of herbs and medicines is worn around the neck, shoulders, and body. A cow-tail whisk and a stick are other typical elements of the regalia. The Sangoma\’s whisk, which signifies dignity, is used during dancing and is also used to sprinkle certain medicines. The Sangoma may wear strips of goatskin taken from the initiation goat as straps that crisscross his/her chest.

“Sangoma ” – South African Witchdoctor – Gallbladders in her Headress

The Gallbladder as a Receiver and Giver of Life

13281b01 sangoma witchdoctor sculpture headdress gallbladder cultural gallbladder giver and receiver of life South African Davidoff MD

Witchdoctor – Sangoma
The gallbladder for the Sangoma or Zulu witchdoctor is like the uterus because physically it is the same shape and close to the same size, while physically, metaphysically and spiritually it is the receiver and giver of life.  The artistic rendition of the Sangoma above was created by a whole mount of the gallbladder.  The evolution of this work is shown below.

gallblas00139c25.8s gallbladder histology normal gallbladder fossa free wall peritoneal lining whole mount mucosa histology shape face of the gallbladder mask sangoma witchdoctor gallbladders in the headress Davidoff art copyright 2008


The Gallbladder and the Witchdoctor

Giver and Receiver of Life

The evolution of the “Sangoma” artistic rendition started with a histological whole mount of the gallbladder which was colored and combined,  resulting in a human face that was subsequently formed into the “Sangoma” with gallbladders shaped into her headdress.

00139c20b.8s gallbladder histology normal gallbladder fossa free wall peritoneal lining whole mount mucosa histology shape face of the gallbladder mask sangoma witchdoctor Davidoff art copyright 2008