The Isle of May, in Scotland, has been a center of healing and recuperation for over a Millenium. The Pictish people used the Isle as early as 500 AD, with graves dating to as recently as 1500 AD. Analysis of their graves has shown that their inhabitants were suffering severely from diseases like syphilis. One teenager’s remains show that he would have been in tremendous pain and unable to walk and must have been cared for and taken to the island by his family.

The island’s reputation as a place of healing likely derives from a Christian preacher called Ethernan. He died there while preaching to the local Picts who made Fife their home between the Roman period and the creation of the Kingdom of Scotland. Traces of healing plants have been found on the island, including greater celandine and henbane. Archaeologists believe the monks of the island used these herbs to treat the sick and comfort the dying in their last days. The monastery on the island stood for thousands of years, despite repeated attacks by both the Vikings and the English.

Artist: Alan Braby

Several monks attending to a sick person

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Credit: Alan Braby and Open Past

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