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rejuvenation

rejuvenation Resistance to the process of ageing is a perennial preoccupation that refuses to die out. From legends of the Fountain of Youth, and the account of the rejuvenation of Aeson in The Golden Fleece, to the latest wonder drug, without fail science, magic, and medicine have pandered to the predominantly Western cult of youthfulness. More than merely camouflaging a pandemic fear of death, the desire for rejuvenation is primarily a rejection of the infirmities and diseases of old age and a desire to retain or regain the beauty and vitality of youth.

The most literal restorative was that devised by Hermippus Redivivus, who allegedly lived for 150 years and five days using the breath of young women. Pliny insisted that he would have lived even longer had he inhaled the breath of young men. Even less probable than Redivivus' longevity is the claim that he had in fact existed. It is likely that he was a product of the 1740s (invented by either John Henry Cohausen or John Campbell). The anarchistic philosopher, William Godwin was inspired by Campbell's history of Redivivus to write St Leon (1799), about an immortal, who drinks the legendary elixir of life. While Godwin drew upon the arcana of the Rosicrucian and Hermetic traditions for his novel, which was imitated by P. B. Shelley in St Irvyne (1801), his belief in prolongevity was grounded in Enlightenment rationalism. The laicization and secularizing of death stemming from the Scientific Revolution led to sublimation of the belief in a divine afterlife into the prospect of a sublunary life extension. Philosophers such as Descartes, Bacon, Franklin, and Condorcet embraced this secular eschatology. For Godwin, an improved intellect as part of the amelioration of the human race would lead to the prolongation of life.

Three years before the publication of St Leon, Christopher Hufeland, a disciple of the major exponent of longevity, Conaro, published The Art of Prolonging Life. Hufeland claimed that the human lifespan could be extended to 200 years if individuals kept within the limits of a macrobiotic lifestyle. This is in keeping with the commonly-held view that prolongevity is a consumerist rather than a cerebral matter. Plants, such as the mandrake, orchid, and sweet potato, have, as the history of folk medicine reveals, been credited with rejuvenating properties. Individuals deficient in minerals and vitamins could derive a sense of well-being or sense of rejuvenation after eating certain plants and herbs. Such may have been the case with the herb fenugreek, which is rich in vitamin A and D — although the trimethylamine it contains works as a sex hormone only in frogs.

aphrodisiacs have been used as an aid to rejuvenation, mainly because the diminution of sexual or reproductive powers has often been regarded as the least desirable effect of ageing. More aphrodisiac effects have been attributed to animal products than to plant remedies. The occultist Doctrine of Signatures and use of sympathetic magic, both of which are grounded in a science of cosmic correspondences, partly explain, for example, why an increase in male potency could be attributed to consuming powdered rhinoceros horn or the blood and internal organs of a snake. According to Nicholas Culpepper's London Dispensatory of 1679, the brains of sparrows were thought to increase lust. The most famous male aphrodisiac is the common blistering beetle or Spanish Fly, Cantharis vesicatoria, which is prepared using the soft part of the insect. John Quincy in The Compleat English Dispensary (1722) cites a case of a man who on taking a large dose so inflamed himself that he nearly killed his wife ‘yet he continued even in distraction with fresh rage until he dy'd delirious.’ The notorious trial of 1772 held at Marseilles involved the Marquise de Sade, who gave chocolates laced with Spanish Fly to prostitutes, causing them to suffer lumbar pain, cysto-urethritis, and vomiting.

The gendering of rejuvenation identifies increased sexual potency primarily with men. Even seminal fluid has been treated as a love philtre or prophylactic in witchcraft, and administered by Aborigines to dying or enfeebled members of their community. For women, the pressure to rejuvenate is greater, as ageing is socially constructed as ‘defeminizing’ and undesirable in every sense. Cosmetics are often marketed not just as an enhancement of female beauty but also as containing rejuvenatory substances. The youth cult has been an effective way of undermining the power, sexual and otherwise, of post-menopausal women, and has been a potent weapon in the battle of the sexes.

Men and women were brought together in James Graham's Temple of Health and Hymen of 1780, where electric currents passed through his celestial bed, promising sexual rejuvenation for a nightly fee of fifty pounds. The high priest of health and prophet of prolongation also recommended earth bathing, which stipulated fasting and being buried up to one's neck in mud. Those unwilling to immerse themselves in the earth could strap to their chest a piece of Hampstead Hill turf in the hope of extending their lifespan far beyond a hundred years.

More familiar forms of bathing were popular with the Romans, who were predated by the Vedic physicians of the gods, whose knowledge of rejuvenation by water is recorded in Sanskrit literature. Spas and hydras flourished in Georgian England and nineteenth-century Germany, mainly due to Vincent Priessnitz, who made a fortune out of hydrotherapy.

Cashing in on life extension became a secular version of the medieval practice of buying plenary indulgences. Instead of sacred relics dispensed by a priest, the rejuvenating quack would supply potions and phials, while the Fountain of Youth and hydrotherapy served as a substitute for Holy Water. Hawkers of such chicanery have made claims that youth and restored body functions could be brought about through nerve tonics and elixirs of life. The twentieth-century ‘Sanatogen’, for instance, which was merely powdered casein (the protein of milk), was advertised in the London Graphic and endorsed by members of the establishment as ‘The Life tonic and nerve tonic, Rejuvenates and Revitalises’. A more exotic product was El Zair. Advertised as having been harvested under specific phases of the moon, it was claimed that the ingredients could only be procured from ‘almost inaccessible mountain ranges in Africa’. Not only was El Zair alleged to make hair grow on bald heads, but it could clear away the deeper-seated waste matter that was claimed to be responsible for old age. American medical scientists from Chicago found that they could reproduce the product a lot nearer home by dissolving 2½ ounces of Epsom salt in a pint of distilled vinegar.

More sophisticated medical interventions have appeared since, which range from cellular therapy involving the injections of fresh cells, the Romanian practice of rejuvenation by novacaine, transplanting sex glands, monkey gland therapy, and forays into genetic engineering to produce the ultimate youth drug. The most effective route for prolongevity would still seem to be diet and lifestyle, while the cosmetic surgeon has become the modern guru of rejuvenation. Medical researchers and biochemists are still looking for the genetic key to slow down the countdown towards death. While the fascination with rejuvenation continues to span the centuries, maybe only when we can travel at the speed of light, and possibly then through time, will the ageing process be significantly slowed down.

Marie Mulvey-Roberts


See also ageing; aphrodisiac; cosmetic surgery; lifespan.

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"rejuvenation." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Rejuvenation

553. Rejuvenation

  1. Aeson in extreme old age, restored to youth by Medea. [Rom. Myth.: LLEI, I: 322]
  2. apples of perpetual youth by tasting the golden apples kept by Idhunn, the gods preserved their youth. [Scand. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 41]
  3. Bimini Bahamas island whose fountain conferred eternal youth. [Western Folklore: Brewer Dictionary, 373]
  4. Dithyrambus epithet of Dionysus, in allusion to his double birth. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 88]
  5. Faust rejuvenated by Mephistopheles at the price of his soul. [Ger. Lit.: Goethe Faust ]
  6. Fountain of Youth fabulous fountain believed to restore youth to the aged. [Western Folklore: Brewer Handbook, 389]
  7. Heidegger, Dr. gives his aged friends water drawn from the Fountain of Youth, but its effects are temporary. [Am. Lit.: Hawthorne Dr. Heideggers Experiment in Hart, 229]
  8. Ogier the Dane hero at the age of 100 restored to ripe manhood by Morgan le Fay. [Medieval Romance: Brewer Dictionary, 656]
  9. sage a rejuvenator; said to stop gray hair. [Herb Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 165]

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"Rejuvenation." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Rejuvenation." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rejuvenation

rejuvenate

re·ju·ve·nate / riˈjoōvəˌnāt/ • v. [tr.] make (someone or something) look or feel younger, fresher, or more lively: a bid to rejuvenate the town center| [as adj.] (rejuvenating) the rejuvenating effects of therapeutic clay. ∎  [often as adj.] (rejuvenated) restore (a river or stream) to a condition characteristic of a younger landscape. DERIVATIVES: re·ju·ve·na·tion / riˌjoōvəˈnāshən/ n. re·ju·ve·na·tor / -ˌnātər/ n.

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"rejuvenate." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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rejuvenation

rejuvenation The marked increase in the rate of erosion which takes place when a land mass is relatively elevated. Streams respond by incision, with the development of terraces and knick points, and finally a polycyclic landscape emerges. Similar effects can occur after climate change.

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"rejuvenation." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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rejuvenation

rejuvenation The marked increase in the rate of erosion that takes place when a land mass is relatively elevated. Streams respond by incision, with the development of terraces and knick points, and finally a polycyclic landscape emerges.

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"rejuvenation." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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rejuvenate

rejuvenate restore to youth. XIX. irreg. f. RE- + L. juvenis YOUNG + -ATE3.
So rejuvenescence renewal of youth. XVII. f. late L. rejuvenēscere. rejuvenescent XVIII.

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"rejuvenate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"rejuvenate." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/rejuvenate-1

rejuvenate

rejuvenateagnate, magnate •incarnate, khanate •impregnate •coordinate, subordinate •decaffeinate • paginate • originate •oxygenate •cachinnate, machinate •pollinate •contaminate, laminate •disseminate, ingeminate, inseminate •discriminate, eliminate, incriminate, recriminate •abominate, dominate, nominate •illuminate, ruminate •fulminate • culminate •exterminate, germinate, terminate, verminate •marinate • peregrinate • indoctrinate •chlorinate • urinate •assassinate, deracinate, fascinate •vaccinate • hallucinate • Latinate •procrastinate • predestinate •agglutinate • rejuvenate • resinate •designate • cognate • neonate •lunate • alienate • carbonate •hibernate • odonate • hyphenate •emanate •impersonate, personate •fractionate • detonate • intonate •consternate • alternate • Italianate •resonate

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