Thursday, April 26, 2018

Club Foot (Talipes) the Holy Foot

Club foot unlike Raver’s Feet, has nothing to with over doings things on the dance floor. Instead, it is medical condition which describes a deformed foot.

In the Bible, Jacob and his brother, Esau, fought in the womb and when they were born the firstborn, Esau, had his heel in the grasp of his younger twin sibling, Jacob (Hebrew heel catcher). She also received the prophecy:

" And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”

(Genesis 25:25 KJV)

On Jacob’s return to Canaan he met a mysterious man (angel) and they started to wrestle. When the being saw he could not overpower Jacob, he touched him in a manner that left Jacob with a limp. Jacob demanded a blessing, and in return was told because he had struggled with the divine angel and prevailed with God, that he would rule as a prince with God.

(Genesis 32:31 KJV)

Jacob was destined to become King and because of his hip dislocated was left with an equinus deformity of his foot (the Holy Heel).

A common belief in ancient Greece was sacred kings succeeded by tripping their rivals to the throne. The penalty for this deed was never again to place their heel on the ground. The Pelasgian kings (Greek Islands) of ancient pre-Hellenic times as well as Welsh kings of Celtic tribes went through barbaric rigmarole to acquire a holy heel. The ceremony involved an enforced dislocation of their hip which would be pretty painful. No one can be sure of the reason ancient royal rulers went to so such extremes to have an equinus or horse like foot but it is as likely to be the influence of the First Testament. People with club feet were forced to walk on the ball of their foot and with the heel seldom, if ever making ground contact. Walking on tip toes became a style of walking historically considered regal and god like.

Ancient mythology abounds with heroes with sacred feet or heels e.g. Achilles, Diarmait, Harpocrates and Mopsus, to name but a few. The infant Achilles, the greatest of the Greek heroes, was held by the heel and dipped into the river Styx by his mother, Thetis. This made him invulnerable but with one fatal flaw, his heel.

Meiditeranean culture of old, abounds with reference to the Holy Heel with perhaps the most enduring modern reference bull fighting in Spain. The matador traditionally fights the bull in heel less pumps and standing on his tip toes as he faces his rival with cloven hoof.

Following detailed analysis of shoes worn by King Tutankhamun (ruled 1333 BC – 1324 BC) studies have shown the boy king may have had talipes equino varus in his left foot. The subsequent limb length discrepancy would have caused him to walk with a limp.

Extensive examination of his remains revealed he had juvenile ostechondrosis with a possible Freiberg’s infarction. He lacked a middle phalanx in his 2nd toe right foot. The combination of the deformities necessitated he wore modified shoes.

In 1922 Howard Carter discovered over 80 pieces of 3,300-year-old footwear in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Recent detailed analysis of the footwear of different sizes showed sign of wear. Many sandals demonstrate the print of King Tut's foot on the sole. Two pairs of open shoes had the middle part of the sole stuffed for extra comfort. Three pairs had horizontal straps just below the toes; one pair also had semi-circular panels at the shoe's sides. These additions were not common to footwear of the time and experts believe these may be orthopaedic extensions to the footwear to cope with his foot pathology. More elaborate shoes were found decorated with gemstone inlays and gold sheets, but Dutch archaeologist and expert in Egyptian leatherwork, footwear and cordage, Andre Veldmeijeris believes these were never walked on. Instead the boy king had been carried wearing the shoes by his servants. The exhibits are now housed in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo and the Luxor Museum.

In a new book entitled Tutankhamun’s Footwear Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear by André J.Veldmeijer detailed analysis is given , including discussion on the different materials (gold, vegetable fibre, birch bark, glass and faience, leather, gemstones) that were used in the footwear. The footwear from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu, Tutankhamun’s great-grandparents, is also analysed for comparison.

Today, Club Foot is considered a birth deformity with feet at birth presenting with the front part turned inwards and pointing to the ground, the heel sits higher than the ball and the foot resembles a horse’s hoof or equinus deformity. Varus means the forefoot is turned inwards. It occurs in 1:1000 live births and is more common in boys and can effect one or both feet. Thought to be familial but not in all cases. Now babies born with club feet (talipes equino-varus) have the deformities corrected early, usually by manipulation. In more pronounced cases surgical procedures may follow as the child gets older.

Throughout modern history people with club feet have been considered talented with Abraham Lincoln, Lord Byron and Charles Dickens to name but three. Actor, Eric Richard (Sgt Bob Cryer in The Bill (BBC) ) was born with club feet; as was former NFL Dallas Cowboy, Troy Aikman; and the very talented Dudley Moore.

Reviewed 26/04/2018

Interesting Links
Aussie Clubfoot Kids
Cure Club Foot
Global Club Foot Initiative

Further Reading
Veldmeijer A J 2009 Studies of ancient Egyptian footwear technological aspects. Part XV. Leather Curled-Toe Ankle Shoes PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology, 6(4) (2009)
André J.Veldmeijer et al., Tutankhamun’s Footwear Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear Sidestone Press

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