21.10.06

Learned Opinion

From an article i was reading on the Black Death:

The Black Death
Learned Opinion

The cause of the disease was a matter of concern to many. Popular opinion did view the plague as a scourge from God, for the times were indeed out of joint. This was mere vulgar opinion, however, and the learned knew better than to believe it. But what, then, was the source of the plague?

The pope sent to Paris to obtain the opinions of the medical faculty there in 1348. They studied the problem for a time and returned a report. The good professors opined that the disaster was caused by a particularly unfortunate conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the sign of Aquarius that had occurred in 1345. This conjunction cause hot, moist conditions, which cause the earth to exhale poisonous vapors.

The report went on to recommend steps to keep safe from the disease. This, in part, was their prescription:

No poultry should be eaten, no waterfowl, no pig, no old beef, altogether no fat meat. . . . It is injurious to sleep during the daytime. . . . Fish should not be eaten, too much exercise may be injurious . . . and nothing should be cooked in rainwater. Olive oil with food is deadly. . . . Bathing is dangerous. . . .

In time, other writings appeared from the pens of educated men on the best ways to avoid the plague. From Italy came this advice:

In the first instance, no man should think of death. . . . Nothing should distress him, but all his thoughts should be directed to pleasing, agreeable and delicious things. . . . Beautiful landscapes, fine gardens should be visited, particularly when aromatic plants are flowering. . . . Listening to beautiful, melodious songs is wholesome. . . . The contemplating of gold and silver and other precious stones is comforting to the heart.


And then there is the Plague doctor, to me a strangely archetypal image

4 comments:

Bodegogo Producciones said...

Very interesting
: )

Wendy said...

Hmmmm, yes I could see how staying away from meat and bathing would save your life???? I don't know why they didn't think of it sooner.

Did you know that the rhyme "ring-a-ring-a-rosie" is from the black plague days? Ring-a-ring-a-rosie = the circular rash you used to get first. A pocket full of posies = the attempted herb medical treatment. Ah-tissue, ah-tissue = the sneezing and gacking that came next. We all fall down = death.

Useless info....gotta love it.

dorothy said...

i would contemplate the sea and small animals. i would melt into the smell memory of my granny's face powder and skin on a sunny day and imagine myself communing with birds and people from other dimensions. or like the characters in boccachio's decameron, i'd run away to the hills with my friends and strange men and tell stories and make love all day long.

Trundling Grunt said...

The plague doctor uniform has always struck me as one of the most bizarre images in history and now that I see the 'rationale' it continues to amaze. Thank you for that.

The whole plague thing changed history in Western Europe so dramatically and it's difficult to see if it was a blessing or a curse in hindsight. One impact was to decimate the 'carers' in society as they were the most exposed and (I guess) unbathed. Sacry, no?