During the Bubonic Plague, doctors wore these bird-like masks to avoid becoming sick. They would fill the beaks with spices and rose petals, so they wouldn’t have to smell the rotting bodies.
A theory during the Bubonic Plague was that the plague was caused by evil spirits. To scare the spirits away, the masks were intentionally designed to be creepy.
Mission fucking accomplished
Okay so I love this but it doesn’t cover the half of why the design is awesome and actually borders on making sense.
It wasn’t just that they didn’t want to smell the infected and dead, they thought it was crucial to protecting themselves. They had no way of knowing about what actually caused the plague, and so one of the other theories was that the smell of the infected all by itself was evil and could transmit the plague. So not only would they fill their masks with aromatic herbs and flowers, they would also burn fires in public areas, so that the smell of the smoke would “clear the air”. This all related to the miasma theory of contagion, which was one of the major theories out there until the 19th century. And it makes sense, in a way. Plague victims smelled awful, and there’s a general correlation between horrible septic smells and getting horribly sick if you’re around what causes them for too long.
You can see now that we’ve got two different theories as to what caused the plague that were worked into the design. That’s because the whole thing was an attempt by the doctors to cover as many bases as they could think of, and we’re still not done.
The glass eyepieces. They were either darkened or red, not something you generally want to have to contend with when examining patients. But the plague might be spread by eye contact via the evil eye, so best to ward that off too.
The illustration shows a doctor holding a stick. This was an examination tool, that helped the doctors keep some distance between themselves and the infected. They already had gloves on, but the extra level of separation was apparently deemed necessary. You could even take a pulse with it. Or keep people the fuck away from you, which was apparently a documented use.
Finally, the robe. It’s not just to look fancy, the cloth was waxed, as were all of the rest of their clothes. What’s one of the properties of wax? Water-based fluids aren’t absorbed by it. This was the closest you could get to a sterile, fully protecting garment back then. Because at least one person along the line was smart enough to think “Gee, I’d really rather not have the stuff coming out of those weeping sores anywhere on my person”.
So between all of these there’s a real sense that a lot of real thought was put into making sure the doctors were protected, even if they couldn’t exactly be sure from what. They worked with what information they had. And frankly, it’s a great design given what was available! You limit exposure to aspirated liquids, limit exposure to contaminated liquids already present, you limit contact with the infected. You also don’t give fleas any really good place to hop onto. That’s actually useful.
Beyond that, there were contracts the doctors would sign before they even got near a patient. They were to be under quarantine themselves, they wouldn’t treat patients without a custodian monitoring them and helping when something had to be physically contacted, and they would not treat non-plague patients for the duration. There was an actual system in place by the time the plague doctors really became a thing to make sure they didn’t infect anyone either.
These guys were the product of the scientific process at work, and the scientific process made a bitchin’ proto-hazmat suit. And containment protocols!
Plague doctors: not just a cool suit! :D
YES PERF. One correction, though: The suits actually did the opposite when it came to the fleas. They were able to wiggle up the legs pretty easily; there’s written documentation of doctors scratching their legs DURING patient examinations.
I love the stick, too. There are contemporary drawings of doctors examining patients through windows. They wouldn’t even go into houses after a point. And sometimes the houses were quarantined, so families were trapped inside with plague victims.
Other things they thought might have caused the plague: planetary alignments and the Jewish people. :I
oh shit, they’re onto us
that 3rd image is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen.
reblogging this thing again (including the correction to my derp!) because I have a thing to add: Yep, one of the most rock stupid ideas about the plague was that Jews were sneaking into christian neighborhoods and poisoning the wells. And that was causing the plague. Never mind the entirely reasonable observations by said Jews that “Hey we’re dealing with this ‘a third of us dying’ thing too we’d be really stupid to poison our own wells”.
So that kicked off another round of Everybody Blame The Jews For Things Wot They Did Not Do.
But here’s another, even more counterproductive theory on the origins of the plague, circa plague-having times: God was angry because the church had failed him. You still hear that all the time from certain sects, so what’s the difference with this time? Well, first of all, the corrupt priests were sort of the only ones who weren’t dying. Priests were supposed to give last rites to their parishioners, and those that really did try to give them to everyone, whelp, they caught the plague. And the last rites are a big deal because anointing the sick is one of the seven sacraments everyone is supposed to get and priests are required to do. The guys who didn’t, though, were the ones who didn’t give a shit about what was commonly believed to be the way you made sure everyone didn’t literally go to hell. So, people who were looking for someone to blame suddenly had a fairly solid wall of bastards to point at as the problem.
So, what did they do about it? Well, among other things, they decided that if god was angry and the priests weren’t cutting it, they’d perform penance themselves to show their faith and lift the plague! …So they formed roving bands of flagellants who spread the plague!
The peak of the activity was during the Black Death, then called the Great Death, which began around 1347. Spontaneously Flagellant groups arose across Northern and Central Europe in 1349, except in England. The German and Low Countries movement, the Brothers of the Cross, is particularly well documented - they wore white robes and marched across Germany in 33.5 day campaigns (each day referred to a year of Jesus's earthly life) of penance, only stopping in any one place for no more than a day. They established their camps in fields near towns and held their rituals twice a day. The ritual began with the reading of a letter, claimed to have been delivered by an angel and justifying the Flagellants’ activities. Next the followers would fall to their knees and scourge themselves, gesturing with their free hands to indicate their sin and striking themselves rhythmically to songs, known as Geisslerlieder, until blood flowed. Sometimes the blood was soaked up in rags and treated as a holy relic.
Originally members were required to receive permission to join from their spouses and to prove that they could pay for their food. However, some towns began to notice that sometimes Flagellants brought plague to towns where it had not yet surfaced. Therefore later they were denied entry. They responded with increased physical penance.
Fortunately, this all happened long enough ago that I can feel safe about giggling helplessly at that last bit there.
As always, feel free to correct me if I’ve misremembered something from when I learned all of this! It’s been a couple years by now, and there are so few times you get to talk about roving gangs of self-flagellating Germans.
Boys’ Night by Max Landis and AP Quatch
i read this a couple weeks ago and i really really enjoyed it, its like an adult perspective of kid cartoon mascots but without any of the ~dark~ or ~gritty~ aspects that make adult perspectives on kids cartoons so unappealing and bland. its weirdly genuine. give it a read
It was 21 pages in that I realized I was really enjoying a Mickey Mouse fanfiction.
This is really good. Read the whole thing.
Post-Punk Dark Knight: Shadowplay by Butcher Billy
There’s a relatively long tradition, in the field of data visualization, of tracking the way we swear. This makes sense. Not only is it fun to track, but cursing is also conveniently specific as a data set; you’ve got your f-bombs and your double hockey sticks and your bodily functions, and, factoring in their permutations, you’re good to go. Plus, you don’t need much sophisticated sentiment analysis to ensure that your data are accurate: An f-bomb is pretty much an f-bomb, regardless of the contextual subtleties. As a result of all this, we, the public, get treated to sweary heat maps. And more sweary heat maps. And sweary interactive maps. There’s just something about big data and sailor-cursing that complement each other—like peanut butter and mothereffing jelly.
Traditionally, those maps are based on text—on swears that are typed into Facebook or, even more publicly, Twitter. Making a map of the sweariest states requires simply gathering geocoded posts, isolating the swears, and going from there.
Read more. [Image: Marchex]
What the fucking fuck
The GOP tweeted that Rosa Parks had ended racism. That, of course, led to the creation of the hasthag #racismendedwhen and the rest is history.
"DAT BLUE EYESHADOW DOE"