Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plague Doctors

Doctors during the bubonic plague pandemic of the Middle Ages would often visit victims solely to verify whether or not they had the plague. Since “cures” of the time had little, if any, effect on the plague the doctors were basically useless. All they could do was diagnose the soon to be dead victim.

But at least they got to wear awesome costumes while doing it!

A Plague Doctor’s uniform consisted of:

· A wide brimmed black hat worn close to the head.

· A primitive gas mask in the shape of a bird’s beak. People suffering from the epidemic believed that the plague was spread through “bad air” (the Miasma theory), so there was a belief that the air would be drawn from the patient onto the beak of the mask, which was often filled with aromatic herbs and spices to overpower it.

· Red eye glasses were also part of the mask. They were thought to make the wearer impervious to evil.

· A long black overcoat. To minimize skin exposure, the overcoat was tucked in behind the mask at the neckline and extended to the feet of the doctors. The coat was usually coated head to toe in wax which was thought to repel the plague.

· A wooden cane. Used to direct family members or others around to move the victim. Essentially it helped the doctors touch the victim without actually having to touch them.

· Leather breeches. Worn beneath the cloak to protect the legs and groin area, a spot thought to be particularly sensitive to the plague because the lymph nodes in the groin area would swell when one was infected with the plague.

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