The cult section of the literary world

Halloween Chaos Countdown: Plague Doctors

Going on vacation for a couple days so going to cue pics/videos/gifs and make it up to you once I return!

plague gif

plague doctor (Italian: medico della peste, Dutch: pestmeester, Spanish: médico de la peste negra, German: Pestarzt) was a special medical physician who treated those who had the plague.[1] They were specifically hired by towns that had many plague victims in times of plague epidemics. Since the city was paying their salary, they treated everyone: both the rich and the poor.[2] They were not normally professionally trained experienced physicians or surgeons, and often were second-rate doctors not able to otherwise run a successful medical business or young physicians trying to establish themselves.[1]

Plague doctors by their covenant treated plague patients and were known as municipal or “community plague doctors”, whereas “general practitioners” were separate doctors and both might be in the same European city or town at the same time.[1][3][4][5] In France and the Netherlands plague doctors often lacked medical training and were referred to as “empirics”. In one case a plague doctor had been a fruit-seller before his employment as a physician.[6]

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some doctors wore a beak-like mask which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from putrid air, which (according to the miasmatic theory of disease) was seen as the cause of infection.[7] Being a plague doctor was unpleasant, dangerous and difficult. Their chances of survival in times of a plague epidemic were low.[8][9]

Some plague doctors wore a special costume, although graphic sources show that plague doctors wore a variety of garments. The garments were invented by Charles de L’Orme in 1619; they were first used in Paris, but later spread to be used throughout Europe.[12] The protective suit consisted of a heavy fabric overcoat that was waxed, a mask with glass eye openings and a cone nose shaped like a beak to hold scented substances and straw.[13]

Some of the scented materials were ambergris, balm-mint leaves, camphorcloveslaudanummyrrh, rose petals, storax.[6] This was thought to protect the doctor from miasmatic bad air.[14] The straw provided a filter for the “bad air”. A wooden cane pointer was used to help examine the patient without having to touch them, it was also used as a means of repenting sins, many believed that the plague was a punishment and would ask to be whipped to repent their sins.[15][16]

plague doctors 3 plague doctors4 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA [;ague2 _plague_doctor_lino__by_weird_science-d32fs7splaguw5plague_doctor_unknown_by_reneks-d61p15c

For more plague doctor love, check out

13 Days Until Halloween!

One response

  1. Cool, thanks for the post. I saw this mask popping in different places but never knew the origin.

    October 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm

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