So Halloween has come and gone, and along with it all the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles…

One of my costumes this year (yes, I had more than one. That’s how I role) was that of a Plague Doctor:

Surprisingly, not very many people know what a Plague Doctor is. During the Black Death and the Great Plague of London doctors would wear a special costume used to help protect them from the disease.

Sometimes refereed to as Beak Doctors, the Plague Doctor costume consisted of an ankle length overcoat, leggings, gloves, boots, a hat, a cane, and the most distinctive piece of the costume, the bird beak mask. The beak held dried flowers, herbs, spices, camphor or a vinegar sponge. Doctors believed the herbs would counter the “evil” smells of the plague and prevent them from becoming infected. The doctors also used wooden canes to point out areas needing attention and to examine the patients without touching them.

This sixteenth century poem describes the “beak doctor” costume:

As may be seen on picture here,
In Rome the doctors do appear,
When to their patients they are called,
In places by the plague appalled,
Their hats and cloaks, of fashion new,
Are made of oilcloth, dark of hue,
Their caps with glasses are designed,
Their bills with antidotes all lined,
That foulsome air may do no harm,
Nor cause the doctor man alarm,
The staff in hand must serve to show
Their noble trade where’er they go.

Upon reading this post, I hope you learned a little about the Plague Doctor, and perhaps, a little about yourself?

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