“Once plague had shut the gates of the town, they had settled down to a life of separation,
debarred from the living warmth that gives forgetfulness of all.”
“If there is one thing one can always yearn for and sometimes attain, it is human love.”
Albert Camus, The Plague
(Paul Fürst, engraving, c. 1721, of a plague doctor of Marseilles
(introduced as ‘Dr Beaky of Rome’).
His nose-case is filled with herbal material to keep off the plague.)
Miasma–The miasma theory (also called the miasmatic theory) is an obsolete
medical theory that held that diseases—such as cholera, chlamydia,
or the Black Death—were caused by a miasma (μίασμα, ancient Greek: “pollution”),
a noxious form of “bad air”, also known as night air.
The theory held that epidemics were caused by miasma,
emanating from rotting organic matter.
Though miasma theory is typically associated
with the spread of disease, some academics in the early nineteenth century suggested
that the theory extended to other conditions as well,
e.g. one could become obese by inhaling the odor of food.
The miasma theory was accepted from ancient times in Europe and China.
The theory was eventually given up by scientists and physicians after 1880,
replaced by the germ theory of disease: specific germs, not miasma,
caused specific diseases. However, cultural beliefs about getting rid of odor made the clean-up
of waste a high priority for cities.
If you have ever traveled to Italy, pre-pandemic of course, you might have noticed that
the Italians tend to be, what we Americans might call, overtly health-conscious…
almost to the point of extremes.
So I can only imagine that their pandemic quarantine and loss of life was a very heavy,
And yes, they do indeed believe in the notion of “night air”—aka “bad air”.
I have Italian friends, so I know this.
And yes, this belief, phobia, or fear, whatever you might call it, was truly way pre-pandemic.
They don’t understand why we Americans don’t use bidets.
You know those extra toilet looking things in hotels that my son once thought was
a fancy foot washer.
They bundle up with full face scarves in the winter to fend off inhaling cold air
and in the summers, they fear air conditioning— they think it produces “bad” air.
That is why so many older hotels and apartments do not have AC.
And if the truth be told, they may be on to something…think Legionnaire’s disease.
But I digress.
So when I read Kathy’s post yesterday over on atimetoshare, about masks—
“To mask or not to mask”
TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK
it got me thinking…
Plague doctors…THAT’S IT!!!!
We need plague doctors…
Oh, wait… isn’t that what Dr. Fauci is….???
So a plague doctor, according to Wikipedia:
The clothing worn by plague doctors was intended to protect them from airborne diseases.
The costume, used in France and Italy in the 17th century, consisted of an ankle-length overcoat
and a bird-like beak mask, often filled with sweet or strong smelling substances (commonly lavender),
along with gloves, boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and an outer over-clothing garment.
The mask had glass openings for the eyes and a curved beak shaped like a bird’s beak
with straps that held the beak in front of the doctor’s nose.
The mask had two small nose holes and was a type of respirator which contained aromatic items.
The beak could hold dried flowers (including roses and carnations),
herbs (including eucalyptus, peppermint), spices, camphor, or a vinegar sponge.
The purpose of the mask was to keep away bad smells, known as miasma,
which were thought to be the principal cause of the disease before it was disproved by germ theory.
Doctors believed the herbs would counter the “evil” smells of the plague
and prevent them from becoming infected.
The beak doctor costume worn by plague doctors had a wide-brimmed leather hat to
indicate their profession.
They used wooden canes in order to point out areas needing attention and to examine patients
without touching them. The canes were also used to keep people away,
to remove clothing from plague victims without having to touch them,
and to take a patient’s pulse.
So do you think this will be an okay type of mask for me to wear to the grocery store
while keeping me safe?