Tips for Avoiding the Black Death

Plague Doctor

From People Who Were There

  • Plague is carried by “miasmic air”, so avoid the coast – miasmic air might waft off the sea.
  • Avoid marshes and windy places for the same reason.
  • Burn nice-smelling woods and plants to drive off the miasmic air: ash, juniper, musk, cyprus, laurel, rosemary.
  • Likewise, fill your home with flowers.
  • Bad smells also compete with and drive off miasmic air, so hang over the latrine and breathe deeply.
  • Sprinkle rose-water and vinegar on the floor of your house.
  • Carry around an apple – smell that.
  • Live in a house that faces north.
  • Avoid lepers – they are jealous and may try to poison you.
  • Lie around – do not exercise. When you exercise, you breathe more heavily and will breathe more miasmic air.
  • For this reason, definitely do not have sex, under any circumstances.
  • Don’t sleep on your back.
  • Don’t sleep after eating.
  • Speaking of eating, don’t eat fish – they come from the miasmic sea.
  • Don’t eat hard-boiled eggs.
  • Don’t eat lettuce.
  • If you must eat, mix ten-year-old treacle with wine and chopped snake – eat that.
  • Grind an emerald into powder so strong that “if a toad looked at it, its eyes would crack” – eat that.
  • If you must drink, mix a drink of lemon, rose-water, peppermint, and apple-syrup – drink that.
  • Mix one ounce of gold with eleven ounces of quicksilver over heat, “let the quicksilver escape”, add forty-seven ounces of water of borage, store for three days over heat in an air-tight container, then drink that.
  • Take an amethyst, etch onto it a picture of man bowing and holding a snake, its head in his right hand, and its tail in his left. Set the amethyst in a gold ring. Wear that.
  • Definitely do not bathe.
  • If you must wash, only wash your hands with vinegar or rose-water.
  • Get bled – try to give eight pounds of blood.
  • Even though everyone around you is dying, don’t get sad. This makes you more susceptible to the miasma.
  • And above all, stay calm.

For all of the listed proscriptions, read Philip Ziegler’s The Black Death.

Image from wikipedia.


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