Writing these posts keeps sending me down Internet wormholes.
Remember how back at D = Death and a doodad I showed you the contents of Sir Henry Wellcome's pockets when he died? Well, that emerald ring has been haunting me. I thought I might write a fictional post giving a possible explanation as to why Sir H had it about his person, so I started researching the symbolism and history of emeralds.
Apparently, this stone, which is really green beryl — but let's face it, who's going to pay top drachma for a precious gem called Green Beryl — apparently, the Latin name was smaragdus. It's written on this medieval apothecary jar because they used to grind it up and administer powder of smaragdus like Pepto-Bismal as medication for stomach pains, poisoning and dysentery.
'Here you go, take this ground glass-like substance three times a day and call me in the morning.'
Ground emerald was even thought to cure plague.
Wormhole number two.
How much better do you think you'd instantly feel if these guys paid you a house call? I reckon I'd be locking all the doors, drawing the blinds, and pretending there was nobody home.
This is the garb of the medieval plague medic. His waxed robe and hood was his protection from the disease.
And what's with the long sticklike magic wandy thing?
Deeper into the hole I fall.
It's a fumigating torch.
Because bubonic plague leads to putrescent sores where one's lymph nodes used to be, and to stinky death breath that no mint could ever disguise, medieval medics figured the disease must be spread by stench. So, they filled these torches with scented herbs, which they burned and waved about using the smoke as protection.
Those madcap medicos often had beaky hoods on their plague-proof suits. Stuffing the beak with herbs was sort of back-up for the smoking staff.
And seeing images of beaky-hooded would-be healers made me wonder if that's how we got the word 'quack' to describe a dude who's just playing pretend doctors.
Disappointingly, it's not.
So I ended my journey down the wormhole as Alice did down the rabbit hole with a '...thump! thump!...' but not '...upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves...'.
My journey ended on something far more prickly and bothersome.
Some misguided Medievals zealots believed that plague was God's way of punishing humankind for its many sins. So, as penance, they would tie these barbed bandages around their ankles and travel from town to town like self-flagellating minstrels, ever hopeful that their bleeding bodies would bring an end to the suffering.
I think I'd rather swallow powdered emerald.
During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.
My posts will all feature images of and by the Wellcome Collection, Euston, London: the free destination for the incurably curious.