Before we even get started, the purpose of this post isn't to get you all riled up and worried about COVID-19, or as we were previously calling it, the Coronavirus. Things are getting pretty scary out there and we want you to be safe. But, one of the ways that humans deal with anxiety and worry is through humor. I was sitting here in the office joking about how the end of times are finally here but I can't enjoy them because the store is out of frozen pizza, and for some reason, the image of a plague doctor jumped into my head.
I became fixated on the idea of plague doctors and then remembered that the motif is quite popular among tattoo enthusiasts, so let's talk about plague doctors a little bit and take our mind off of the very real dangers surrounding us.
To put things as simply as I possibly can—the bubonic plague was bad. As in, when all was said and done at least a third of Europe was dead. Higher estimates say 60% may have perished. Given the high rate of death, people were not exactly enthused to interact with people who were suffering from the plague. Enter the plague doctor.
Plague doctors often were second-rate doctors if they were even doctors at all. They swore an oath to tend to people stricken by the plague, and as such were often given special privileges. Usually, plague doctors did little more than keep track of just how many people were infected and how many died. They would then have a chance to carry out autopsies on the dead and try to learn the source of the plague.
Of course, if it wasn't for their appearance plague doctors likely would have been lost to the ages. Plague doctors are known primarily for the costumes that they wore. The baggy garments they wore protected their skin from exposure, as did the mask. The mask had glass eye holes to see through and often a long snout. The snout would often be stuffed with straw and spices, both because people thought it might protect the doctor and because of the stench of all the dead and dying people.
The otherworldly appearance of the plague doctor makes them a popular motif for horror movies, or, as you can see in the gallery below, tattoos. Stay safe out there, friends. Wash your hands, limit your contact with people and hopefully we won't be seeing any actual plague doctors in the next few weeks.