A Black Leather.bird mask.  Why is it scary?  It certainly looks creepy, and not without reason.  During the Black Plague, Italian doctors wore these to keep from inhaling airborne contaminants.  Bubonic plague had a sister virus called pneumonic plague, which was airborne, and therefore twice as deadly.  In those days they didn't know viruses worked, but they understood contagion!

A Black Leather.bird mask. Why is it scary? It certainly looks creepy, and not without reason. During the Black Plague, Italian doctors wore these to keep from inhaling airborne contaminants. Bubonic plague had a sister virus called pneumonic plague, which was airborne, and therefore twice as deadly. In those days they didn't know viruses worked, but they understood contagion!

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During the Bubonic Plague, doctors wore these bird-like masks to avoid becoming sick. They would fill the beaks with spices and rose petals, so they wouldn’t have to smell the rotting bodies.    A theory during the Bubonic Plague was that the plague was caused by evil spirits. To scare the spirits away, the masks were intentionally designed to be creepy.

During the Bubonic Plague, doctors wore these bird-like masks to avoid becoming sick. They would fill the beaks with spices and rose petals, so they wouldn’t have to smell the rotting bodies. A theory during the Bubonic Plague was that the plague was caused by evil spirits. To scare the spirits away, the masks were intentionally designed to be creepy.

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A map of the progress of the bubonic plague in Europe during the 14th Century AD, by Sean Twiddy

A map of the progress of the bubonic plague in Europe during the 14th Century AD, by Sean Twiddy

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Plague doctor...the "beak" would contain herbs that would help to protect the Doctor from contracting the disease. It was basically useless...of course they didn't realize how disease was spread and the different methods of cross contamination, etc...

Plague doctor...the "beak" would contain herbs that would help to protect the Doctor from contracting the disease. It was basically useless...of course they didn't realize how disease was spread and the different methods of cross contamination, etc...

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Plague mask. Filled with herbs and spices, thought to protect against the black plague.

Plague mask. Filled with herbs and spices, thought to protect against the black plague.

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Bubonic Plague Figurine, Turku Castle, Finland Ring around the rosies...the plague will get you!

Bubonic Plague Figurine, Turku Castle, Finland Ring around the rosies...the plague will get you!

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In 1619, Charles de L'Orme invented the Medieval equivalent of a hazmat  suit. It consisted of a waxed overcoat, leather gloves, cane and  beak-shaped mask filled with floral scents. Even though the miasma theory  of disease was ultimately proven untrue, the beak functioned like a gas  mask so plague doctors could treat Bubonic Plague victims.   I have always thought that the beak / Plague doctor masks were fascinating,  but could never justify buying one from a custom maker. With Halloween…

In 1619, Charles de L'Orme invented the Medieval equivalent of a hazmat suit. It consisted of a waxed overcoat, leather gloves, cane and beak-shaped mask filled with floral scents. Even though the miasma theory of disease was ultimately proven untrue, the beak functioned like a gas mask so plague doctors could treat Bubonic Plague victims. I have always thought that the beak / Plague doctor masks were fascinating, but could never justify buying one from a custom maker. With Halloween…

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