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Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Prevent Pregnancy, c. 1260 (the weasel/scorpion method), plus other dubious medical advice

So, are the old ways always the best? I tend to think so, being a grandma, but I have my doubts about this one:
 
"A weasel placed on a scorpion bite helps greatly... if its heel is taken from it while it still lives and is placed on a woman, she will not get pregnant as long as it is there." 
~Albertus Magnus, De animalibus

via the excellent blog Ask the Past, which adds: 
As if you needed another reason to keep a live weasel in your bedroom.
Not sure if it worked? Here's advice from 1684 on How To Know If You're Pregnant:
"The women are troubled with nauseating and loathing of their meat, and oftentimes covet and greedily long for things contrary to Nutriment, as Coals, Rubish, Chalk, Lime, Starch, Oat-meal, raw Flesh and Fish or the like, which desire proceeds from a former contraction of evil humours... some Women as it has been noted by divers Authors of Credit, have been so extravegant in their longings, that they have coveted Hob-Nails, Leather, Horse Flesh, Mans Flesh, and the Flesh of divers ravenous Beasts..."
~Aristoteles Master-piece (1684)
Then there's advice for caring for your newborn:
“After the woman has delivered the child, you should know how to take care of the child. Know that as soon as the child is born, it should be wrapped in crushed roses mixed with fine salt… And when one wishes to swaddle [the baby], the members should be gently couched and arranged so as to give them a good shape, and this is easy for a wise nurse; for just as wax when it is soft takes whatever form one wishes to give to it, so also the child takes the form which its nurses give to it. And for this reason, you should know that beauty and ugliness are due in large measure to nurses. And when its arms are swaddled, and the hands over the knees, and the head lightly swaddled and covered, let it sleep in the cradle.”
~Aldobrandino of Siena, Regimen for the Body (1254), tr. Faith Wallis
And this: Anoint the gums with the brains of a hare: advice from c. 1450 on soothing a teething baby:
Andrea Mantegna, The Circumcision of Jesus 
(detail, c. 1461)
"Sometimes babies have trouble with teething. In that case you should squeeze the gums with your fingers, and gently massage them, and the palate as well. And you should anoint the gums with the brains of a hare (which are very suitable for this purpose), or with fat or butter or good-quality olive oil; and you should do this twice a day. The milk of a dog is suitable, too. It is also very helpful to use hen's fat for both anointing and massaging the gums."

~Michele Savonarola, Ad mulieres ferrarienses (c. 1450)
If you like this sort of thing, I recommend the book How to Cure the Plague, and Other Curious Remedies.

Previous, semi-related posts:

Advice from c. 530: How To Use Bacon, including for medicinal purposes such as "thick bacon, placed for a long time on all wounds, be they external or internal or caused by a blow, both cleanses any putrefaction and aids healing".

Advice from 1489: To stay young, suck blood from a youth.

How to Stop Bleeding, 1664:
“To Stench a Bleeding Wound: Lay hogs Dung, hot from the Hog, to the Bleeding Wound.”
~Samuel Strangehopes, A Book of Knowledge in Three Parts (166[4])
Dubious medical device du jour - the prostate warmer.

Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead, with bonus Monty Python.

Is Eating Your Boogers Good For You?

Urine-drinking Hindu cult believes a warm cup before sunrise straight from virgin cow cures cancer, baldness.

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