The knowledge of thieves

Here’s a fun historical fact for you. This scary looking figure isn’t a reminder that Halloween is next month, it’s actually what doctors wore in the middle ages during the time of the Black Death or Bubonic Plague. The creepy beak was there for a reason and legend has it, it’s all thanks to four French thieves who were caught successfully robbing the sick and dying without ever contracting the incredibly contagious and deadly illness themselves. In exchange for leniency they agreed to tell the judge how they managed to stay immune. The 4 men where perfume and spice merchants who had lost their income due to the spread of the plague shutting down sea ports and international trade. They made an infusion using vinegar , sliced garlic, and various herbs and essential oils, including variations of Rue, Clove, Sage, Camphor, Lavender, Thyme, and Rosemary, and rubbed it onto their hands, feet, temples, ears and onto a mask placed over their nose and mouth. After that, doctors throughout Europe treating plague victims followed suit, applying it to the same parts of the body and filling the beaks of the masks with clothes covered with this blend. While there are many recipes which vary from blend to blend and it has been adapted and changed over time, more modern versions containing Lemon and Cinnamon, this is what has become known as ‘Four Thieves Blend’ or Marseilles Blend. Oh, and the mask is also where the term ‘quack’ comes from too.