Life in the middle ages was not that great. It was a dark and miserable time, with most people living in poverty and degradation. And even those that were better off, such as noble women and noble men, did not have an easy life either. There was no comfort for anyone, except maybe the royals.
In fact, life in the Middle Ages was disgusting. Food was weird and the streets were covered in excrement. There were no public toilets and no toilet paper. The Bubonic Plague could claim your life in an instant and all the other diseases that were rampant were probably going to get you at some point anyways. Medieval doctors were pretty useless and mostly specialized in examining urine and bloodletting. They also occasionally advised people to fart in jars.
Yes, life in the Middle Ages was certainly not great, yet people had fun anyways. They ate beavers’ tales and pooped on the street because life is short, and they knew it. Nothing was too disgusting for them because they did not really know what luxury was. It was a simpler time, no doubt about that. It was also a much more disgusting time. So we should really count our blessings that we were not born in the Middle Ages.
15. They Ate Gross Things Such As Live Frog Pie
People in the Middle Ages ate some really strange things. For example, a dish called ‘The Helmeted Cock’ was often eaten during feasts and consisted of pigs and castrated roosters. Both the pig and the castrated rooster were roasted. Then the castrated rooster was seated on the pig and was often adorned in coats of arms so as to honor the lords present at the feast.
Things could get a little dull during Medieval feasts so cooks made a special effort to entertain the guests. One such way was to place live animals, such as frogs, inside empty pie crusts.
Medieval people also liked to eat roast hedgehogs although hedgehogs wrapped in pastry were also considered to be rather delicious. Medieval Catholics also liked to eat scaly beavers’ tails. These tails were served with water and supposedly tasted just like fish.
14. They Kept Chamber Pots Under Their Beds (Basically Portable Toilets)
During the Middle Ages only wealthier Medieval people could afford a privy inside or near their house. A privy was basically a toilet, although compared to our toilets it was nothing more than a shack that had a slab of wood over a hole in the ground. Your excrement would plunge into a moat and that would be that.
However, if your privy was outside your house, it’s unlikely you’d want to go there in the middle of the night. This is where chamber pots came in. Chamber pots were decorative bowls that were used for going to the bathroom at night. Chamber pots were usually kept under one’s bed. The waste that accumulated in them during the night would be chucked out the window the next morning.
13. Fart Jars Were Supposed To Save You From Bubonic Plague
The Bubonic Plague or the Black Death was a devastating, widespread disease that took away the lives of countless people during the Middle Ages. No one knew how to protect themselves from this plague and there was little you could do if you were suddenly its victim.
However, some Medieval doctors in the 1600s believed that there was something you could do to protect yourself from the Black Death. According to them, all you had to do was fart in a jar and then inhale the fart after you thought you were exposed to the Bubonic Plague.
You see, most doctors believed that the Great Plague of London that occurred between 1665 and 1666 was a miasma, or a poisonous air vapor that spread through breathing in the atmosphere. So doctors believed that diluting the polluted air with something putrid would reduce the chances of getting ill, hence the fart jars.
12. They Used Moss As Toilet Paper
As you can imagine, there was no such thing as toilet paper back in the Middle Ages. Or rather, there was but it was nothing like the toilet paper we know today. Naturally, back in the day people still had to wipe their bums with something and that something very often was some sort of natural product.
Recently, Medieval wooden barrels have been discovered in Denmark. The wooden barrels turned out to be privies, or medieval toilets, still with human excrement intact! Scientists have examined this excrement and found out that back in the day people used moss, leather and fabric as toilet paper.
11. They Used Urine To Remove Stains From Clothes
Nowadays we’re lucky to have modern washing powder to make our laundry much simpler. But back in the Middle Ages there was not really such a thing as washing powder. The only thing that Medieval people had was soap, which was expensive and thus not used very often. As such, Medieval people had to get creative. And so they used urine for taking out stains from clothes.
During the Middle Ages urine was also known as ‘chamber lye’. Urine was collected in chamber pots and then used either for stain removal or even for pre-wash soaking. However, Medieval people were not the first to use urine for laundry purposes. The Ancient Romans used it way before them.
10. Baths Were Rare Occurrences And Most People Did Not Even Wash Their Face
Before the Middle Ages public bathing was very common and people bathed all the time. However, over time the Church prohibited Christians from bathing naked because they believed that excessive bathing would lead to immorality, sex and diseases.
In fact, many Medieval people came to associate water with disease. It was thought that water carried diseases into the body through the pores in the skin. Also, water widened the pores and thus supposedly air infections had easier access to the body.
As a result, most people just washed their hands and parts of their face. Washing your face fully was also considered dangerous for it was believed that it could lead to weakened eyesight. Most upper class people bathed once or twice a year.
9. They Scratched Their Lice-Crawling Heads With Special Pins
Medieval people were also not very keen on washing their hair. Peasants washed their hair extremely rarely, but even Kings and Queens washed their hair only a few times a year. Instead of washing their hair, they hid their greasy hair with crowns, hats, headdresses and wigs.
Naturally, head lice was common so people used special powder to soak up scalp oils and suffocate lice. Itch mites were also very common and made people’s scalps very itchy. However, instead of washing their hair and getting rid of the problem most people kept a special pin near them which was used for scratching their itchy heads. These pins were made from bone or metal and were long and thin.
8. Doctors Used Urine To Diagnose Sicknesses
Nowadays most doctors give us blood tests in order to find out what’s wrong with us. But in the past, Medieval doctors examined peoples’ urine to understand their sicknesses. Doctors would get a sample of urine and then observe its color, smell and even taste. According to one Medieval doctor, a diabetic’s urine tastes “wonderfully sweet as if it were imbued with honey or sugar.”
Medieval doctors even had a special urine chart to help them examine the urine. The chart depicted 20 possible colors of urine, from “white as wellwater” to “black as very dark horn.” The urine for examination was placed inside a round-bottomed glass flask.
7. They Cured Everything With Leeches
Medieval medicine was questionable at best but back in the day weird medical practises did not seem that strange. Most people believed that doctors knew what they were doing and thus trusted them with their lives.
A favorite medical treatment of Medieval doctors was bloodletting, or removing a person’s blood to cure them of their illness. Bloodletting consisted of a doctor attaching a leech to a patient’s skin that was affected by a disease. The leech then fed on the patient’s blood until it fell off. The patient was then considered to have had enough blood removed. It was considered that he or she was now going to heal.
6. They Slept In Beds Full Of Lice, Fleas And Bed Bugs
Sleeping in the middle ages was not that comfortable. If you were a servant, you probably had to sleep in the same room with lots of other people. There would have been no bed for you and no blanket either – a coat would have had to do you.
However, if you were an upper class medieval citizen then it is likely you would have had your own bedroom with your own straw mattress. This straw mattress would have been changed only once a year at best and as a result lice, fleas and bed bugs would have kept you company in bed. Most people were not bothered by these pests however and instead accepted them as part of life.
5. Women Created Fake Eyebrows From Rodent Fur
Medieval beauty standards were rather strange. In the 1400s, for example, women yearned for a high forehead, an egg-shaped face and a small nose and lips. With these features, they were supposed to resemble a child, innocent and pure. The hairline was tweezed to be very high and the eyebrows were completely shaved off.
If you suddenly desired to have eyebrows again, but they were simply not growing, you could always make them yourself! And many women did. They made new eyebrows for themselves from rodent fur, such as the fur of mice. Later, rodent hair was replaced by real human hair that came from the Orient.
4. “Wise Village Women” Examined Men’s Members
If for some reason a Medieval man could not engage in intercourse, the Church would bring in special private investigators to look into the situation. These “private investigators” were not as professional as they sound. In fact, they were simply wise village women. These wise women would examine a man’s penis and his health in general to see if he was capable of partaking in intercourse for procreation purposes.
If the wise village women found that it was deformed or there was something else that prevented the man from engaging in intercourse, then the couple would be separated. Sounds humiliating for the man, but was no doubt a relief for the woman.
3. Weasel Genitals Were Used As Birth Control
Our ancestors were not as innocent as some of us may believe. They too loved to engage in intercourse. And just like us, they did not want to get unwanted pregnancies either. As a result, different contraceptive methods were used way before the pill was invented. Some of these contraceptive methods were more effective than others.
In the Middle Ages, a popular contraceptive was supposedly weasel testicles. The woman had to put weasel testicles around her neck, just like a necklace, and then engage in intercourse. The weasel testicle “necklace” would supposedly keep her from getting pregnant. However, if a woman did not want to put the testicles around her neck, she could always put them around her thighs instead.
2. Questionable Hair Potions Were Used By Women, Some Of Which Were Made From Ants’ Eggs
Women do a lot of strange things in the name of beauty, even today. Naturally, in the past women also wanted to be as beautiful as possible and so they tried a lot of bizarre methods that were supposed to make them more attractive.
For example, in the Middle Ages, women removed unwanted hair by combining red orpiment, gum of ivy, ants’ eggs and vinegar. The mixture was to be rubbed on areas where hair was unwanted, including private parts.
Another hair potion had only one ingredient – onion juice. You were supposed to rub it into your hair and leave it overnight. Another hair potion for lightening your hair consisted of honey, wine, roots, herbs and shavings and was also supposed to be left in your hair for 24 hours.
1. Peasant Women Sometimes Went To The Toilet On The Street
Medieval peasant women sometimes actually went to the toilet right on the street. They would lift up their skirts, squat and just… do it. The streets were not empty either – they were bustling with people and some of them might have even bumped into the squatting peasant women. But no one would have even blinked an eye, it was such a regular occurrence.
Of course, noble women would have never done that for they used outhouses that were available in most towns and cities. And royals did not even use these outhouses – they made their servants carry their chamber pots wherever they went.
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