Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 05/01/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"According to the ANCIENT MYSTERIES chapter entitled "The Black Death," this disease is transmitted from black rats to the fleas that infest them and then to humans. It may have been introduced to Europe from the Orient aboard trading vessels that harbored at Italian ports. Further evidence: bubonic plague existed in Cathay (China) for so many centuries prior to its European outbreak, locals had learned to move on when their rat population started dying. They probably didn't know this prevented fleas from infecting them.
With a full-blown epidemic in the 1340s and with the death toll mounting, many useless treatments were tried (herbs, bloodletting etc.). Black Death was believed by some to be God's punishment; a sect of Flagellants arose as a result. Their practice was to flay raw a supposed sinner's back with barbed whips, an atonement that would ward off plague, but the open wounds only facilitated contracting this illness. Others believed Jews responsible for plague; a convenient excuse to destroy their villages.
The citizens of London built a wall to keep the epidemic out, but this only contained it within the city. Pope Clement VI survived by taking unorthodox advice. He locked himself in his quarters and kept a smoky fire going at all times. Meanwhile, everywhere else people were dying by the thousands. In just a few years this initial outbreak claimed 40,000,000 lives, almost half of Europe's population.
Reminders of the terror caused by plague stay with us over 600 years later. As an example, when we say "Bless you" after someone sneezes, it's a response that originated during those terrible times. One of the final symptoms of oncoming death from the bubonic plague was sneezing, so this blessing was an effort to ward off the disease in the healthy or give comforting anointment to the terminal.
That sneezing symptom has come down to us in a nonsense rhyme which children still chant:
RING AROUND THE ROSIE (first symptom of plague, a rash)
A POCKET FULL OF POSIES (placed there to mask the smell of decaying flesh on a still living person)
ASHES, ASHES (originally: Achoo! Achoo!, the final symptom before death)
ALL FALL DOWN! (whole towns sometimes succumbed within days, thus the line)
BTW: this video is definitely worth seeing!"