bunnyjadwiga: (Senses)
8. Katherine Ashenburg. The Dirt on Clean: an Unsanitized History (New York: North Point Press, 2007)

This popular history of cleanliness and its pursuit is high on my lists of books I must buy soon. I raced through it at a breakneck speed while preparing my CA, and it nearly broke my spirit. The section on medieval hygiene was so good that I truly wondered whether there were any point in continuing my writing!

However, this is a general popular history, and it does leave room for more scholarly and semi-scholarly work. In general, the text lacks footnotes, though there are references listed for the quotations in the back of the book. In addition, the sources for the marginalia are listed at the back, and the bibliography is extensive. The index is also excellent.

Ashenburg does a good job with the Greek and Roman baths, as well as the early Christian conflict between standards of self-denial and reasonable cleanliness. She has the best general section on the mikveh in any of the books I consulted, though it is nowhere near the coverage in Judaism in Practice: From the Middle Ages Through the Early Modern edited by Lawrence Fine. Ashenburg does good work with the medieval, renaissance, and baroque periods, though her chronology is not always clear-- however, she's quite solid on the history of the bidet.

The Dirt on Clean includes a goodly section on the modern development of cleaning standards, though I would say "Clean: A History" is better on some of the 19th c. Philosophy. Ashenburg's focus, however, is more American-- the Beecher sisters' The American Woman's Home is a key text for her. She also gives great attention to the post 1900 and especially post 1950 waves of demonization of the body and its smells. She makes great hay with Horace Miner's 1956 article "Body Ritual among the Nacirema," American Anthropologist, which in anthropological humor satirized our American grooming habits.

Unfortunately, this may be the only flaw I see in the book. Ashenburg is clearly pushing a cause here, similar to that of the Hygiene Hypothesis: the idea that we'd all be healthier and more liberated if we worried less about dirt, germs and cleanliness than we do now. Not that I disagree with her, but she pushes her agenda hard enough that it will cast doubts on this work.

The text is readable, full of useful snippets, and a lot of fun as well as educational. There's definitely a sense of "things you never knew, or thought you knew that were wrong" here. Lots of useful illustrations, as well as the marginalia, spice things up. I'd consider it a good purchase for libraries, too, though I think the reading level is at least high school.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
quoted in Clean by Virginia Smith
He took delight in steam-baths at the thermal springs, and loved to exercise himself in the water whenever he could. He was an extremely strong swimmer and in this sport no-one could surpass him. It was for this reason he built his palace at Aachen and remained continuously in residence there during the last years of his life and indeed until the moment of his death. He would invite not only his sons to bathe with him, but his nobles and friends as well, occassionally even a crowd of his attendants and bodyguards, so that sometimes a hundred men or more would be in the water together.

Einhard, Two Lives of Charlemagne...

apparently Charlemagne also complained of short waist-length cloaks then in fashion, "What is the use of these little napkins? I can't cover myself with them in bed. When I am on horseback I can't cover myself from the winds and the rain. When I go off to empty my bowels, I catch cold because my backside is frozen."
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Reproduced from Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia fo Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs and Customs Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, and John Lindow, eds. (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2000), p. 869-871.

This is from the Russian Primary Chronicle (c. 1040-1118), on Novgorod saunas:
I noticed their wooden bathhouses (bani dreveni). They warm themselves to extreme heat, then undress, and after anointing themselves with tallow, take young reeds and lash their bodies. They actually lash themselves so violently that they barely escape alive. Then they drench themselves with cold water, and thus are revived. They think nothing of doing this every day, and actualy inflict such voluntary torture upon themselves. They make the act not a mere washing but a veritable torment.

On Scandanavian saunas (this from the article author, Thomas A. DuBois)
Sauna was customary on Saturdays (the day of washing) and in connection with both holidays and markets. Descriptions such as that of Eyrbyggja Saga (ch. 28) describe the Scandanavian sauna as a small room, partly dug in the ground for insulation and often equipped with an antechamber. Water could be poured in from the outside. Saga accounts also mention special clothing worn during bathing, such as hats and robes, items absent from the Slavic and Balto-Finnic traditions. Saga details closely match archaeological evidence from Iceland and Greenland, where medieval saunas have been excavated. By the fourteenth century, however, the decimation of the Icelandic birch forests had led to the decline of the custom on the island, where plentiful hot springs, warmed by volcanic heat, replaced the wood-burning sauna. Archaeological evidence indicates the marginal development of a sauna tradition in northern Ireland, possibly introduced or influence by Viking settlers. The steam baths constructed there were conical stone structures in which slightly different means of heating and producing steam were used.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
In addition to washing upon rising and before meals, period Jews also washed before praying and thus before going to bed. This practice was so universal as to be used by the Inquisition to identify converso Jews still practicing Judaism (see A Drizzle of Honey). The rules of kashrut (kosher) laid down in the Torah for ritual cleanliness enforced other specific kinds of hygiene as well.

In particular, the mikveh, the ritual cleansing bath, was (and is) an important part of Jewish life. Women of childbearing age needed to visit the mikveh at the end of their menstrual cycle in for ritual purification in order to consort with their husbands; the mikveh was also used to purify people and things on other occasions.
Mikvot from the classical period have been found in archaeological digs at multiple sites, including Masada. Hanan Eshel summarized the rules for the construction of mikvot:
"A mikveh must hold at least 40 seahs of water (approximately 60 gallons). The whole body of the person or vessel to be purified must be totally immersed. And, most significant for our purposes, the water must be "living" water. That is, it must come directly from a river or a spring or from rainwater that flows into the pool; it may not be drawn. To meet this latter requirement, the rabbis permitted the use of an otter, a pool of living water that was connected by a plugged pipe to the main immersion pool. The main pool could be filled with drawn water (not qualified for use in ritual immersion), and when needed, the pipe between the otter and the main pool was unplugged, allowing the qualified, living water from the otter to come into contact with the water in the main pool, rendering it fit for immersions."(p. 43)

The distinctive nature of mikveh structures causes them to be regarded as archaeological markers of Jewish communities at classical and medieval sites. A mikveh dating from around 1150 has been uncovered by archaeologists in Bristol, England (Aldous, p. 27), and another in Cologne, Germany dates from around 1170 (http://www.thetravelzine.com/ejht3.htm).

Jewish privies

We know that the Jewish scriptures (Deuteronomy 23:12-13), requires men in military camp to have a separate latrine and to bury their excrement:

"You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down* outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.

* also translated "squat
Information from anti-Semitic stories and saint's lives (such as the story of St. Hugh of Lincoln recounted by Matthew Paris) as well as archaeological research suggests that Jewish families and communities had privies and/or cesspools.

Various sources suggest that the approved wiping method among Jews in period was scraping with a rock, and there are Jewish scriptural commentaries discussing what size of rocks are acceptable to carry for this purpose on the Sabbath, so it may be that people carried personal wiping rocks with them.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
(I couldn't make these things up.)
J.W. Thomas, in Germanic Notes and Reviews vol 23, no 2, Fall 1992, p. 72-74.

... in Gottfried's Tristan. The dauntless hero, who... had recently slain the fierce dragon with sword and spear, sits helpless in a bathtub, desperately attempting to reason with the angry and distraught Isolde while she waves his own sword above him and tries to get up courage to behead him...

Other instances from romances the author cites are:
  • The royal couple divinely commanded never to have sex, but instead to keep a tub of water by the bed and jump into it whenever overwhelmed by attraction
  • The embarrassed young heroes in Wolfram's Parzival and The Pleier's Tandareis und Floribel refusing to leave the bathtub until the noble female attendants have left the room
  • Heinrich von Kempten by Konrad von Wuerzburg, where the hero saves Emperor Otto's life, leaping naked from his bath, siezing his sword and fighting off the assailants who have ambushed Otto so he may escape.-- and then returning to his bath.
  • Der nackte Kaiser by Herrand von Wildonie, where an unjust emperor has his clothes and retinue stolen by an impersonating angel while he is visiting the bathhouse
  • in Meleranz, where a 12 year old queen 'arranges to be bathing in splendid canopied tub under a linden tree' and have her attendants run when the 12 year old Meleranz comes by so she can press him into service as a bath attendant...*

* Hm... does that count as improperly discussing teen sexuality? You gotta wonder.
bunnyjadwiga: (wunnerful)
This time, from William Vaughan (1557-1641), Naturall and Artificial Directions for Health (original publication 1600):
Is bathing of the head wholesome?
You shall find it wonderful expedient if you bathe your head four times in the year, and that with hot lye made of ashes. After which you must cause one presently to pour two or three gallons of cold fountain water upon your head. Then let your head be dried with cold towels. Which sudden pouring down of cold water, although it doth mightily terrify you, yet nevertheless it is very good, for thereby the natural heat is stirred within the body, baldness is kept back, and the memory is quickened.

That extreme and cold rinse would definitely be necessary after washing the head with lye, though it would probably kill off any lice, nits, etc. that might be lurking there and probably bleach the hair as well.

Muir also quotes The Widdows Treasure, 1595:
The head anointed with the juice of leeks preserveth the hair from falling. A mouse roasted and given to children to eat remedieth pissing the bed.
bunnyjadwiga: (humph)
Muir points out this scandalous poem by Robert Herrick (1591–1674):

Upon Julia['s] Washing Herself in the River
How fierce was I, when I did see
My Julia wash her self in thee!
So Lillies thorough Christall look:
So purest pebbles in the brook:
As in the River Julia did,
Halfe with a Lawne of water hid,
Into thy streames my self I threw,
And strugling there, I kist thee too;
And more had done (it is confest)
Had not thy waves forbad the rest.

More bathing poems:
Corinna Bathes by George Chapman(1559?–1634)

"Lover, Being Wounded at the Bathe, Sues Unto His Lady For Pitie"
Whetstone, George (1544?–1587)
I bathing late, in bathes of sovereigne ease,
Not in those bathes where beauties blisse doth flowe,
But even at Bathe, which many a guest doth please;
But loe mishap! those waves hath wrought my woe.
There love I sawe her seemely selfe to lave,
Whose sightly shape so sore my heart did heate,
That soone I shund those streames my selfe to save;
But scorching sighes so set mee in a sweate,
That loe! I pine to please my peevish will,
And yet I freese with frostes of chilling feare.
bunnyjadwiga: (Disapproval)
Frank Muir's An Irreverent and Almost Complete History of the Bathroom contains 2 quotations from Andrew Boorde (1490-1549) which seem to contradict each other:

When you do rise in the morning, rise with mirth, and remember God. Let your hose be brushed within and without, and flavour the inside of them against the fire: use linen socks or linen hose next to your legs. When you be out of your bed, stretch forth your legs and your arms, and your body; cough and spit, and then go to your stool to make your egestion; and exonerate yourself at all times that nature would expel. After you have evacuated your body and trussed your points, comb your head oft, and so do diverse times in the day. And wash your hands and wrists, your face and eyes, and your teeth, with cold water.
-- Dyetary

So here he directs the reader to wash the face at least once a day (in addition to evacuating the body on a regular basis, coughing and spitting.

But another quote, allegedly by the same author though not in the same text, suggests otherwise:

To clere, to cleanse, and to mundifie* the face use stufes+ and bathes, and euery mornyne after keymyng of the head, wype the face with a Skarlet** cloth, and wash not the face oft, but ones a weke anoynt the face a lytle ouer with the oyle of Costine, and use to eat Electuary de aromatibus, or the confection of Anacardine, or the syrupe of Fumitery, or confection of Manna . . .
-- Breuyary of Health

* mundify: "To cleanse, purify (a thing)"; also Med. "To rid (a wound, etc.) of pus or other matter." OED.
+ Stufe: "A hot-air bath: = STOVE" OED
** Skarlet or scarlet would be a type of wool, I believe, not just scarlet cloth.

Which might seem to imply that the face was only to be washed once a week, but given that the reader is directed to use hot-air baths (sweats) and regular baths, perhaps the idea is less to discourage the washing of the face than to suggest that continually washing of the face, as school health teachers in vain tell teenagers, is not as helpful as it is believed to be. Certainly, there are few references to washing with a cloth. Is the cloth in this case wet or dry? we are not told.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
By Rebecca the Contrary...
Also, here's the document (in Microsoft Word) that she sent me a link to.

She's collected a really large number of the soap recipes I've run across into a single document, which is helpful. As she says, be sure to give her credit if you use her work.

I have some doubts about the Pliny reference (soporific usually means 'causing sleep') but the rest seems pretty solid.


bunnyjadwiga: (Default)

August 2017

13141516 171819


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 04:19 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios