Medieval and ancient thoughts/stories have always intrigued me. Some might say that people back then were just stupid, but you can’t remove a person from their time and we have to take into consideration what was known in the world when that person was alive. That said, there is some fascinating stuff out there and I’m constantly eager to learn more!
Yesterday, a skull was unearthed in Venice, Italy that shows evidence of exorcism against vampires in the 16th century. Vampires are one of many examples of reasons developed to explain the spread of the plague. Plague history is interesting and if you haven’t already I suggest reading the Decameron (ca ~1370) by Giovanni Boccaccio, as I think it beautifully reflects the mindset of people who lived during the Black Death–FYI 75% of the population in Florence, Italy were killed by the Black Death in 1348 and 30-60% of all people in Europe died as a result of that plague. Horiffic!
Here’s an excerpt from yesterday’s article on MSNBC, Italy dig unearths female ‘vampire’ in Venice:
Medieval texts show the belief in vampires was fueled by the disturbing appearance of decomposing bodies, Borrini told The Associated Press by telephone.
During epidemics, mass graves were often reopened to bury fresh corpses and diggers would chance upon older bodies that were bloated, with blood seeping out of their mouth and with an inexplicable hole in the shroud used to cover their face.
“These characteristics are all tied to the decomposition of bodies,” Borrini said. “But they saw a fat, dead person, full of blood and with a hole in the shroud, so they would say: ‘This guy is alive, he’s drinking blood and eating his shroud.'”
Modern forensic science shows the bloating is caused by a buildup of gases, while fluid seeping from the mouth is pushed up by decomposing organs, Borrini said. The shroud would have been consumed by bacteria found in the mouth area, he said.
At the time however, what passed for scientific texts taught that “shroud-eaters” were vampires who fed on the cloth and cast a spell that would spread the plague in order to increase their ranks.