a desirable ailment

Medieval bloodletting has been written about before at the gimcrack, but there’s always more to come…..

“For the physician of the Middle Ages, bleeding became his “take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Extant text detail the hazards of  ‘withholding blood’ and men, children and the elderly were profusely bled. Menstruating women were often spared the procedure as nature already provided them with a monthly detox. Bleeding haemorrhoids became an ailment to be desired.

Diagnosis was also influenced by astrology. Medical charts informed physicians what not to do for people born under a certain star sign.

Aries: Avoid incisions in the head and face and cut no vein in the head.

Taurus: Avoid incisions in the neck and throat and cut no veins there.

Gemini: Avoid incisions in the shoulders, arms or hands and cut no vein.

Cancer: Avoid incisions in the breasts, sides, stomach and lungs and cut no vein that goes to the spleen.

Leo: Avoid incisions of the nerves, lesions of the sides and bones, and do not cut the back either by opening and bleeding.

Virgo: Avoid opening a wound in the belly and in the internal parts.

Libra: Avoid opening wounds in the umbellicus and parts of the belly and do not open a vein in the back or do cupping.

Scorpio: Avoid cutting the testicles and anus.

Sagittarius: Avoid incisions in the thighs and fingers and do not cut blemishes and growths.

Capricorn: Avoid cutting the knees or the veins and sinews in these places.

Aquarius: Avoid cutting the knees or the veins and veins in these places.

Pisces: Avoid cutting the feet.

We’ve also discussed the popularity of the enema, known as a clyster, especially when administered by a limonadier des posterieur. In fact there was a time when I thought I was writing about them far too often, as you may remember if you ever read this post.

Administering an enema was considered a high art

“The limonadier, as a skilled tactician, was to be gentle and discreet and not take the place by storm, but like a trained sharp-shooter, is prepared for action and fires as soon as he catches sight of the enemy.”

The clyster was a like a daily vitamin pill, facial and high fibre breakfast. Nobility and royalty typically took three or four a day. Through advertisements and word of mouth, clysters acquired the reputation of increasing sexual potency and curing impotence.

Costing more, sexual enemas were known as “restaurants“. After receiving a restaurant, elderly women were said to turn skittish; men of all ages, fiery. They were indulged in regularly by the French cardinal Richelieu. When Richelieu married for the third time at age 85, he announced that if the marriage with his young bride  produced no children, it would not be his fault since he still took sexual clysters, as he did until his death at 92.

When Louis Xlll of France was ill, Richelieu supervised the doctoring; within a period of 6 months, the ailing king was subjected to 47 bleedings, 215 oral purgatives and 312 clysters – two enemas every day except holidays

Published in: on December 15, 2009 at 8:44 am  Comments (37)  
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37 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I can admit to a feeling of pleasure at letting blood on the odd occasion. Sadly the pleasure of my breakfast cooking has been somewhat tainted after reading this splendid line: ” Bleeding haemorrhoids became an ailment to be desired.”

    Fried kidneys anyone… I seem to have lost my appetite.

    Wonderful stuff..

  2. Were I to go to the doctor in the Middle Ages, I think I would tell him I’m an Aries/Taurus/Scorpio cusp.

  3. If I were king, I would make everyday a holiday.

  4. As a Scorpio I can whole heartedly endorse the recommendations given to physicians …..

  5. great post, but i got hung up on the first photo. i need a man willing to rescue me from attacking turtles. This is what my life lacks… (sigh)

    • Mine too daisyfae

      • mine too, thank heavens. I was intrigued by the article lead above the one about “chewed to bits by giant turtles,” namely and to wit “Masculine inadequancies drive woment nuts!” This immediately brought to mind Kurt Vonnegut’s play “Happy Birthday Wanda June!” which was performed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks when I was in school. I was the properties mistress for this (and other) productions there. My favorite lines from that play are “Why don’t you go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut?” and “No woman is a fan of premature ejaculation.”

  6. My, my, they certainly know their signs. Don’t you ever touch a Piscean’s feet 😦

    • Why b/c they smell so bad you will fall over?

  7. I would like to cue up with those in line for honorary Scorpio status.

    Next summer, when it gets good and hot, I am going to set up a roadside Limonadier Stand. Can’t beat adding a little easy money to the bottem line.

    Forego the holiday enema and Arbor Day surely loses its luster.

    Dutch Elmer

  8. you know what they say “love thy enema”

  9. I’m still wondering about the sexual enemas. Now we pay a lot of money for them, but they’re called “colonic irrigations.”

    Umm… except from the ones from Nurse Jill. Those ones cost $250 an hour, and come with a spanking.

  10. Boy, looks like being a Scorpio back in those days was like winning the lottery…

  11. Hahaha..brilliant!
    Reminds me of how the Physicians adorned in their overcoats encrusted with rat feces were baffled by the spread of the plague…great article in the Onion.

    The Man’s Life cover is to die for! I have a collection of those absurdities..manly gun wielding outdoorsmen being attacked by Otters, Hares and such. Luvit!

    Nowadays most gentlemen are only treated to oral purgatives on their birthdays and anniversaries.

  12. What movie is it where Anthony Hopkins plays a doctor evaluating a patient and calls to the nurse, “I need eight gallons of plain yogurt!”

    The patient replies, “I could never eat eight gallons.”

    “Oh, it’s not going in that end.”

    • Was it Elephant Man? 😉

    • That would sure take care of laggard intestinal flora.

      • The Road to Wellville.

      • Thanks RF

  13. I’m not a Scorpio, so I guess I’ll just avoid going to a Middle Age physician.

    • avoid middle aged ones too. just to be on the safe side.

  14. I don’t care what sign you are, I agree with the advice that was stated over and over again in the prescriptions: “cut no vein”. I try to avoid physicians no matter what their age. Staying healthy is a good way to do this. I do go for screenings, however, and confound their little souls all the time.

    Personally, I am a fan of Hippocrates’ general prescription for nearly every illness that came his way: Get lots of rest and sunshine. Eat good fresh food, especially seasonal fruits. Get massage.

    • Eat more fruit – that’s my motto too

  15. Oh, and I was so taken up by all the astrological commentaries that I forgot my original reaction to the last paragraph of this post. No wonder the poor king was sick! He probably wasn’t getting a chance to digest any of the food he was eating with so many enemas, the bacteriological ecosystem in his gut was probably toast, and he was probably seriously anemic due to loss of blood.

    What was that oath? “First, do no harm. . .”

  16. I mean, nowadays someone might accuse Richelieu of conspiring to commit a premeditated murder.

  17. Don’t get me started about bleeding hemorrhoids. Note to self: try not to attempt to pick up your own bodyweight in rocks any more.”

    • I am so alarmed by medical bastards that I can’t even muster normal vital signs around them. So I have to avoid them extra.

  18. I guess a facial is a high fibre vitamin pill in some ways…

    Funny post, poor old Scorpio.

    The King

    ps Every day is a holiday people!

    • So why do I have to wait until June for mine?

      • Err, I guess you mean the holiday!

        There do have to be some ‘vital workers’ in the kingdom you know. Guess you’re just too skilled…

        The King

  19. Don’t cut Aquarians on the knees? Usually the body part associated with Aquarius people are ankles.

  20. Once again, I’m glad to be a Taurus.

  21. Ares here! Not cutting to my beautiful face.

  22. At least you mentioned no leeches. Eeek! I said leeches!

  23. ‘Scorpio: Avoid cutting the testicles and anus.’

    So thats not just good advice for anyone, just scorpios… well, you learn new things everyday don’t you.

  24. I love it, avoid incisions for your health.

  25. The last paragraph is highly doubtful (I know; just a little bit too obviously so.) Richelieu was a cardinal, so did not marry; he’s not even known to have had mistresses, suspiciously enough – and he died at 57. Hum, hum.

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