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prostitution-msg - 3/28/08


Medieval prostitution.


NOTE: See also the files: prostitution-lnks, aphrodisiacs-msg, birth-control-msg, p-sex-msg, p-hygiene-msg, bathing-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 10:30:00 -0500

From: Larry_Peterka at AirNSun.blkcat.com (Larry Peterka)

Subject: Re: Campfollowers (was Female Knights)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca


Paula Peterka, posting from her husband's account, who can't figure out how to

quote previous sentences!  The discussion was on if/why campfollower =

prostitute, and whether prostitutes were allowed in the baggage train.


Speaking for the Landsknecht mercenaries, the Artiklesbriefe, which laid out

the rules under which the army operated, usually stipulated that no man might

have more than one woman in the baggage train, unless she was a daughter or a

sister.  This was suposed to keep the women from fighting over the men.  Women

who were found prostituting themselves (especially with someone else's man),

generally had their hair cut off, were beaten by the other women, and run out

of camp.


Part of the reason most people think "prostitute" when they hear "campfollower"

is because the descriptions of an army were usually written by the civillians

who watched it pass through their town: commandeering their local stores for

food supplies, billeting themselves in the townspeoples' homes, conscripting

some of the local youths for soldiers, etc.  These civillians generally

referred to all the soldiers and their women in the most uncomplimentary terms.

:)  This, combined with the fact that some armies acttually were followed by

prostitutes explains the correlation in some poeple's minds.  The fact that one

of the period slang terms for campfollower in german is "hure", which today

translates to "whore", but didn't actually mean prostitute then, doesn't help.


In service to the Empire, Fur Bier und Guilder!


-Anjabeth Blode, Weib des Hauptmanns des TeufelsAlpdrucken Fahnlein

mka Paula Peterka, Crazy Lady in charge of all those Germans!



From: jacquetta at aol.com (Jacquetta)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Mediveal Prostitution: looking for sources

Date: 4 Apr 1996 19:30:11 -0500


I ran across a mention in a history of women's clothing book (years and

children have dimmed the memory here on the name) but, it did mention a

sumptuary law regarding prostitues in England approx 1100'ish being

required to wear "hoods of ray" to distinguish them from honest women of

the town...



Lynn Shaftic-Averill



From: dnb105 at psu.edu (Ferret)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Mediveal Prostitution: looking for sources

Date: Fri, 5 Apr 1996 18:46:08 GMT

Organization: Penn State University


In article <4k1pij$skm at newsbf02.news.aol.com> jacquetta at aol.com (Jacquetta) writes:

>From: jacquetta at aol.com (Jacquetta)

>Subject: Re: Mediveal Prostitution: looking for sources

>Date: 4 Apr 1996 19:30:11 -0500


>I ran across a mention in a history of women's clothing book (years and

>children have dimmed the memory here on the name) but, it did mention a

>sumptuary law regarding prostitues in England approx 1100'ish being

>required to wear "hoods of ray" to distinguish them from honest women of

>the town...


I don't recall the source but, English prostitutes were supposed to wear

sleeves of green ergo: Henry VIII's song "greensleeves" was about a

prostitute. Perhaps we could have a Green Maunche award. :-)





From: "Thomas R. Ayles" <amklingen at lcc.memphis.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Mediveal Prostitution: looking for sources

Date: 5 Apr 1996 05:49:15 GMT

Organization: The University of Memphis


c7ux at unb.ca (KENNEDY  TONY MATTHEW) wrote:

>      If any one knows of some primary or secondary sources which deal

>with prostitution during the middle-ages please contact me, as I doing a

>reseach project for my Hist 3001: The Cruades East meets West, course any

>references are greatly appreciated.    Bye!


   There is a book on the subject I read for a class some years ago.  It


  Medieval Prostitution, by Jacques Rossiaud

    pub.  Basil Blackwell Inc

          432 Park Avenue South, Suite 1503

          New York, New York 10016

            ISBN 0-631-15141-9


  It was an interesting book, with many quotes from original sources.  No

bibliography, but tons of footnotes giving sources, and translations of

documents in the appendix, such as Charles the king of France authorizing

the opening of a brothel in the city of Castelneuf d'Arry in 1445, in

order that the disorderly behavior of public women and their customers

may be confined to a discreet area of the town.  

  Hope this helps.




From: kellogg at rohan.sdsu.edu (kellogg)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Mediveal Prostitution: looking for sources

Date: 8 Apr 1996 21:27:36 GMT

Organization: San Diego State University Computing Services


KENNEDY  TONY MATTHEW (c7ux at unb.ca) wrote:

:      If any one knows of some primary or secondary sources which deal

: with prostitution during the middle-ages please conttact me, as I doing a

: reseach project for my Hist 3001: The Cruades East meets West, course any

: references are greatly appreciated.    Bye!


        There is a web page entitled "Sexual Relations in Renaissance

Europe" at <URL: http://www.tcd.net/~garn/sex.html>; with some information

on prostitution.  The Mediev-L list archive currently has a long thread on

medieval prostitution.  Look at <URL: http://www.urz.uni-heidelberg.de/subject/



               Avenel Kellough



From: hotair50 at teleport.com

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Mediveal Prostitution: looking for sources

Date: 11 Apr 1996 21:40:13 GMT


bsibly at chch.planet.org.nz (Belinda Sibly) wrote:


>>     If any one knows of some primary or secondary sources which deal

>>with prostitution during the middle-ages please conttact me, as I doing a

>>reseach project for my Hist 3001: The Cruades East meets West, course any

>>references are greatly appreciated.    Bye!


There is an excellent book for you to consider in your studies.


Name of book:  A Small Sound of the Trumpet (Women in Medieval Life)


Author: Margaret Wade Labarge


ISBN #o-8070-5627-8


I has chapters on:

Women who tuled: Queens

Women who ruled: Noble ladies

Women who Prayed: Nuns & Beguines

Women who Prayed: recluses and Mystics

Women who Toiled: Townswomen and Peasants

Women as Healers and Nurses

Women on the Fringe (this is about the Prostitutes)


Good luck in your studies.

HLS Persephonie

An Tir



From: s.krossa at aberdeen.ac.uk (Sharon Krossa)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Mediveal Prostitution: looking for sources

Date: Mon, 15 Apr 1996 09:30:10 +0000


[My apologies if this is rather a late contribution to this thread: I've

been away from my net connection for many weeks except periodic visits just

long enough to download but not to post replies!]


bsibly at chch.planet.org.nz (Belinda Sibly) wrote:

(quoting someone else whose name got lost):

>>     If any one knows of some primary or secondary sources which deal

>>with prostitution during the middle-ages please conttact me, as I doing a

>>reseach project for my Hist 3001: The Cruades East meets West, course any

>>references are greatly appreciated.    Bye!


Something tells me you dont' want to get quite this primary... but periodic

references to prositutes are made in the Aberdeen (Scotland) Council

Register, a manuscript source, and I think there are aslo a few extracted

and published in "Extracts from the Council Register of the Burgh of

Aberdeen" in the Spalding Club series. I expect the records for other

burghs have similar things. The published Ancient Laws of the Burghs of

Scotland (or something very like that title) probably aslo have a reference

or two. Mainly what I recall is that the houses of these women (I do wish i

could recall what they called them) had to be located on the outskirts of

town due to fire risk.


Unfortunately, I can't face the prospect of reading it all again to find

the exact references for you!


Sharon Krossa, whose thesis deadline is looming


skrossa at svpal.org (permanent) -or- s.krossa at aberdeen.ac.uk (until June 1996)



From: dickeney at access1.digex.net (Dick Eney)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period STDs?

Date: 31 May 1996 20:36:19 -0400

Organization: Express Access Online Communications, Greenbelt, MD USA


>     Greetings from Yaakov:

>     Giovana writes:


>     >If we all practise safe debauchery, that and some VERY period STD's

>     >will never be an issue.


>     STDs are "very" period?  I thought they came on the scene post 1492.  

>     (I'll sidestep the argument over whether syphillis is an import to

>     Europe or evolved from yaws and just coincidentally came on the scene

>     at the same time.)


But syphilis isn't the only STD, after all.  There were problems with STDs

-- type not known to me -- in classical Rome.  (They blamed it on the

Carthaginians.  They would...)  I believe it was under Henry I of England

that the Bishop of Winchester laid down those rules for brothel-keeping

which included: "No stewholder to keep a woman that hath the perilous

infirmity of burning..."  That has been interpreted as gonorrhea, one

symptom of which is burning pain on urination.  (The current diagnostic

sign, Gram negative diplococci intra- and extra-cellularly -- forgive this

barbarous locution, gentles, but that is actually the form of words used

in reporting that the characteristic discharge shows the very unusual

paired bacteria ["diplococci"] which don't take Gram's stain -- was not

possible before the invention of microscopy.)


(I happen to _like_ long parenthetical remarks.  So what?)


|---------Master Vuong Manh, C.P., Storvik, Atlantia---------|

|----------------(dickeney at access.digex.net)-----------------|



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Wenching Guild's

From: una at bregeuf.stonemarche.org (Honour Horne-Jaruk)

Date: Fri, 02 May 97 22:31:45 EDT


"M.Berg" <tor at mail.netshop.net> writes:

> Wonderous well everyone. I am head of the wenching Guild in our incipient

> Shire, but alas there is not much information about as to the rules and

> conduct befitting a wench. I have heard of some rules that apply to us

> lovely ladies, but not a lot. Are we a recognized Guild, or not?

> Please if you have any knowledge of how this respectable Guild should be

> run please inform me.

> Until then I remain in service to An Tir

> Josephine Blackthorn


        Kerensa Tregareth, from Alizaunde de Bregeuf's account,

to Josephine Blackthorne,


        There is no longer any such guild chartered in the East

Kingdom.  The reason for this, I am told, is that the ladies were

believed to exist only so that romanticly unacceptable fighters

would have a pool of targets to choose from.  In some cases this

seems to be what they in fact became, milady. I urge that you

take all possible precautions to prevent this perception from


        There was no guild in period named "the wenches guild".

There is, however, a preconcieved belief as to what a wench

and the act of "wenching" were, in period. There are many people

who will believe that the choice of the name " Wenches guild"

is merely truth in advertizing.  There isn't any possibility (in

my belief) that you or your friends want any of the problems

that the "wenches guilds" of A.S. 10 lived through. When I was

active, one of my persona was a part-time prostitute. There

are people who still remember me as a prostitute.  Even more

important, some people automatically assumed that I was also

a prostitute in the mundane world.

        This was not the case; but no matter how much or often

I explained, they remained firmly convinced that only a

prostitute would take such a persona. (Frankly, I wasn't even

trying to act the role; I just loved the clothes.) I still had

to cope with offers, comments, even slander spread within my

real-world community. _That_ resulted in propositions ranging

from rate requests to public maulings.   Please - be prepared

to live with any decisions you make now - for they may follow

you forever.    

                        In concern and the hope to be of service-

                        Kerensa Tregareth


From Alizaunde:

        I would like to add that I don't think you need the name

"Wenches' Guild" to identify commoner women, working in taverns

or other lower-class occupations. Just as one example, people

who lived in a specific neighborhood often joined "religious

societies" which supposedly existed to honor some saint- and

actually served as a combination Vigilance Society and local

Ladies' Aid. They did put on an annual display on their

Patron Saint's day, but that can be fun too.

        Whatever you call it, there are some _very_ important

rules. First and foremost, any woman who actually does seek

fee-for-service has to be rejected instantly and publically.

Second, you _have_ to be prepared to come to each other's

assistance when someone takes the _first_ step over the line.

        If you are planning this as an excuse for some risque'

clowning around, you are in for some nasty shocks. If you

actually want a household for non-noble women who work

_downstairs_ in a tavern, you need a new name.

        By the way- even outright whores in pre-17th century

Western Europe didn't wear bodices cut in scoops under the

breasts. That particular piece of work comes in with the  

back-alley tarts of the 18th century Carribean.      


                                Alizaunde, Demoiselle de Bregeuf

                                Una Wicca (That Pict)

                                (Friend) Honour Horne-Jaruk, R.S.F.



From: james koch <alchem at en.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: hetairos/courtesan question

Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998 03:00:32 -0400

Organization: alchem inc


Apollonia wrote:

> :      I haven't yet found documentation for an actual guild in period

> :and doubt that such a thing ever actually existed, but I have found

> :documentation for less formal associations.  Also, many laws existed to

> :control the trade.  In various times and places practitioners were

> :required to wear distinctive clothing (for instance: a red ribbon on

> :the left sleeve), to restrict their activities to certain neighborhoods,

> :or certain times of the day.  Of course similar restrictions were placed

> :on most medieval trades.


> : Jim Koch (Gladius The Alchemist)

> I recently read that Roman wives could pay a small guild fee, and then

> sleep with anyone without being accused of adultery. Check the book

> 'Roman Women: Their History and Habits,' by J.P.V.D. Balsdon.


This was not actually a "Guild fee".  The women in question were

registering with the Censors who were state officials.  As such they

were being licensed as harlots and could not subsequently be punished

for the crime of adultery.  Of course by so doing they lost certain

rights.  They could no longer expect the state to punish a man they had

accused of rape.  In other words, in exchange for greater freedom they

assumed the responsibility for providing for their own protection.  


Jim Koch (Gladius The Alchemist)



From: paximus at aol.com (PAXIMUS)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: hetairos/courtesan question

Date: 14 Apr 1998 04:08:30 GMT


Well a suggestion for your guild of Courtesans.


In Venice the Prostitutes/Courtesans were legally defined(although sometimes

hazely) into three categorys those being:

Meretrice = Prostitute, they were the lowest of the order


Cortigiana di Luma = Courtesan of the Lamp, they were above the  Meretice in

as much as the Cortigiana usually practiced their trade inside of taverns and



Cortigina onesta = The Honest Courtesan, this is the highest and most

distinguished of the Courtesans.


Both the Meretrice and Cortigiana di Luma were often lumped together because

they both earned their living by selling sexual favors to men


The Honest Courtesan on the other hand often had to fight to get recognition in

the Courts and social circles wherein she lived, very much like any other



Onore et Onere

Don Giulio d'Medici

G.M. Cavalieri Dell'Ordine de Santo Stefano




Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: bq676 at torfree.net (Kristine E. Maitland)

Subject: Re: hetairos/courtesan question

Organization: Toronto Free-Net

Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 15:26:43 GMT


: >"Bryan J. Maloney" <bjm10 at cornell.edu> wrote:

: >>> James,

: >>>

: >>> If you want historical proof of Courtesans, go see the movie, Dangerous

: >>> Beauty. It's set in Venice Italy, and just before the Inquisition in the


Indeed, (as Brian sarcasticly noted) to use a film as historical evidence

is questionable, to say the least.  However, I enjoyed the film -- it was

the impetus to check up on the history of Veronica Franco. For all its

Hollywood nonsense, it DID manage to portray some of the major facts of

Veronica Franco's accurately. And (an element that surprised me) the film

did make the effort show that a courtesan's life could be FAR from



Now, if you really want to know what the lives of courtesans (and

prostitutes) in period were REALLY like I would suggest that you read the



Tullia d'Aragona. _A dialogue on the Infinity of Love_. trans Rinaldina

        Russell & Bruce Merry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1997.

[Here you have a PRIMARY source written by a noted courtesan of 16th c.

Venice.  Deep reading]


John Brackett. "The Florentice Onesta and the COntrol of Prostitution,

        1403-1680". in _Sixteenth Century Journal_, XXIV/2 (1993)


Helen S. Ettlinger. "Visibilis et Invisibilis: The Mistress in Italian

        Renaissance Court Society". in _Renaissance Quarterly,

        vol. XLVII #4 (winter 1994).


Remember to check the bibliographies on the above -- great sources there




Inez Rosanera d'Ealdormere



Subject: Re: ANST - Merkin?

Date: Sat, 18 Apr 98 10:16:36 MST

From: "Cadwynn MacDonald" <mac-tire at nts-online.net>

To: <ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG>


>Pug responded to my:

>>>> >Okay, recently we found out what a merkin is. I'd like to know *why*.

>>>> >Anyone know? Gio? (Since you seemed to know the most about them.)

>>>> That depends.  What do you mean by "why?"  Do you mean "why do we have a

>>>> heraldic term for the female pubic patch?" or just "why is it called that?"




>>>That's odd. The dictionary we checked had it listed as a wig for the

>>>female pubic area.


>And Jerry responds:


>>Webster's Dictionary has that as the original meaning, but "afterwards"

>>merkin is defined as the mop used to clean a cannon.


>Webster's is woefully inadequate to the task of etymological research.  The

>use of *merkin* to describe a pubic wig doesn't appear until the 17th

>century.  The use of merkin to describe the female pudendum appears

>slightly earlier (1535, according to the OED). Heraldically, I believe the

>term post-dates the SCA 1600 cutoff date.


>Now, if Pug was asking why 17th century needed a pubic wig, I have no idea.


>Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace


At the time, body lice (both head and groin types) were very common.

The most accepted and successful 'treatment' available at the time was

SHAVING the afflicted areas. Thus, a woman was identified as 'loose'

or 'wanton' if her groin was shaved, indicating that she had

contracted lice/crabs.  Even if she WAS 'loose' or 'wanton', she

surely didn't want her prospective lover(s) to think so - female

vanity being what it was then.  So, she employed her 'little wig'

below, and her 'big wig' above.


Now before anyone debunks this theory, let us also realize that many

'virgins' also employed a small vial of animal blood to 'mark' the

bridal sheets, thereby 'proving' her virginal entrance into the bridal



Cadwynn MacDonald



Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 05:21:03 -0700From: "Laura C. Minnick" <lcm at efn.org>Subject: Re: SC - Ras' Church lesson for the day True, for Apicius' time- but, I believe that Ras was refering )ingeneral) to the Middle Ages, per se, when the Roman Church DID own andadminister houses of ill repute- including a most infamous one inSouthwark (the Times Square of the MA) in the 14th and 15th centuries.Anything to make a buck.Delightful and fascinating book on the subject:_Medieval Prostitution_ by Jacques Rossiaud (Blackwell, Cambridge Mass.,1995). 'Lainie


Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 19:49:49 +0200

From: Volker Bach <bachv at paganet.de>

To: SCA Cooks List <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] [OT] Professional Technique


Going back to a thread that surfaced a while ago,

I have had the good fortune to visit my local

library today and finally found the book I

mentioned in the context of the professional

abilities of medieval ladies of the night. It is

in chapter 10 of:


Jacques Rossiaud: La Prostituzione nel Medioevo,

Laterza, Rome 1985 (German: Dame Venus, Kempten



I know of no English translation.


At any rate it appears the selection of service at

period establishments was quite limited.





Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2001 22:59:40 +0200

From: Volker Bach <bachv at paganet.de>

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] [OT] Professional Technique


> >At any rate it appears the selection of service at

> >period establishments was quite limited. I can go

> >into detail once Misha's been sent to bed :-)

> >

> >Giano


Anyways, in

short, received opinion appears to have been that

the purpose of an - ahem - establishment of this

nature was to channel the sex drives of young,

unmarried males into acceptable directions rather

than having them seducing (or raping, as seems to

have been lamentably common) the wives and

daughters of older, richer, married men. Therefore

the Powers that Be held that the services on offer

should not be in any way special, so as to not

tempt the married to leave their rightfully wedded

wives to pursue forbidden pleasures of the flesh

elsewhere. Not that such pleasures were unknown

(anyone with a taste for classy pornography can

pursue this interest reading early medieval

penitentials - I always wonder whether these books

reflect actual practice or the ideas monks get

after midnight. Emm, they made me read them in

college, honestly!). We have a court case where a

prospective customer was beaten up and thrown out

of a house of ill repute by its staff for

demanding what the record coily calls 'unnatural

acts'. Thus anyone attempting to recreate such a

persona may rest assured that no particular Skill

seems to have been necessary. Good thing, too, as

I doubt there are laurels to be won for that

particular art or science.


Obligatory food content: I'm sure I could do

something with 'eat' or 'swallow', but I'd rather

not. Oh: Meister Eberjhard states that raw grapes

render people unchaste, so I think we know what

they served for snacks.





From: Sandy Straubhaar <orchzis at hotmail.com>

Date: October 7, 2007 2:34:33 PM CDT

To: bryn-gwlad at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Bryn-gwlad] Norse prostitutes


Jehanne wrote:

> So, what would a Norse prostitute wear? Would any of the research  

> geeks out there know of any laws pertaining to them? Were they  

> marked in any way? Did they have any legal rights? Etc.


I can't think of any references to them at all.


In literary texts I can think of two stories that come kind of close  

to the concept -- maybe.


1. The Icelander Hoskuld Dala-Kolsson in _Laxdla saga_ buying a  

slave girl (who turns out to be a princees of Ireland) from a slave  





2. The "wandering woman" Gefjun who "entertains" king Gylfi of Sweden  

(first paragraph) in Snorri's Edda.  Note -- this one is a long  

shot.  Gefjun is, after all, a goddess.  But some scholars interpret  

this text as meaning that she used sexual favors as currency:




Here's a fountain in Copenhagen commemorating this "event".  Danes  

like it because the island that Copenhagen is on is that piece of  

land that Gefjun and her sons plowed out.





That's it for literature, as far as I can think.


Maybe something on prostitution could be found in early legal texts  

-- though I wouldn't bet money on it.


There's the Icelandic Grgs law book:




There are the Norwegian Gulating & Frostating law codes (referenced  

in the first paragraphs -- I don;t know if the actual texts are online):




Here's a stub Wiki link on the Icelandic Ironside laws, modeled after  

the Norwegian ones above:




Here's the earliest Swedish law book, but it's already way post-Viking:




The Icelandic Jnsbk is from about the same time:




Good luck.  This isn't a topic that comes up a lot.  Check over on  

the Viking Answer Lady -- it's quite possible Gunnvr has thought of  

something I haven't.




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org