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p-hygiene-msg - 6/26/04


Period bathing, hygiene, teeth brushing, menstrual care.


NOTE: See also the files: p-dental-care-msg, bathing-msg, p-privies-msg, perfumes-msg, cosmetics-msg, soap-msg, soapmaking-msg, shaving-msg, Roman-hygiene-msg, Mouthwash-art, Handcream-art.





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



From: jliedl at nickel.laurentian.ca

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: The old bathing saw...

Date: 7 Oct 93 14:51:51 -0500

Organization: Laurentian University


Greetings from Ancarett Nankivellis!

Some recent posts have resurrected that old myth, that people didn't

bathe in the Middle Ages.  FYI:


"Clean, smooth, brilliant skin was the result of repeated baths and

much diligent care. . . .  By the late Middle Ages monastic moralists

had ceased to warn about the dangers of bathing.  Bathing and steaming

were so widespread at all levels of society that it no longer seemed

appropriate to question the practice of washing the body frequently

from head to toe.  . . . the Dominican Felix Faber enthusiastically

approved of bodily cleanliness and stressed the importance of regular

changes of body linen.  In the minds of many people frequent washing

may have assumed the same spiritual value as frequent confession."

- - -

Georges Duby & Philippe Braunstein, "The Emergence of the Individual"

in _A History of Private Life_ Volume II:  _Revelations of the Medieval

World_ ed. Georges Duby, Cambridge & London:  Belknap Press, 1988



While I will concede that washing went out of fashion in the sixteenth

century, considered by some fashionables as a medical threat, and was

somewhat replaced by perfuming, don't confuse, as many do, the decline

of _public_ baths with a decline in _washing_.  Many cited passages

of medieval moralizing against bathing was aimed at stopping the use

of public baths, some of which were mixed-gender affairs, and the social

use of the bath.


Ancarett Nankivellis

Janice Liedl

Laurentian University, Canada




From: fnklshtn at axp2.acf.nyu.edu

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Thought Experiment

Date: 15 Oct 1993 04:09:17 GMT

Organization: New York University, NY, NY


>Let me say another one: Dysetary (From not washing your hands after visiting

>the privy)  Handwashing is a modern custom that has a MAJOR impact on the >spread of disease.


Lies! Dirty Lies!

Read "The Knight of the Cart" by Chretien de Troyes (12th century):

Lancelot was welcomed into the house they were getting ready for dinner but,

as soon as they *washed their hands* some knight came who wanted to fight

with Lancelot...

Long fight...

Lancelot comes back, they help him out of his armour, everyone *washes their

hands* again and they sit to dinner.






From: jliedl at nickel.laurentian.ca

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: why not bathe?

Date: 1 Nov 93 09:54:31 -0500

Organization: Laurentian University


Greetings on All Saints' Day from Ancarett Nankivellis!


Some recent speculations have been posted on the idea that

bathing fell out of favour in late period.


Some have argued to the contrary, citing woodcuts of bathers

as evidence to the contrary.


Well, historians of custom and manner don't contend that nobody

bathed in the Renaissance, but that it simply fell out of

favour.  Medical reasons argued that water was a dangerous

agent for immersion--the fear was that its penetrative power

would carry disease everywhere.  Thus, the fashion arose of

personal dry cleaning.  Dirt was wiped off and perfumed away,

rather than washing.  Underwear (body linen) was changed

frequently, and anyone who appeared with soiled cuffs and

collars was suspect.  People still "bathed" but only infrequently

(consider Queen Elizabeth I's famous boast on the matter)--

when thoroughly dirty or for leisure and relaxation.


Please remember that above comments apply chiefly to the

aspiring artisan, merchant and gentle classes who would hear

and be interested in "current medical wisdom". I make no

claims about bathing practices and beliefs amongst the

"great unwashed"!  (Tee hee, I couldn't resist the pun!)


(Note:  many of the bathing woodcuts served the same purpose

in period as do our "girlie" magazines today--visual titillation

and entertainment.  By 1500, public bathing was a byword for



Bathing did not make a comeback as a regular part of hygiene

until about 1740.  But people were cautioned to not look at

their body while bathing--heaven knows what that might lead to!


Ancarett Nankivellis

Janice Liedl

Laurentian University, Canada




Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: tbarnes at silver.ucs.indiana.edu (thomas wrentmore barnes)

Subject: Re: why not bathe?

Organization: Indiana University

Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1993 16:30:57 GMT


mittle at watson.ibm.com (Arval d'Espas Nord) writes:

>Does anyone know more precisely when bathing fell out of fashion in western

>Europe?  As a matter of pure speculation: Did it happen in the wake of the

>Black Plague?  


        Greetings from Lothar,


        As far as I know the Plagues of 1348-52, 1356, etc. didn't have

much effect on bathing either way. The physicians of the time were in

disagreement about what caused the plague and advocated many remedies.

Popular theories were that the disease was spread by the "bad air" of

cities, swamps, and moist places, bad water, or divine retribution.


        Guy de Chuliac and the other Paris physicians promulgated a

remedy against the plague that consisted of mostly dietary restrictions,

and instructions about how to sleep and excercise.

        The pope at Avignon spent the plague sitting between 2 fires -

presumably to "purify" the "bad humors" in the air.

        Other people reacted to the plague, by praying, flagellating

themselves in penance, or attacking Jews and "outsiders" who were

suspected of either starting the disease, or spreading it.


        People in the 14th c. DID bath. There are illuminations of 14th

c. people in bath tubs (usually in connection with an Authurian romance

or the story of David and Bathsheba, admittedly, but there are also some

contemporary literary references to bathing.) I suspect that, at least

for the nobility, in clement weather, that 14th c. people bathed about

as often as modern Europeans - e.g. every 2-3 days, or more often if the

weather or activity demanded it. I don't have any proof for this though.


        So, the summary is that I don't think that the plague influenced

people's bathing habits one way or another.


        I have heard that bathing declined for several reasons in the

15th to 18th century:


        a) increasingly limited fuel for fires due to deforestation.

        b) effects of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.

        c) custom and fashion.

        d) changes in medical practice.


        Lothar \|/




Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: dillon at world.std.com (John T Dillon)

Subject: Bathing, period sources of documentation

Organization: The World Public Access UNIX, Brookline, MA

Date: Sat, 30 Oct 1993 21:33:31 GMT


Contrary to the belief that bathing was not common in the 15th and 16th

centuries, I offer up the following woodcuts and paintings as documentation

that it did indeed occur.




The History of Sex


Reay Tannahill

Steinn and Day



  Fifteenth Century bath house, from a French manuscript of

  Valerius Maxinus.  Staedtisches Bibliothek, Leipzig.


Multiple  two person baths seperated by curtains with a table of food

placed in front of each tub.



  "The baths at [?] Leuk,"  by Hans Bock the Elder 1597

  Kunstmuseum Basel, Inv.8.7


A large rock sided pool with submerged seats with about 14 people (half

men half women) seated or standing in waist deep water. Food is placed

on a table in the middle of a pool.  Two couples are flirting/fondling

while the others are eating, playing musical instruments or reading.



Period woodcuts of various armies,


Quite often you will see a stream/pond being used for bathing, mixed

sexes, especially for Landsknecht armies encampments.


There are also a large number of period laws regarding bath houses/brothels.

If the activity was not going on, why put a law into affect concerning it.


I know I have more woodcuts in my reference collection, I will post them

as I find them.


John McGuire



From: shick at europa.eng.gtefsd.com (Steve Hick)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bathing, period sources of documentation

Date: 31 Oct 1993 13:30:56 GMT

Organization: GTE GSC FSD


dillon at world.std.com (John T Dillon) wrote:

> Contrary to the belief that bathing was not common in the 15th and 16th

> centuries, I offer up the following woodcuts and paintings as documentation

> that it did indeed occur.

There is a complete section of 'swimming' as well as other sports (fencing,

wrestling, flag twirling, vaulting,horsemanship, etc..) from the 15th c to

the 18th c in Bascetta's Sport e giuochi


Bascetta, Carlo ; Sport e giuochi : trattati e scritti dal XV al XVIII

secolo a cura di Carlo Bascetta; Milano : Il Polifilo, 1978


Among the treasures in these books is part of Vadi's ca 1492 fencing manual

(MS) which is comparable to Flos Duellatorum, all of a MS version of Pietro

Monte's La Lotta from De dignoscendis hominibus (published 1492) and

portions of the flag waving of Alfieri from his La picca e la bandiera  (



I didn't record the info on the swimming or vaulting (or other stuff)

'cause that's outside my primary area of research.




From: djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu (Dorothy J Heydt)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Rags

Date: 17 Nov 1993 22:46:59 GMT

Organization: University of California, Berkeley


Chandra L. Morgan-Henley <ck290 at cleveland.Freenet.Edu> wrote:

>Would fabric scraps have been used in period for "feminine



Not only in period, but up into the beginning of this century.  There's

a passage in (I think) Simone de Beauvoir about a young woman washing

out her menstrual rags and hanging them up (in the bathroom? someplace)

to dry, and her father coming in and raising hell because the sight

of them offended his sensibilities.  There *are* things to be said

for modern times, when such matters can be discussed on the Internet

and there's at least a good chance that its male readers will say

"Gee, I didn't know that" rather than "yuck".


I would use only linen and ... waitaminnit, let me make it clear.

If I were still of reproductive age and still living in the late

twentieth century, I would use the materials that come from the

drugstore.  Like Petrog, I believe in authenticity up to the point

beyond which lie public health problems.  But if I _had_ to use rags

for such a purpose, I'd pick out the linen and cotton ones, which

are absorbent, rather than the synthetic ones, which are less so.


Dorothea of Caer-Myrddin          Dorothy J. Heydt

Mists/Mists/West                          UC Berkeley

Argent, a cross forme'e sable           djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu



From: djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu (Dorothy J Heydt)

To: Mark S. Harris

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Rags

Date: 3 Dec 1993

Organization: University of California, Berkeley


Yes, linen is the most absorbent, with cotton running a close second;

other vegetable fibers trailing; I'm not sure how absorbent animal

fibers like silk or wool would be.  Yes, silk would be more expensive,

but you understand we're talking about _rags_.  Even so, I don't think I would want woollen pads in that part of my anatomy.




From: dnb105 at psu.edu (Ferret)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: The Top 10 Anti-Vampire Plans for Pennsic (was Re: Vampires)

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 08:46:17 GMT

Organization: Penn State University


Dottie <macdj at delphi.com> writes:

>Ok, ya'll are picking on the vampires but really

>how do you feel about ELF EARS!???  THEY drive me CRAZY at Pennsic!

>Lets get rid of the elf ears too!

>*I can handle anything (well almost) execpet Elf ears*


What bugs me is people who wear clothes in the water. In Rubens' (1577-

1640) "The Bathers" the aquarian participants are nude. Any further

documentaion on this subject?

-Frettchen von Rheinpfalz-



From: gfrose at cotton (Terry Nutter)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Questions about Medival Underclothes

Date: 16 Jul 1996 13:34:26 GMT


Greetings, all, from Katerine Rountre.


:       This is totally un-documented but I have heard or was under the

: assumption (don't really know which) that when a lady was experiencing

: "THE CURSE" she isolated herself in her chambers or confined herself

: within her domicile until said curse had been lifted.


Were this true, there would be a huge record of it.  As one single

example, the rules of all the cloistered orders of women would need

allowance for every woman to be so isolated a full quarter of the time,

arrangements for getting food to her since she would not be siting

at board, arrangements for others to carry on her work (especially

in the cases of, for instance, the abbess, the cellaress, and so on);

and on and on.


Does anyone really believe that Elizabeth the First vanished for

one week out of four, and nobodya mentioned it?




Look at a modern sanitary pad.  Make it one of (say) four layers of

linen with the center padded with lint, so that it is both absorbent

and washable (and reusable).  Make it a little longer, and a little

wider at the ends.  Add strings to the four quarters.  Put it between

your legs, and tie the strings around your hips.


This solution took me a minute flat to come up with.  Do people

honestly believe that what I can think of in a minute flat,

medieval women couldn't come up with in _literally_ a thousand



Does anyone _really_ believe that a modern sanitary napkin is so

very different from a historic bandage that it provides the

unthinkable key to this construction?


Does anyone out there still believe that menstruation was a problem

that medieval women could not overcome without drastically altering

either their normal clothing or their normal lifestyle?




-- Katerine/Terry



From: Lissa & Eric McCollum <ericmc at alliance.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Questions about Medival Underclothes

Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 17:20:08 -0400

Organization: Alliance Network, Inc. (GRR MI) (616-774-3010)


Gary J. Wolverton wrote:

>         This is totally un-documented but I have heard or was under the

> assumption (don't really know which) that when a lady was experiencing

> "THE CURSE" she isolated herself in her chambers or confined herself

> within her domicile until said curse had been lifted.


I don't know one way or another, but that doesn't really make sense. I

mean, that is a great way to get a week off every month, but what if

that wasn't possible? Field workers, women on pilgrimage and the like.

I can't imagine that every woman in our time frame spent a week each month

lying on absorbant sheets somewhere. They had too much to do.


>         As far as underwear -per-se- (this tidbit is semi-documented, I just

> don't remember which book of mine it's in) some gentlefolk, both men

> and women, wore a loincloth of sorts that I am assuming was of the

> wrap and tuck variety. Unless of course you happened to be higher up

> in the food chain and had available a pin or brooch of sorts. I'll try

> and find the documentation and post it if this thread is still around

> when I find it.


I was leafing through the book "A History of Private Life", and came across

a wood cut from 1574. (p. 586) It shows the 'master of the baths', dressed in what looks suspiciously like bikini bottoms, tied on the side. (I know they're

not speedos, but still...) I can't tell for sure, but I think the woman seated

behind him is wearing something similar. Now, this is a bathing situation, and

not specifically underwear, but I would guess that something like this could

have been used.


Gwendolen Wold



From: sclark at chass.utoronto.ca (Susan Carroll-Clark)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Questions about Medival Underclothes

Date: 18 Jul 1996 17:31:02 -0400

Organization: University of Toronto -- EPAS




> Has anyone else found references to anything remotely like this?


I've looked at bishops' visitation records to monasteries and nunneries,

as well as confessors' handbooks and basic theology manuals, and it's

never come up.  The two references to menstruating women in the text

I'm editing involve whether they can take the Eucharist (yes, but if

they wish to abstain, this is regarded as good) and whether it's OK

to seek the "marital debt" when one's wife is menstruating (no).


I'll check my sources for more detail.



Nicolaa de Bracton

sclark at chass.utoronto.ca



From: moondrgn at bga.com (Chris and Elisabeth Zakes)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Questions about Medival Underclothes

Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 04:47:52 GMT

Organization: Real/Time Communications Internet customer posting


Kim Pollard <kim at inna.net> wrote:

>On 16 Jul 1996, Terry Nutter wrote:

>> Greetings, all, from Katerine Rountre.


>> Someone whose name I have lost writes:


>> :    This is totally un-documented but I have heard or was under the

>> : assumption (don't really know which) that when a lady was experiencing

>> : "THE CURSE" she isolated herself in her chambers or confined herself

>> : within her domicile until said curse had been lifted.


(massive snippage)


>I would think evidence of this should be located in church documents.  The

>church, after all, set the rules for so much of the peasant class's

>conduct that something as common as "the curse" <- also possibly a church

>term?) would surely be mentioned in at least one text involving the

>conduct of women.  Does anyone out there know where one might find church

>documents that could be researched (in the US)?  Has anyone else found

>references to anything remotely like this?


Philip Stubbes writes in "The Anatomy of Abuses" in 1583:


"King Pirrus sent rich attire to the matrons of Rome, who abhorred

them as menstruous clouts." "Clout" is a variation on "cloth", as in

"breechclout" or "dishclout". Therefore, presumably such things were

being used, at least in England, by 1583.


        -Tivar Moondragon

C and E Zakes

Tivar Moondragon (Patience and Persistence)

and Aethelyan of Moondragon (Decadence is its own reward)

moondrgn at bga.com



Date: Fri, 23 May 1997 14:18:55 -0400 (EDT)

From: Rooscc at aol.com

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: underthings thread


Don't forget that cloth can be used in ways that don't

count as *clothing*--i.e., constructed garments.

A menstrual clout would be one example, but it may

well be that women bound their breasts for certain

activities or to accommodate certain fashions.


References to the monthly use of rags--which were

washed and reused--appear in modern literature up

until very recently, but I have not found a medieval

reference per se. I have found curious mention of

the use of herbs as a "bed" for women--this is in

Albert for example--in a context that makes me

suspect that the Latin term should not be taken

literally (that is, not the "bed" a person sleeps on). The

herbs in question would not be absorbent but may

indicate a deodorant or hygiene consideration. [My Latin

just isn't strong enough to figure some of this out.]


I also wonder if references to the "weakness" of women

refers to menstrual cycles specifically. I read a polemic

about women as university teachers which rested solely

on this weakness, while admitting full competency in

the subject matter to a particular woman scholar. A good

bet for finding more on this would be rules for convents,

but I don't know of any right off.





Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 10:44:47 -0400 (EDT)

From: Rooscc at aol.com

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: re: woman's wear


Gerard in the late sixteenth discusses the use of herbs

as vaginal suppositories and in describing how to make the thing makes

statements like "as every woman knows."

This implies the use of tampons, probably for menstrual

flow, but possibly as a form of douche or birth control.






Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 18:39:11 -0400 (EDT)

From: Rooscc at aol.com

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: woman's wear & Gerard


I didn't mean to imply that the herbs *were* the tampon,

but that the reference seemed to imply than tampons

were known.


On my 34th try (how many plants are in that book?), I

found an example under Willow herb:


"The same taken in a mother suppository of wooll or

cotton, bound up with threads (as the manner thereof

is well known to women) stayeth the inordinate

flux or overmuch flowing of women's terms."


Gerard is giving a medical use, but doesn't the

parenthetical clause sound like he is referring to

a common practice?






Date: Fri, 30 May 1997 13:34:35 GMT

From: "Kirsten Garner  at  Archaeology" <KGARNER at hsy1.ssc.ed.ac.uk>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Period underthings...


Seems like this is my source day!


I've come across a book and I was wondering if anyone knew anything

about it.


Rowland, B, 1981. Medieval Woman's Guide to Health. (MS Sloane 2463)

Croom Helm, London.


Has anyone heard anything about this book? I thought it sounded

possibly relevant to the discussion about "women's problems" and

suchlike.  I've not been able to get a copy directly from the library

here and was just wondering if it would be worth ordering on ILL.





Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 22:38:51 -0400 (EDT)

From: Rooscc at aol.com

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: more woman's wear & Gerard


Lady Carllein wrote:

>>Am wondering if what they are describing is a tampon

as we understand it, or something more like our sanitary



Could be, but he calls it a suppository. Under Gumm

Succory he gives another description for a definitely

inserted item, but doesn't make the same sort of reference

to common practice: "and put into a linnen cloath and a

pessarie made thereof like a finger and put up, bringeth

down the terms in young Wenches and such like."


The index has nearly 150 references to herbs used

to provoke or stay menses (called women's flowers

or terms) and I don't have the time just now to check

them all. One reason there are so many is that herbs

which affect fluids were assumed to also affect menses,

that includes expectorants, diuretics, etc. Sorting out

specifics is a little more medical than I usually work.


I have been curious about the number of food plants

included for provoking terms--I don't know if this was

just the fluid association or whether there was a

real phenomenon at work. Menses would halt in cases

of malnutrition--a tonic that upped the nutritional

intake would restore the cycle. Many of Gerard's

prescriptions are inherited--not a contemporary concern.

(For example all the cures for scorpion bites: how

many 16th century Englishmen suffered that?) Could

this concern with restoring menses be an indication

that medieval women were more in danger of malnutrition

than men? Early skeletal remains have indicated a

significiant size difference in the genders.


Another possibility is that it is related to abortion,

and some of the plants are noted for uterine reactions,

but not mustard greens, radishes, etc.


I haven't explored this area--sometimes ignorance is






From: Glenda Robinson <glendar at antispam.compassnet.com.au>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: shaving

Date: Tue, 19 Aug 1997 15:38:29 +1000

Organization: Flamberge Computer Services


Mark Cote wrote:

> When did it become "the right thing to do",

> culturally, for European women to start shaving?

Althoughs shaving is relatively new, depilating is rather older. The

Romans depilated regularly. I'm not sure if they just used the plucking

method or a wax or similar as well. The hairless bodies helped the

oil-and-strigil cleaning method used. Imagine trying to scrape the oil

off the hairy parts of the body with a strigil. Ouch.





Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: shaving

From: jongleur at netcon.net.au (Martin Hungerford)

Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 07:58:54 +1000


Ghazallah <ghazallah at aol.com> wrote:

> I have heard that shaving was a way for ...err... women of purchasable

> virtues... to keep lice-free and to prove it to customers.  I was told this

> started in the 1800s in the french island-colonies, along with those

> horrible wide leather belt things which are so prevalent (and so wrong) in

> our Society.

> Ghazallah al-Badriyyah


um... there is a reference to shaving the genital region of men and

women from the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The source is the memoirs of

Usamah (sp?) I found it in Gabrielli's "Arab Chroniclers of the



Martin o' Lyos



From: paximus at aol.com (PAXIMUS)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: shaving

Date: 20 Aug 1997 00:35:43 GMT


Deloris Booker wrote:

>But I remember reading somewhere that Turkish women shaved all their

pubic hair off, and then dyed the area with henna to amuse their



I don't know about the Henna part but the shaving is very true for Turkish

women of the Harems. There is a fantastic book called "Harems" (cant

remember the author right now) that gives recipes for the process of

removing the hair.


In the book the main reason given is cleanliness and that having an

unshaven body is just dirty and socially unacceptable.


By the way the author of whose name I will find, also wrote a book called"

Taking the waters" about the history of Bathing also a great book.


Don Giulio d'Medici

G.M. Cavalieri Dell"Ordine de Santo Stefano



Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2000 19:14:15 -0700 (PDT)

From: Karen <tyrca at yahoo.com>

Subject: SC - Clean Vikings -- OT


Good Gentles,


Previously on Cooks list . . . (was it only yesterday? I've

gotten 4 digests since then!!)


I commented to someone that the "dirty viking" image was not

specifically correct because of their love of steam baths and



His Grace gently asked why I believed such a notion, as he knew

of no mention of "steam lodges" in the sagas, and I found myself

in a quandry (as I often do when making idle comments in his

presence).  After spending several hours on the internet looking

at web pages and sources, I did what any frustrated Dane would

do, I sent a frantic e-mail to the Viking Answer Lady, Mistress

Gunnora, from here in Ansteorra.  For those slightly interested,

I have included her reply as :



Start with my article on Viking Grooming



There are certainly terms for bath-house and steam-bathing in

Old Norse. The usual term is "baking" in the bath-house, which

strongly implies sauna-like conditions. Iceland has bath-houses

using volcanic hot springs that have been in continuous use

since the Settlement. Now where is this documented? *sigh* Take

a look at the article I referenced above and let me know if this

gives you the proper ammo. I recall that I had a tough time

finding specific references to the bath-house when I wrote it to

start with... ::GUNNORA::



And from the article found at the URL listed above:



Although the popular image of the people of the Viking Age is

one of wild-haired, dirty savages, this is a false perception.

In reality, the Vikings took care with their personal grooming,

bathing, and hairstyling.

Perhaps the most telling comment comes from the pen of English

cleric John of Wallingford, prior of St. Fridswides, who

complained bitterly that the Viking Age men of the Danelaw

combed their hair, took a bath on Saturday, and changed their

woolen garments frequently, and that they performed these

un-Christian and heathen acts in an attempt to seduce high-born

English women (1):

   It is reported in the chronicle attributed to John of

   Wallingford that the Danes, thanks to their habit of combing

   their hair every day, of bathing every Saturday and regularly


   changing their clothes, were able to undermine the virtue of

   married women and even seduce the daughters of nobles to be

   their mistresses (2).



(1)Gwyn Jones. A History of the Vikings. Oxford: Oxford

University Press. 1968. p. 177.

(2) Ian Riddler. Two Late Saxon Combs from the Longmarket



Canterbury's Archaeology 1989/1990, The 14th Annual Report of

Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd. Accessed 5/15/99.


And since I have no other salient obligatory food comment, other

than the fact that at a Viking Feast, one would certainly be

assured of hand-washing on the part of the kitchen staff, as

would a feast from the Noble Arabs.





Lady Tyrca Ivarsdottir

AoA, OPN, ASTA, oleander

Canton of Lindenwood

(all sorts of places in and around Ft. Worth & Dallas, TX)

Kingdom of Ansteorra



Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 04:24:09 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Clean Vikings -- OT


>Iceland has bath-houses

>using volcanic hot springs that have been in continuous use

>since the Settlement. Now where is this documented? *sigh*


Huh? Is the lady saying that we have bath-houses that have been in

continuous use since the Settlement? If so, I'd dearly love directions to

find one of them. If she means that the hot springs have been used for

bathing since the Settlement, well, some of them were used then, and are

used now, but I'm not too sure about the continuous use. For washing and

sometimes cooking, yes. For bathing - well ...


She also says, in the article referred to:

>In Iceland where natural hot springs are common, the naturally heated

>water was incorporated into the bath-house.


This could easily be understood as if most farms had a bath-house heated

with water from hot springs. I'm not saying there weren't any but offhand, I

can't recall any such bath-house mentioned in the Sagas. Sure, a house was

probably built around Snorralaug in Reykholt and a few other hot springs but

that was not the norm. There was a bath-house (or bathroom, probably a sauna

of sorts) at most farms but it was usually heated by firewood. Later, when

wood became scarce, the bathroom was the only heated room in the farmhouse

and people began sleeping there. Later still, almost all fuel (mostly peat

and dung, at that point) had to be used for cooking and people stopped

bathing, more or less - but the "bathroom" kept its name (bašstofa). For

centuries, the main sleeping/living/dining/working room of the Icelandic

farm went by the name of bathroom. My mother was born in a "bašstofa" in



Yes, the old Icelanders probably bathed a lot, as did the Vikings (saturday

is still called "laugardagur" (bath day) in Icelandic). And they probably

used natural hot springs when available. But relatively few Icelandic farms

have a hot spring of suitable temperature close by the farmhouse, so these

naturally heated bath-houses couldn't have been that common, really.





Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 07:29:24 +0200

From: UlfR <parlei at algonet.se>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Questions about cleanliness and food safety

        at Viking     Era event

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org


Sharon Gordon <gordonse at one.net> wrote 2003.09.11:

> The question has arisen, for Real Viking I and other events where we

> wish to be highly authentic, what steps can one take to assure proper

> hygiene (especially in the kitchen) with period materials and  

> techniques?


Quote a bit.


* I assume you have ample access to basins (e.g. cut up

   barrels or purpose made equivalents work fine).


* The key is warm/hot water and soap, and some sort of scrubbing tool

   for things that need them, none of which is beyond viking age

   technology (I *think* soap was available, but don't quote me on that).

   You can get detergent type effects from some plants, but I have no idea

   if this is even remotely documentable.


* Making scrubbing brushes from thin birch twigs. A bit like the

   traditional birch whisks, but cut down. Works quite well. For pot

   scrubber use Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail,

   http://linnaeus.nrm.se/flora/orm/equiseta/equis/equihye.html), which

   works _very_ well.


> Obviously, a soap can be made from fat and ashes, and if you have greasy

>    dishes, you don't need extra fat.   Can this be documented in the

> Viking Age?


Don't use pure lye, make soap and use that. While it is true that soap

is made from fat and lye, which was traditionally obtained from ashes,

the devil is in the details (in extreme brief you need to mix the proper

proportions of fat and lye, heat them and allow to stand for several

weeks). Too much lye and it will hurt your skin.


Remember that lye is nasty (e.g. if someone gets it in their eyes), so

be carefull when using it.


> Is there a period hand-lotion to use after this

> harsh-on-the-skin substance?  Sand gets suggested as well.


Period (to the viking age) as in documentable, or as in "quite

possible"? For the latter try using suitable fats (sheeps tallow,

lanolin, etc), beeswax, etc as the base for a cream.




UlfR Ketilson                             ulfr at hunter-gatherer.org



Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2003 21:00:29 -0500

From: Cynthia Virtue <cvirtue at thibault.org>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Female underwear in the 12th century


Of course, the TRH stuff is 300 years later than the lady's inquiry.


Some think that nothing was worn, even for menstruation, that the

shift/chemise took care of it.  This site which discusses it, may be of

interest:  http://www.mum.org/whatwore.htm


Cynthia Virtue and/or

Cynthia du PrŽ Argent



Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 19:56:33 -0500

From: Cynthia Virtue <cvirtue at thibault.org>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: A source! Re: Female underwear in the 12th century


I finally had time to look in several of my more reliable books; texts

in translation, from a medieval women's health book to some clothing

books and so on.  The health book described some amazing and fearful

things, from pessaries to tampons for medicine delivery (usually in the

case of too little or too much blood, (but not for absorbing menstrual

flow.)  Most books, even about the lives of women in particular, say

little on underwear and nothing on what to do with *normal* monthly

"purgations" or "flowers" (their terms).


However, I did find the following about underclothes.


_Women's Lives in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook_ edited by Emille Amt.


"66. The Ancrene Riwle (13th c.)"  (A guide for Ancoresses.) on p. 260

A woman may well enough wear drawers of haircloth very well tied, with

the strapples <footnote: coverings for the lower leg, made of bands

wrapped around the leg> reaching down to her feet, laced tightly.


Now, since it specifies haircloth, wearing drawers may just be another

way of self-abasement, as they wouldn't be comfortable.  Then again,

maybe they were normal, if they weren't made of haircloth.  No way to

tell; but it's all I've found so far.


Cynthia Virtue and/or

Cynthia du PrŽ Argent


<the end>

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