Plague Doctor

plague doctor

A beak doctor costume was an ankle length overcoat and bird beak mask worn by a plague doctor to protect him from airborne diseases. The overcoat, as well as leggings, gloves, boots, and a hat, was made of waxed leather. Straps held the beak in front of the doctor’s nose. The mask had glass openings for the eyes and a curved beak. It had two small nose holes and was a type of respirator against airborne germs. The beak held dried flowers, herbs, spices, camphor or a vinegar sponge. The robe was impregnated with similar fragrant items. Doctors believed the herbs would counter the ‘evil’ smells of the plague and prevent them from becoming infected.

Plague doctors wore wide brimmed leather hoods to indicate their profession. They used wooden canes to point out areas needing attention and to examine the patients without touching them. The canes were also used to keep people away and to remove clothing from plague victims without touching them or to take patients’ pulses.

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