PlagueThe Black Death in the Middle ages has left behind a few legacies.

Quarantine is derived from the Italian word “quaranti”, meaning “forty”. This came about after Venice decided to fight against the contamination of plague by requiring trading ships to wait a period of forty days before being allowed into the port. This was longer than the time taken by the disease to develop. But they could not prevent the  plague-flea ridden rats that swam ashore and spread the infection.

The Pope passed a law requiring people to say “God bless you” to someone who sneezed. This was because cold and sneezing were symptoms of the plague, and plague was believed to be the result of God’s wrath descending on mankind. By saying ” God bless you”, God’s wrath was though to be evaded.

The nursery rhyme Ring-a-ring o’ roses or Ring around the roses is known to have originated at the time of this plague outbreak.  Ring-a-ring o’ roses describes the circular red spots seen on the skin of the patients.

A pocket full of posies.  At this time it was customary to carry sweet smelling flowers and herbs thought to have medicinal properties in gentlemen’s pockets to dampen the unsavory smells all around and possibly prevent contamination.

A-tishoo, a-tishoo, or, Ashes, ashes.  “A-tishoo” refers to the sneezing usually seen in the patients in the last stage of the disease. “Ashes” may be in reference to cremation of the dead bodies.

All fall down.  This describes the death all around due to the terrible pestilence.

Another custom that came to be prevalent from this time was the depth at which dead bodies were buried. In order to prevent contamination, bodies were buried at six feet under the surface, and this has since become the norm.