I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

Take Your Medicine 3

When the jars and bowl were finished, I transferred the salve I purchased from Jas. Townsend & Sons, an old friend and purveyor of eighteenth-century merchandise. It was composed of wheat, honey, bees wax, and lavender oil (all accurate for my period even if it does not duplicate any known recipes of the time). Townsend adds, “And it’s guaranteed not to contain lead, mercury, or arsenic as did so many of the original salves.” Sin e the jar it came in was an eighteenth-century style, I gave to my wife, who is a lover of fine ceramics.

Then I designed a new box large enough to contain them. I did not make the ends sloping like so many boxes of the time had, simply for reasons of space. I have grown accustomed to pegging all my boxes, but for this one—I figured that a physician would have the money for metal—I used cut nails to hold it together (cut nails resembled forged nails, but they are much more affordable; Tremont Nails are great to work with and offer several appropriate styles!). I briefly considered studding it with a huge bunch of nails, à la the Oseberg chest, but decided not to do so. The chest was made of poplar, a hard wood that is far lighter than oak. No provenance; that was just for convenience in carrying it.

After sanding the poplar, I stained it a dark color. Though I do not distress items I make—everything is new once, and I like the patina that age and use gives an item!—this resulted in what both I and others have seen as a distressed product. Still looks good.

Afterwards, I needed hinges, of course, and then it occurred to me: the ingredients of the chest are valuable and would have been protected by a lock. Turning again to Daegrad, I bought a pair of hinges and a lock. The hinges are applied. And I’ll apply the lock as soon as I can regularly unlock it!

There are still a few things that I need to acquire before next season. One, of course, is crosswort. I have an empty jar reading to receive some of it. I’ll bring halms of various types as they became available, but they will not be parts of the regular kit. And I intend to make a mereswine whip.

And there is the rub. Mereswine is Old English for porpoise. Finding porpoise skin is, to say, the least, difficult and possibly illegal. Mereswine whips were used for flogging the madness out of patients, so I had to have one. Using the style of whip owned by the Museum of London ), I made a prototype reproduction that looks a lot like the original. Consulting with a local leather expert, we decided that lambskin would be the best readily available, legal alternative; and I will be making another whip just to be certain of construction details and then makng my own faux-mereswine whip!

A local organic food store had a sale, but unfortunately they did not have rue, lily berries, crosswort and other ingredients I needed. I got ingredients for some more jars:

• Salve (from Jas. Townsend, already mentioned)

• Wormwood (actually a brewing supply)

• Honey

• wheat

• fennel

• berries (dried blueberries because they did not have ivy, and these look good…and can be eaten on the line as well)

• Hempseeds (in addition to the more recognizable plastic)

• willow leaves

I’m looking forward to trotting it all out next season and healing a few MoPs!

For copies of translations of Bald’s Leechbook and other leechbooks of the period, see the three volumes of Thomas Oswald Cockayne’s Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England: Volume One , Volume Two  and Volume Three.

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