The Black Death

In the book Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns,Charles R. Swindoll writes about the Black Death and the superstitions that resulted from it.

“Someone came up with the foolish idea that polluted air
brought on the plague. So, people began to carry flower petals
in their pockets, superstitiously thinking the fragrance would
ward off the disease. Groups of victims, if they were able to
walk, were taken outside the hospitals.

Holding hands, they walked in circles around rose gardens,
breathing in deeply the aroma of the blooming plants. In some
cases, the patient couldn’t get out of bed, so the attending
physicians filled their pockets with bright-colored petals
from English posy plants. While visiting the patient they walked
around the bed sprinkling the posy petals on and around the

As death came closer, another superstitious act was employed
with sincerity. Many felt if the lungs could be freed from
pollution, life could be sustained. So, ashes were placed in
a spoon and brought up near the nose, causing a hefty sneeze
or two. But neither flowers nor sneezes retarded the raging
death rate. Not until the real cause was discovered, the bite
of fleas from diseased rats, was the plague brought in check.

The awful experience gave birth to a little song which innocent
children still sing at play. It was first heard from the lips of
a soiled, old man pushing a cart in London, picking up bodies
along an alley:

Ring around the roses,
A pocket full of posies;
Ashes, ashes, We all fall down.”

~Submitted by Maria Pupillo, Broadview Heights, OH


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