Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sidrak and Bokkus

Sidrak and Bokkus is an encyclopaedia in a question and answer format. One of the questions is How can a man get leprosy? In a wonderful example of just how much most medieval writers were afraid of the opposite sex the answer is, of course, from a woman. The text then quite tactfully and poetically explains that if a man finds her flowers (a rather pretty way of saying Aunt Flo is in town!) and still has sex with her then he will “be missel” (be a leper). Also any child born of this union will be a leper as well! The text explains this in plainer terms ending with the warning that it is folly to deal with women when the menstrum is around! This is an interesting concoction of medieval medicine and moral scare-mongering. Medieval medicine did give this as one cause of leprosy but in Sidrak and Bokkus it is presented as THE cause of leprosy. What seems more likely than the author actually believing this is that the medieval fears of things they do not understand rose to the surface and the author thought great I can scare my audience into a more moral existence with the fear of leprosy!

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