When talking about some strange looking costumes or outfits in history, one cannot forget about the plague doctors going back to the 17th century. The black outfits with the bird mask and long beak just give you a dark feeling and probably because they were dealing with death on a daily basis. Seeing the image makes you immediately think of something that isn’t pleasant. For some people, the image of the plague doctor is enough to make them squirm, but for others, the plague doctor is a really cool and unique image.
With all the tattooing happening in modern times, it isn’t a surprise that people get the plague doctor tattooed on their body. If you are like many people, you are probably wondering what it means or why someone would get that tattoo on their body. In addition, most of us couldn’t see the image of a plague doctor and know what it was in addition to understanding the origins it.
In this post we are going to talk about the origins of the plague doctor and what their role in history was. We will also talk about the plague doctor tattoo meaning and what it symbolizes for the people that choose to get this tattoo inked on their body. By the end of reading this you should have a far better understanding of what the plague doctors did and why they looked the way they did.
Plague Doctor Tattoo Meaning
The meaning of the plague doctor tattoo is a one of death and darkness for most people. These masks were worn by the Italian doctors back in 1348. Their masks had the long beaks on them because they were filled with herbs, spices and dried flowers to combat the fictitious idea that you could catch the plague through the air.
The black color of the mask and outfit is a symbol of darkness and terror as the Black Death, which is what they called the sickness, was killing people in huge numbers and making people feel hopeless.
In general, fans of darkness and horror are the ones you might see with this tattoo. It is a representation of the death but some people just get this tattoo because it looks unique and cool and we would have to agree with them.
Plague Doctor Tattoo Variations
These tattoos don’t vary a great deal as the plague doctor has a very specific look. However, we do see people using different tattoo styles to either soften the view or make it more terrifying. For example, a new school tattoo of the plague doctor somewhat disarms the viewer so there isn’t such a negative connotation to it. New school can make things look “cute”. However, those that are shooting for a darker feel might go with a realistic style or a trash polka style tattoo for the plague doctor.
But if we are talking different looks for the tattoo, we usually see a full body tattoo of the plague doctor or a tattoo of the mask itself. This is because the mask with a beak is the most recognizable parts of the plague doctor so it’s no surprise that people choose to only get the mask as the tattoo. The only other part of this costume that people might recognize is the hat that the doctors would sometimes wear to protect from contagion.
About the Plague Doctor
A plague doctor was a doctor that would treat the bubonic plague in people that were suffering this ailment. These physicians were hired specifically by towns and cities during times of epidemics. These doctors treated the wealthy and they treated the poor and they were able to do so because the city was paying their salary. On the other hand, some of the plague doctors were known to extort families and make them pay additional fees for their services. In most cases, the doctors that were being of service weren’t experienced or professionally trained. The majority of the physicians who worked with plague victims were doctors that weren’t as good as others and weren’t able to run their own business, or they were young physicians trying to establish themselves and gain experience in the field. These doctors were never able to cure the patients they worked with, but they were more counters of victims than anything else.
Plague doctors were hired by the town and they worked only in treating patients suffering from the plague. They were known as “community plague doctors.” At the same time, general practitioners were in the same city but practiced general medicine. Both might be in the same city at the same time but stayed in their own areas of expertise. In the Netherlands and France, the plague doctors that worked had no training medically and were known as “empirics.” In one well-known case, one of the plague doctors was selling fruit before he was brought in to help.
In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many of the plague doctors wore the beaked mask that has become synonymous with the plague doctor image. The masks were used to protect them against air born pathogens and putrid air. The stuffed herbs, flowers and spices in the beak for the doctor.
Their costume was a special and they were created by Charles de L’Orme in 1620. These outfits were used in Naples originally but spread throughout Europe later on. The suit was made to be protective and the overcoat was waxed and light. The mask the doctors wore had a nose shaped like a beak and glass eye openings. The also were known to carry a cane to help with the examinations of the victims without having to touch them.
No matter how you look at it or your opinion of the plague doctor, image of them is pretty odd looking. However, it is also a very unique subject to tattoo so if you want your own plague doctor tattoo, make sure to research the artists you would like to work with and if you need help, let us at Tattoo SEO know about it.