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Where Thieves really came from (All Things Thieves #1)

all things thieves Mar 02, 2020

You’ve probably seen pictures of the guy on the right before. I wasn’t sure what this “costume” was, even though I’ve seen pics of people dressed like this whenever I see something related to the Bubonic Plague. Turns out, this is the outfit commonly worn by doctors during that era.

Here’s why…

  1. The mask protected them from infection- in the same way that our doctors and nurses often wear paper masks today.
  2. The long beak was filled with spices, herbs, and essential oils- each of which filtered the doctor’s breathing.
  3. The flowing robes covered the body (no danger of skin-to-skin contact with an infected patient) while providing more fabric to lace with the same spices, herbs, and oils which filled the face mask.
  4. Some carried incense which diffused… get this… essential oils.

Notice, even though these characters look like something from a horror film, they were trying to help. They were friends- not foes. And they created a legit force field around them for wherever they went.

Yeah, they did a LOT of stupid things in the Middle Ages. For sure.


Maybe they got SOME of this right, right?

Now let’s talk about that orange…

Pharmacologia (1825) tells the story of priest who used to walk freely among the dead and dying without fear of contracting any illness. The man made a makeshift essential oil diffuser by gutting an orange…

“It was the constant caution of Cardinal Wolsey to carry in his hand an orange, deprived of its contents, and filled with a sponge which had been soaked in vinegar impregnated with various spices, in order to preserve himself from infection, when passing through crowds which his splendorous office attracted.”

Rumor has it that Cardinal Wolsey could travel anywhere he wanted to, freely walking among people who were dying, administering last rites to them as he did.

Laugh at the hollow orange dangling from his neck all you want. Apparently, he never got sick. Ever.

You can attribute his health to Providence or the fruit, whichever. However, one factor suggests it might be the latter was much as the former.

In Nature’s Medicines, Richard Lucas reports that other priests followed suit. Turns out, those who did were OK. They were able to administer last rites and walk freely among the dead or dying, too. Those who refused, weren’t. They ended up needing the last rites administered on them.

And then there’s the story of the thieves…

Jean Valnet, a noted French Aromatherapist (1920-1995), writes about the Bubonic Plague in his ground-breaking book The Practice of Aromatherapy. He quotes extensively from the archives of Toulouse, referring to a band of robbers who were able to move regularly among dead- or even sick- people. They stole from the defenseless and marginalized patients freely, apparently without ever fearing for their personal health. Caught between 1628 and 1631, the local magistrates marveled at their health.

How was this group of bandits able to go where others couldn’t go- except for the doctors and priests- without getting sick?

Valnet says the men were asked that question when placed on trial.

They were promised, “Tell us, and we’ll act with leniency.”

History says the men revealed their secret sauce, explained that they placed drops of the mix on their feet, their wrists, and the back of their necks. In the end, they were beheaded anyway.

Remember this was medieval France. Beheadings were common. The French beheaded deposed monarchs, suspected witches, and guys who robbed valuables from dead- or dying- people.

Anyway, the recipe the thieves revealed to the court remarkably resembles the same mixture which the doctors stuffed in their beaks and swiped across their robes, and that blend highly resembles the sponge-packed oranges carried by the clergy. In other words, we’re not sure where the the secret sauce started. But we know it works wonders.

In many areas, modern science is far more advanced than the most. So, we’re grateful for it.

But, in some ways, our science is beginning to “catch up” with some of the things we once thought were ridiculous.

In this talk we discuss the doctors, the priests, and the bandits. And we talk about the legend- and truth- behind Thieves.


This talk comes from the video series “All Things Thieves,” available at 

The book is available on Amazon or our website: 


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