19 Totally Crazy Things People Believed in Medieval Times

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We’ve come a long way, folks.

Sure, there are still some things that we as a society get wrong, but it could be way, way worse.

At least we’re not still stuck in the Middle Ages.

Things were pretty darn crazy back then. Like, really crazy. Don’t believe me? Then read on, friend.

Feeling sick? Better get the mercury.

Mercury was often used as a treatment for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. People would apply it directly to their infected body parts or directly inhale mercury vapor. What could go wrong? As it turns out, a lot could go wrong because mercury is highly toxic.

They also ate mummies!

Yes, you read that correctly. People would find mummies, then grind them up and consume the powder (often called “mummia”) as a cure-all for many different ailments. Oddly enough, it didn’t really work.

Beware the number 13.

Superstitions surrounding the number 13 really took off during Medieval times. The aversion most likely had its roots in the fact that there were 13 people present at the Last Supper (Jesus plus his 12 Apostles).

Gesundheit!

Back in the day, people believed that sneezing was a sign of your soul literally trying to escape your body. That’s why it became customary to bless someone after a sneeze. For this next fact, you’ll have to forget everything you know about child labor laws…

Fashion show!

In Germany, people who lived during the Middle Ages thought that shirts made by girls under the age of 7 would bring good luck. Similarly, a shirt made by a 5-year-old girl and worn to court would ensure the judge would rule in your favor.

The idea that babies can feel pain is a relatively recent one.

During the Middle Ages, many people believed that babies had no ability to feel pain. As a result, surgeries were sometimes performed on infants without the use of any anesthesia.

I do believe in spooks!

People living during the Medieval centuries had a healthy fear of the supernatural. It was thought that if you heard bells, the sound signaled that a ghostly huntsman was coming for you. Your best bet was to lie down on the ground and hope he’d pass you over.

That’s not quite how it works…

They also believed that a man’s sperm cells contained a fully-formed human inside them. It was just the woman’s job to act as an incubator and grow the tiny person to full size. Not quite, guys.

Typo? Blame it on the devil.

Back when monks had to copy everything over by hand, a spelling mistake was a huge deal. It’s not like they could hit the backspace key. Instead, they invented a patron demon of scribes known as Titivillus. Any time they came across a mistake, they would blame it on him instead of the monk. Speaking of the devil, have you ever heard of the Devil’s Bible?…

This is the Codex Gigas (AKA, the Devil’s Bible):

via Getty

During the Middle Ages, it was considered to be a wonder of the world. It was written during the early 13th century. Legend has it that the book was written in a single night by a monk who had broken his vows and was sentenced to be walled up while still alive. In order to spare himself, he promised to create a book in one night that would glorify the monastery forever. In the middle of the night, he realized he would fail the task, and so made a deal with the devil. In exchange for his soul, the devil would complete the work for him.

Talk about extra virgin olive oil.

Back in the Middle Ages, people often enlisted virgins to plant their olive trees for them. Apparently, a tree planted by a virgin grew better than one planted by someone who wasn’t “pure.”

Speaking of non-virgins…

It was also thought that a woman’s orgasm was a necessary part of the process that led to human conception. There are certainly worse things to think, right? (We’ve covered several of them in this very article!)

Tell me a story.

Another unusual medical procedure was the practice of telling stories in addition to applying bandages and salves. It was thought that certain stories being told aloud would interact with the medications in order to cure the patient. Once again, this didn’t work.

Not fans of Brussels sprouts.

People during Medieval times believed that Brussels sprouts were cursed. Some people would cut the vegetables into cross shapes in order to counteract the curse. (Personally, I’d just choose not to eat them at all, but that’s just me.) Have you ever wondered where worms come from? People from the Middle Ages had an interesting theory…  

Makes sense. (Kinda.)

People thought that worms — along with insects and mice — could spontaneously grow from dirt and trash. It almost makes sense because those kinds of creatures do tend to gather around dirty areas. But alas. They were incorrect.

Pet…penises?!

Many people believed that witches kept male genitalia locked up in their homes as pets. There’s not really much to say about this other than: Wow.

Pee was also all the rage.

Specifically as yet another medical treatment. People used urine as an antiseptic. Henry VIII’s surgeon actually believed that every single battle wound should be rinsed out with it.

As if hemorrhoids weren’t bad enough.

If you were unlucky enough to get hemorrhoids during Medieval times, some doctors would “treat” you by sticking a red-hot poker…exactly where you’re thinking it’d go. Pretty sure I’d rather be peed on!

Magnets! How do they work?

People who lived during the Middle Ages thought magnetism was “occult.” Imagine their surprise to learn that we use magnets in pretty much everything nowadays. Share this list with your favorite history buff!