Art & Academe question - The Pox

Hi everyone,
I was just wondering how the pox would fit in with the diseases described in A&A. Everyone knows that you get the pox from someone who has it - so how is this related in-game?

  1. It is caused by a demon, during the act of sin, the demon opens a pathway for one of it's brothers to come forth into the new person - thus spreading the disease.

  2. It is caused by god as a punishment for the sin of sex with an unclean person.

  3. It is somehow spread from one person to another - but no-one knows exactly how.

After all, the pox is unpleasant to most Europeans - but lethal to everyone else.

I suspect from your examples that you don't mean greatpox / smallpox (called Variola in A&A), but sexually-transmitted diseases instead.

There are two examples in A&A: Chaudpysse and Phimosis. The first iscaused by contact with menstrual blood, and thus a Contra-Natural. The second is caused by excessive lust, and thus a Non-Natural. However, there is no reason why there shouldn't be a Supernatural explanation instead.

Catching a disease through contagion is not a medieval concept. You say that "everyone knows this", but that's not true in Mythic Europe. There is no germ theory of diseases, so there is no transmission from person to person. Diseases have Natural, Non-Natural, Contra-Natural, or Super-Natural causes.

Now it seems like you are talking about smallpox again. This is pretty lethal to Europeans as well, but at least they have some measure of resistance thanks to centuries of exposure (that's resistance, not immunity). And it's not just Europeans; the people of the Middle East have a long history of smallpox as well, and similar resistance.


Hi Mark,
Yes, I am getting mixed up about pox/smallpox I was meant to be talking about the STD. I can blame that squarely on my SG. I started talking about spreading the pox around town using "ladies of negotiable virtue", I asked him what happens when the disease goes to a critical stage because you can't die from it. He pointed out about the native americans getting wiped out by it. He got them confused, then passed it on to me.

As for the contagious part, I thought that it was known back then that you get the pox by bedding someone who has it. No mention of germs or anything like that, but I thought it was known to spread that way. Ah well, guess I was mistaken.

Not under humoral theory, anyway. It is possible that the unschooled man in the street who bothered to apply any thought to these things would come up with an explanation similar to modern ideas of contagion. But that was not the medical / scientific position, and thereby not true according to the laws of Mythic Europe.

The idea that 'filth begets filth' is still present, in that you have contra-naturals (such as impure blood) causing disease.


The "pox" associated with loose virtue was probably Syphilis.

A Syphilis epidemic, however, would seem to be mildly anachronistic to Mythic Europe. The more aggressive strains of the bacteria being confined to the New World. Hence the disease only really became prevalent (in Europe) after 1492.
I like the song and the link provides some interesting (if anachronistic) information on how the disease was regarded.

Sorry if I've gone off topic.

I'd agree in general, but ask two questions:

If you are a Muslim and have read Ibn Sina, (Avicenna) then given that his work contains references to contagiousness, how doesthat affect you in play? He doesn't use a germ mechanism for infection, but he does have the passage of illness from the sick to the well.

Also, is leprosy not known to be contagious? Certainly later it is thought to be highly so (and, in real life, it isn't). Ministering priests could catch it from their charges, couldn't they?

I'd have to check my copy of the Canon (Serf's Parma), but I believe Avicenna attributes this sort of passage from a common cause. There was an epidemic theory of disease in Medieval Europe, but it was due to the malign influence of stars, or ill winds, or somesuch.

The highly proscriptive sanitation laws in the Bible for lepers came from somewhere, I guess.

(Side note: Leprosy is actually highly infective; it just has a low pathogenicity, so if you are exposed you may become infected with subclinical leprosy and be entirely asymptomatic for your whole life).

Again, I'd have to check my sources, but in Mythic Europe it probably acts like anathemisation - once a person has been anathemised then those with whom he associates are anathemised. Similarly with anyone cursed by God with leprosy.

I believe that at least some lepraria had their own priests, who themselves had leprosy. Because of the medieval treatment of lepers - basically they were considered to be dead - there was little contact between them and the healthy.

(Side note: medieval leprosy is thought not to be the same as modern leprosy / Hansen's Disease. It was either a different disease altogether - more like syphilis - or a different expression of the disease due to differing levels of natural immunity.)


[size=75]Edited to clear up my mistakes[/size]

[quote="Mark Shirley"]

The highly proscriptive sanitation laws in the Bible for lepers came from somewhere, I guess.


Not actual leprosy, apparently. There is some sort of school of thinking that "leprosy" is a bad translation, since leprosy in the Bible seems to cling to houses and possessions. Much as the medieval difference you mention.

Yes, this is something important to bear in mind. A modern doctor and a medieval text might use the same name for something, and they might be talking about vaguely similar symptoms. But the medieval text could be conflating several "modern" diseases.

From what I have read, what was called leprosy in the medieval period was probably a conflation of Hansen's disease (what modern medicine defines as leprosy), syphilis, exczema, and psoriasis.

I had exema on a scar on my finger once, and I was worried that i contracted leperousy :laughing: