S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

How to make a bed

I ran across an image today for which I had an immediate mental explanation: of course a fifteenth-century personification of Chastity might hold a spear if she's in conflict with Luxury, who is riding in to attack her. Then I read the contemporary-to-the-illuminations description of Chastity. "Next comes the second lady, Chastity, whose hands wear iron gauntlets against dishonourable contacts. She has in her right hand a long rod for making beds, signifying that she would be the dormitory-maid and keeper of the dormitory of Holy Religion, and should not permit any person to enter who does not wish to preserve chastity."* There's more about her, but it's not pertinent to my question.

"A long rod for making beds"? ("ung baton long a faire lit") Pray tell me, how does one make a bed with a long rod? What is it used for? Beating bed lice out of the bedding? Making straight edges? Smoothing undersheets beneath an over blanket? Waking up late sleepers? What is it for?

* The image and translation come from Peter Rolfe Monks. The Brussels Horloge de Sapience: Iconography and Text of Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS. IV 111. K.V. Sinclair, translation of captions. (Leiden, New York, København, Köln: E.J. Brill, 1990).

Edit: It might be easier to think of uses for a bed rod if you can see the right kind of bed. Happily, the very same manuscript has pictures of beds (among so many other things), so I can show you what is presumably the kind of bed with which a bed rod might be used.

Here are two images: the first shows a neatly made bed behind the main character, the second shows two people sick and dying. While we're at it, I'm hypothesizing the circles tossed all over the floor and beds are herb wreaths to counteract the smell of sickness, but I don't actually know. Thoughts?

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.