22 January 2010

Lipoxeny after the "Murder in the cathedral"

After the "meddlesome priest" Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his cathedral in 1170, those who viewed the body were witness to the process of lipoxeny* resulting in part from the 12th century view that bathing was either a sin, an indulgence, or an invitation to illness -
Layer upon layer of clothing was removed: a mantle, a surplice, a lamb’s wool coat, another and then a third, the black Benedictine robe, a shirt, and then a haircloth. When the final garments were removed, the lice that had lied in the clothes near to the warmth and nutrition of the body “boiled over like water in a simmering cauldron, and the onlookers burst into alternate weeping and laughter."
* "desertion of the host by a parasite."  The term typically refers to the parasite moving after reaching full maturity.  In this case the louse seeks a better host because this one is too cold.  Interestingly, the lice reportedly also move if the host gets too hot (i.e. develops a fever from typhus).


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