The Tale of the Four Thieves
The Tale of the Four Thieves is one of the most popular in natural health.
For 600 years the bubonic plague ebbed and flowed across Europe, peaking in the 1300s and persisting as late as the 1700s.
While the bubonic plague is well known for having been transmitted by flea bites, few know that it was often the first stage of a progressive illness that could become highly infectious and spread from person-to-person. Together, the bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic plagues wiped out up to half the population.
It was a dark time for all of Europe and you would have seen re-enactments in television and films of people collecting the multitudes of dead, and strange looking physicians cloaked in long black robes, wide-brimmed hats and masks with big pointed noses. The beaks of these masks were stuffed with dried herbs, spices and essential oils, and the robes doused in a similar concoction. It is said that these blends helped to keep the plague at bay while the physicians attempted to treat the sick.
Legend goes that this technique was used to much greater effect by a band of four, light-fingered brothers who began to rob those who'd been struck down by the plague.
At first, the brothers were largely ignored – naturally, people had other concerns at the time and assumed the thieves would pay with their lives for the gold and jewels they stole from infected bodies. But to everyone’s surprise, the brothers did not catch the plague and amassed a great deal of wealth as they travelled through France pocketing wares from the dead and dying.
For years the brothers’ immunity puzzled the land. Was it magic? Trickery? What secret did these thieves possess that protected them from the plague?
Many years later the brothers were captured and bargained for a pardon from their crimes in exchange for their secret. The thieves revealed to their captors that they were the sons of a perfumer and a herbalist, and had learned about essentials oils from their parents during childhood. Before a robbery, the brothers would rub a blend of essential oils all over their bodies to protect themselves from the plague and used the same blend to clean the goods they brought back.
- Toni McMahon