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Grooming kit

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 5:21 pm
by conanthelibrarian
I'm trying to put together a personal grooming kit for monks and am looking for suggestions of where to purchase a medieval ear scoop (am able to find early ones but not circa 1500); a razor (preferably not sharp); and a scrub brush of sorts.
I think Sally Pointer's still the person for soap.
I'm also looking for an aestel if possible please.

Thanks in advance,


Re: Grooming kit

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 9:50 pm
by guthrie
I've seen Tod of Tod's stuff selling a razor. Maybe 6 of 1 has done too.
A brush is a little harder, but if you search on here I'm sure someone has had the same problem before.
I suspect 6 of 1 has also made an ear scoop.

Re: Grooming kit

Posted: Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:20 am
by Brother Ranulf
You do not specify which type of monk you are interested in - nor the precise time period. "Personal" items were expressly forbidden by the Rule of St Benedict which governed the lives of all European monks, but that Rule was often less closely observed as the medieval period progressed (for example, Benedictines were permitted to eat meat on four days per week after a Papal edict of 1336, contrary to the Rule).

Chapter 55 of the Rule sets out the items issued to monks, but definitely not owned by them: ". . .and if anyone should be found with anything that he did not receive from the Abbot, let him fall under the severest discipline. And that this vice of private ownership may be cut off by the root, let everything necessary be given by the Abbot, namely cowl, tunic, socks, shoes, belt, knife, pen, needle, towel, writing tablet." Other parts of the Rule elaborate on the clothing and bedding issued.

There is no reference to an ear scoop or other items of personal grooming kit and the very name would suggest private ownership. Soap was not used when shaving - hot water alone sufficed, but hand washing before meals and when rising from bed probably involved a communal supply of soap. The razors used for shaving the face and the Roman tonsure were effectively small or medium knives with a slightly curved cutting edge.

You also mention an aestel or pointer used when reading; only seven such items survive in England and all date to the 9th century, so firmly in pre-Conquest times. I am not aware of such pointers being used later than the 9th century, so presumably fingers served the same purpose.

Edit: I should have mentioned the monastic sign language lists, none of which has a sign for "ear scoop" but they all include signs for the items mentioned in the Rule. They all also have a sign for "comb", which is perhaps the only concession to personal grooming, since the Roman tonsure was a symbol of Christ's crown of thorns and therefore something sacred to be maintained in a presentable state.

Re: Grooming kit

Posted: Fri Apr 06, 2018 4:29 pm
by conanthelibrarian
Thank you, Brother Ranulf. I am looking at a Benedictine order for 9/10th century and around 1400 - 1530.
I should have made it clear that I am not looking at a personal kit as being owned personally, but referring to hygiene and grooming of the person, so my apologies.
I am putting together items that would have been used within a monastery by the monks, for discussion about monastic life through time.
You are correct that there isn't a sign for an ear scoop, so perhaps I am incorrect with that idea. There is a sign for soap and also underpants.
Amongst our small finds we have a post-Saxon copper pointer, so perhaps aestel was the incorrect term to use.

I am aware of the items to be provided as written in the Rule, however this doesn't seem include the fur lining for a supertunic and hood that was provided for a candidate entering the monastery here in 1309.

Thank you to you and Guthrie for your help and suggestions.

Re: Grooming kit

Posted: Fri Apr 06, 2018 6:43 pm
by Brother Ranulf
As for supertunics (fur lined or otherwise), this is certainly covered in the Rule of St Benedict. Chapter 55 (again) says:

"Let clothing be given to the brethren according to the circumstances of the place and the nature of the climate in which they live, because in cold regions more is needed, while in warm regions less."

Benedict was writing in Italy, but his Rule definitely allowed for many adaptations to be made to suite the local conditions (he was possibly thinking of monks in Alpine regions, but it would also apply here in England).

What you call underpants were "femoralia" in the original Latin text, meaning standard Medieval breeches rather than underpants in the modern sense - lay workmen, sailors and men engaged in threshing grain often stripped to their breeches and were still considered decently dressed. Breeches were issued to any Benedictine monk leaving on a journey and then washed and returned to storage on returning to the monastery.