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19 COVID Thoughts: #9

What we pass on.


In Sweden, there is a story of an old woman who carries the plague from place to place. If she sweeps in front of your house’s door, everyone inside will die; if she knocked on the door with her broomstick, one person per knock would die. Sometimes this ‘plague hag’ is accompanied by an old man. His has a shovel, and was seen to spare more people. The woman spared not even a child. Sometimes these two figures are actually children. Sometimes they carry the same implements sometimes not. The stories about wandering children carrying plague has some basis in reality: high mortality rates and larger families would have led to situation where parents died leaving children to wander the country begging in an attempt to survive. In Norway and Sweden, the plague is usually described as a person or people wandering through the land, bringing death and disease. In Denmark, the plague is most often associated with a mist possibly linking it with the standard European medical theory about infected air or miasma being the source of plague. Others contend that this is more to do with the “suitability of the landscape” in Denmark: The rugged Norwegian landscape was unsuitable for a rolling mist, but the open Denmark lands were.

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© Eoghan Carrick | Dublin, Ireland | eoghan.carrick@gmail.com