The Medical Issues Involved in Wearing Hair Shirts
#1

This struck me as interesting. It's a question posed in LiveJournal's Medieval Studies section. A student or acadamician poses the question:

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Quote: A question for medical/religious interests, re: the habits of mediæval ascetics:

Has anyone ever examined the medical consequences of long-term hair-shirt wearing?

The things that spring immediately to mind are anæmia from parasites (they tend to get well-populated with lice and fleas) and abrasions, and extreme 'jogger's nipple', but I'm curious if it's actually been looked at properly.
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The answers are interesting, and pushed me to look for information about St. Thomas a Becket's hair shirt. I found this, from the Golden Legend, via Fordham University:

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Quote: Then one of the knights smote him as he kneeled before the altar on the head. And one Sir Edward Grim, that was his crossier put forth his arm with the cross to bear off the stroke, and the stroke smote the cross asunder and his arm almost off, wherefore he fled for fear, and so did all the monks, that were that time at compline. And then smote each at him, that they smote off a great piece of the skull of his head, that his brain fell on the pavement. And so they slew and martyred him, and were so cruel that one of them brake the point of his sword against the pavement. And thus this holy and blessed Archbishop S. Thomas suffered death in his own church for the right of all holy church. And when he was dead they stirred his brain, and after went in to his chamber and took away his goods, and his horse out of his stable, and took away his bulls and writings, and delivered them to Sir Robert Broke to bear into France to the king. And as they searched his chamber they found in a chest two shirts of hair made full of great knots, and then they said: Certainly he was a good man; and coming down into the churchward they began to dread and fear that the ground would not have borne them, and were marvellously aghast, but they supposed that the earth would have swallowed them all quick. And then they knew that they had done amiss. And anon it was known all about, how that he was martyred, and anon after took this holy body, and unclothed him, and found bishop's clothing above, and the habit of a monk under. And next his flesh he wore hard hair, full of knots, which was his shirt. And his breech was of the same, and the knots slicked fast within the skin, and all his body full of worms; he suffered great pain. And he was thus martyred the year of our Lord one thousand one hundred and seventy-one, and was fifty-three years old. And soon after tidings came to the king how he was slain, wherefore the king took great sorrow, and sent to Rome for his absolution.
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Oh, my gosh! How horrific! He must've suffered terribly! Can you imagine walking around all day, every day, wearing not only a hair shirt -- a garment that would feel itchy, and would scratch and abrade your flesh -- but one that is knotted and replete with lice and "worms"?  I'm assuming the "worms" were maggots, which had made their way into the wounds caused by the rough material and the knots therein, but whatever they were, it had to be excruciating. How was he able to go about life in a hair shirt like that

Well, I guess grace is the answer, but -- it's just so hard for me to imagine. I can't imagine my being able to endure it at all... Sigh.

[Image: thomasbecket.jpg]
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#2
Deleted. I need to read more carefully in future. Carry on.  :blush:
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#3
(10-25-2013, 06:03 PM)Deidre Wrote: Deleted. I need to read more carefully in future. Carry on.  :blush:

You've got me soooo curious, Deidre LOL
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#4
Don't some websites peddle hairshirts now as a penitential item? My patron, St Thomas More wore one as well; hence, my interest in them as a penitential practise was pique . . .
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#5
Also, are hairshirts synonymous with cilices; or rather, are they two different items? ???
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#6
(10-25-2013, 11:20 PM)Virgil the Roman Wrote: Also, are hairshirts synonymous with cilices; or rather, are they two different items? ???

Interesting! I'd always thought of a cilice as more of a "device," like a knotted cord or a metal bracelet or object worn around the thigh with little "thorny" spikes, etc. But apparently, "cilice" historically was synonymous with "hair shirt" -- but now is used to refer to a device:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cilice

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#7
A few months ago while I was exploring the far corners of the Internet I came upon this website
http://www.cilice.co.uk/
They hair shirts and other items. They claim these items are not to be used but to be kept as collectors items. They also books by a priest called Bernard Hahesy.
[Image: nun_metal-chain-discipline-1.jpg]
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#8
(10-26-2013, 01:39 AM)CatholicLife Wrote: A few months ago while I was exploring the far corners of the Internet I came upon this website
http://www.cilice.co.uk/
They hair shirts and other items. They claim these items are not to be used but to be kept as collectors items. They also books by a priest called Bernard Hahesy.

They definitely shouldn't used without a spiritual director, but they can still be used. That's my understanding of things...
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#9
I absolutely love St Thomas Becket, he is my confirmation saint. I feel like crying every time I think about that hair shirt and the lice, not to mention the martyrdom itself, and how he had himself whipped several times a day, for years.
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#10
(08-30-2018, 02:59 AM)sonickel77 Wrote: I absolutely love St Thomas Becket, he is my confirmation saint. I feel like crying every time I think about that hair shirt and the lice, not to mention the martyrdom itself, and how he had himself whipped several times a day, for years.

Then it is indeed fitting that Henry was scourged on orders of the Pope for having Becket murdered.

[Image: p112-King-henry-Whipped-q75-500x434.jpg]
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