Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Barber Pole Once Symbolized Bloodletting

The modern barber pole originated in the days when bloodletting was one of the principal duties of the barber. The two spiral ribbons painted around the pole represent the two long bandages, one twisted around the arm before bleeding, and the other used to bind is afterward. Originally, when not in use, the pole with a bandage wound around it, so that both might be together when needed, was hung at the door as a sign. But later, for convenience, instead of hanging out the original pole, another one was painted in imitation of it and given a permanent place on the outside of the shop. This was the beginning of the modern barber pole.
"Bloodletting" was the popular method of curing all ills. The clergy who enlisted barbers as their assistants first performed this. Barbers continued to act as assistants to the physician-clergy, until the 12th century. At the council of Tours in 1163, the clergy were forbidden to draw blood or to act as physicians and surgeons on the grounds that it was sacrilegious for ministers of God to draw blood from the human body. The barbers took up the duties relinquished by the clergy and the era of barber-surgeons began. The connection between barbery and surgery continued for more than six centuries and the barber profession reached its pinnacle during this time.

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