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Subject:

Re: Subject: [BRITARCH] Rubbing alcohol on wrists at funeral

From:

Vince Russett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Vince Russett <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 11:59:48 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (237 lines)

Apologies for sharing some of my past misdemeanours on this forum!

However, this did lead me on to thinking about alcohol and intoxication.
All cultures seem to value some form of intoxication, and it seems
irresistibly wrapped up with religion, perhaps in medieval Western Europe
through the practice of alchemy.

Distillation vessels, from the 13th century on, have been found at
Glastonbury Abbey, and probably many others. They have also been identified
from late medieval levels in Redcliffe, Bristol.

Freeze distillation (so-called) may have been used much earlier. This can
achieve up to 20% ABV, from a beer or cider of 4-6%. It is easy to see how
this could have been discovered, simply by a barrel being left out in the
frost for several days. It seems (according to Wikipaedia) to still be used
to produce alcoholic products, although it should be pointed out that,
unlike heat distillation, this process concentrates the nerve toxin
methanol as well as ethanol, so don't try this at home, folks! At best,
hangovers of gamma-ray burster intensity, at worst blindness. Personally,
I'll stick to (real) cider.
To return to the original subject, I was always told that the reason
perfume is usually applied to the wrists and behind the ears was 'because
blood vessels are close to the surface there' and thus, presumably, the
extra heat would help to disperse the active ingredients. Whether
sufficient alcohol would be absorbed there to affect behaviour is, I would
have thought, doubtful.

Mike, maybe we should experiment...

Vince

On Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:50 AM, Mike Weatherley <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Well it would be interesting to know the dating of the original document
> (of which Mike Haseler's translation gives 'alcohol'). But any time in the
> last 1,000 years looks safe. Which just goes to show that our
> middle-eastern cousins aren't as naïve about alcohol as is often assumed.
> Indeed, having been the original discoverers of the 'hard stuff', perhaps
> they were the earliest to discover its more debilitating effects...
>
>
> Anyway, here's the science: Although alcohol is considered an aid to
> conviviality, it's technically a depressant, so can be good for calming a
> patient down (in small amounts, of course). And what Vince's experience
> demonstrates is how rapidly ethanol can be absorbed in vapour form. Either
> into the bloodstream via the lungs or more directly into the brain via the
> olfactory lobe (situated at the back of the nasal cavity). Similarly, of
> course, the skin on the inside of the wrists is very thin, and contains
> many blood vessels, which keep that part of the skin warm. That's why women
> testing their prospective perfumes usually spray it onto their wrists,
> which helps to vaporize both the circa 80% ethanol which most fragrances
> consist of and the aromatics dissolved in it. Of course, since ethanol is
> almost lacking in flavour or fragrance (hence it's almost always flavoured
> as a spirit, except in the case of Vodka) and is in practice swamped by the
> much stronger aromatic chemicals in most perfumes, most women sniffing
> their prospective fragrance would be unaware that, in addition to a few
> micrograms of Lavender oil etc., they're inhaling almost neat alcohol
> vapour... Or *would* they... And then, of course, the simple act of putting
> something twice the alcoholic strength of Vodka on the wrists would allow
> that alcohol to be absorbed almost directly into the bloodstream via those
> vessels near the surface (hence the calming effect prescribed in the
> original article and recorded by anecdotal evidence in the West).
>
>
> Mmm... hmm... I guess we all now know, chaps, why perfume is a lady's
> favourite present after all, don't we! Because in addition to Lemongrass or
> Cinnamon, there is a rather more subtle, erm, 'bottom-note' at work here.
> And the next time your better halves berate you for staggering home from
> the pub and tripping over the cat, just ask them if they've spent all
> evening on the Channel No. 5! (Well, it is Friday, and a rather wet one, at
> that; which is great for my garden... with all its Lavender.)
>
>
> Cheers,
>
> Mike (BSc)
>
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]> on
> behalf of Justine Bayley <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: 16 September 2016 10:49
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [BRITARCH] Subject: [BRITARCH] Rubbing alcohol on wrists at
> funeral
>
> In all this speculation you need to remember that high alcohol contents in
> liquids were not possible until distillation (to separate the alcohol from
> wine etc) had been discovered. In northern Europe this is in late medieval
> times though in the Middle East the process is known rather earlier.
> Wikipedia says:
> "Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (c. 865 – 925/35), Persian physician;
> inventor of distillation of alcohol and its use in medicine; philosopher,
> chemist and alchemist."
>
> Best wishes
> Justine
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> On Behalf Of BRITARCH automatic digest system
> Sent: 16 September, 2016 00:09
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: BRITARCH Digest - 14 Sep 2016 to 15 Sep 2016 (#2016-175)
>
> There are 3 messages totaling 394 lines in this issue.
>
> Topics of the day:
>
>   1. Rubbing alcohol on wrists at funeral (3)
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Date:    Thu, 15 Sep 2016 17:00:39 +0000
> From:    Mike Weatherley <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Rubbing alcohol on wrists at funeral
>
> Of course, Eau de cologne (and most perfumes) consist of perfumed
> ingredients dissolved in ethanol/water (roughly 80/20 by volume) as many
> aromas aren't soluble in water. As such, they're roughly twice the
> alcoholic strength of Vodka. Thus, if anyone was either desperate enough -
> or lived in a culture where drinking alcohol was prohibited for religious
> reasons - absorbing something twice the strength of regular spirits through
> the skin of the wrists (and additionally, through the nasal mucosa as a
> result of sniffing it) might well have a... erm...calming effect on the
> subject. (wink)
>
>
> Mike (BSc)
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]> on
> behalf of CATHERINE STALLYBRASS <000002c40c517c5e-dmarc-
> [log in to unmask]>
> Sent: 13 September 2016 14:08
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Rubbing alcohol on wrists at funeral
>
> If for alcohol you substitute "Eau de Cologne" it sounds quite reasonable.
> I remember when I was a child it was used like that to calm us down when we
> got hysterical with rage or grief (usually the former!)
>
> cheers
>
> Catherine
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael <[log in to unmask]>
> To: BRITARCH <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tue, 13 Sep 2016 13:36
> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Rubbing alcohol on wrists at funeral
>
> On 12/09/2016 22:46, [log in to unmask] wrote:
> > In the Middle East, ululation is expected at funerals.  I look forward
> > to hearing what others have to say about the alcohol, which of course
> > in many Middle Eastern countries is not allowed to be drunk.
> >
> > Carl
> >
> it's one of those regular questions - did the "sombre stiff upper lip"
> come with the Victorian? Or were Victorians just sticking to a long held
> culture in Britain of "silent respect" rather than uluation?
>
> For info: I've now transcribed the whole text which has some other
> interesting cultural features for most in Britain such as the question "who
> will hold your photo at the funeral" and "who gave you your heredity"
> (which I didn't quite understand so replaced with "who is your next of
> kin").
>
> http://mons-graupius.co.uk/index.php/battle-speeches/147-
> the-breath-turkish-army-motivational-speech
>
> Mons Graupius - The Breath: Turkish Army motivational speech<
> http://mons-graupius.co.uk/index.php/battle-speeches/147-the-breath-
> turkish-army-motivational-speech>
> mons-graupius.co.uk
> Information relating to the site of the Battle of Mons Graupius.
>
>
>
>
> (This is part of a project to compare and contrast "battle speeches"
> from various cultures - both the "public" versions that get recorded as
> great works as well as the kind of language used by real soldiers)
>
> Mike
>
> >
> > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> > --
> > *From:* Michael <[log in to unmask]>
> > *To:* [log in to unmask]
> > *Sent:* Monday, September 12, 2016 5:22 AM
> > *Subject:* [BRITARCH] Rubbing alcohol on wrists at funeral
> >
> > I've come across a strange translation referring to what might happen
> > to someone in Turkey if they died at their funeral. It reads:
> >
> > " Your neighbours are trying to calm your mother ...They are doing
> > massage to your mother's wrists with alcohol."
> >
> > There's clearly an expectation that the mother would need calming down
> > - but I'm unfamiliar with the proposed method. It's clearly a bad
> > translation - so I was wondering whether I should change "alcohol" to
> > something like "oil" or perfume but I can't find anything referring to
> > this "ritual". Worse, I associate rubbing things on bodies more with
> > corpses than mothers.
> >
> > However, the whole expectation of the behaviour of close (women) at
> > the funeral is very foreign to me. In Britain we don't expect the
> "mother"
> > to make a scene like this - but in Turkey it appears to be a cultural
> > expectation. And in Britain if any alcohol is used I would expect it
> > to be drunk - but not too much to AVOID making a scene.
> >
> > Which then begs the question - how far back does this "stiff upper lip"
> > culture at British funerals go? And for example, in Roman Britain (i.e.
> > the combination of Eastern and British Culture) - would it be expected
> > that the close women relatives need "calming down" at a funeral, or
> > would it be more like the typical British "stiff upper lip" we see today?
> >
> > Mike
> >
> >
>
>
> --
> http://mons-graupius.co.uk
>
> ------------------------------
>

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