Month: May 2018

16th Cent. Italian Lip Balms

A few years ago, someone on an online forum I belonged to asked the question, “What did people in medieval times do for chapped lips?”, and I went searching for an answer for them. I found this book, The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemont, 1558, translated to English from the 1557 French version.

I had no experience making my own cosmetics when I started these projects, but they were easy enough to work out even with the medieval recipes provided. I will be revisiting both of these balms in the future to experiment with consistencies. I also included the only other recipe for lip balm included in this book for information and posterity’s sake.

Violet Lip Balm

Recipe:

p. 146 – (301/736 in web view)
“To heale lippes that be cleft and full of chinkes, by meanes of cold or wind.
Take gum arabicke and Dragant, as muche of the one as of the other, and make pouder of it, and incorporate it with oile of violets, and anoint your lippes therewith.”

Notes:

Dragant is the medieval term for gum tragacanth. (http://www.thousandeggs.com/glossary.html#gum%20Tragacanth)

Redaction:

Violet Lip Balm

  1. Take equal parts of powdered gum Arabic and powdered gum tragacanth and mix. Hydrate with water until the desired consistency is reached. Add a few drops of violet oil and mix.

The resulting ‘balm,’ which I would rather refer to as a very wet gum paste, is tacky as it dries, but absolutely seals chinks on the lips. It is more difficult to remove than wax-based lip balm, and left my lips feeling smooth and moisturized after I wiped it off. Because of the consistency I reached with this batch, I would feel comfortable calling this balm more medicinal than cosmetic.

 

Tinted Lip Balm

Recipe:

p. 303 – (614/736 in web view)
“Against chappings of the lippes, and of the heads of womens brests.
Take the brain of a goose, and meddle it with the brains of an Hart, and anoint the lips: or els take of Litarge of silver, of Myrrha, of ginger, of eche as you please: and make thereof pouder, and with Virgin waxe, honie and oile olive, as much as sufficeth, make an ointment, which will be marvelous. But before you lay on the ointment, wash y lips, with spittle, and then with a litle peece of Linnen cloth, lay the ointment upon the griefe.
Take Ink and mixe it with the powder of Hermodactiles, and lay it upon them: and in the beginning take Sal armoniacke and beate it finely, and lay of the powder upon the griefe.”

Notes:

  • Maister Alexis approached this recipe with a sense of humor – first stating to blend goose and hart brains, but then gives us a quite lovely recipe for a tinted cosmetic.
  • “Litarge of silver” is lead monoxide, which lends the red-orange lip and cheek color found in Renaissance cosmetics. Because we now know about lead poisoning, I have chosen to substitute iron oxide in its place, which is an acceptable natural substitute to retain the red-orange color that is used in modern homemade cosmetics.
  • Hermodactiles, or hermodactylus, is Iris tuberosa, also called snake’s-head iris or black iris.

Redaction:

Tinted Lip Balm

  1. Prepare balm containers by opening and setting near work space.
    Combine 1/32 tsp iron oxide, 1/32 tsp ginger, 1/32 tsp myrrh gum powder and set aside.
  2. Take 1 Tbsp of beeswax pellets, 7 Tbsp of olive oil, 1 Tbsp of honey, and combine in the upper bowl of a double-boiler. (I used a small glass jar suspended in a pot of boiling water.) Stir until the wax melts completely and the ingredients are blended.
  3. Stir in dry ingredients.
  4. Pour into container(s) and let cool.

After some experimentation, I found that roughly a 1:7 ratio of beeswax to olive oil creates an ideal consistency (with a good melting point) for lip balm. The sediments ultimately sank to the bottom of the mixture, but enough pigment was still suspended to lend a tint to the lips.

 

Lees Balm

I have not redacted this recipe, but chose to include it because it is actually the second recipe listed in this book for chapped lips.

Recipe:

p. 270 – (549/736 in web view)

“Against the chapping of the lips.

Take dried lees of white wine called tartar, and burn them in the fire, and temper them with rosin and grease of an hen, or duck, medled with a little honie, and so use it.”

 

Citations

Ruscelli, Girolamo, d. ca. 1565; Ward, William, 1534-1609. The secrets of the reverend Maister Alexis of Piemont : containing excellent remedies against diverse diseases, wounds, and other accidents, with the maner to make distillations, parfumes, confitures, dying, colours, fusions, and meltings. https://archive.org/details/secretsofreveren00rusc

Pimontese, Alessio. 1555; 1682 edition. De’ secreti del R. D. Alessio Piemontese. Parti quattro. Nuovamente ristampati, e da molti errori ricorretti. Con quattro tavole copiosissime per trovare i rimedi con ogni facilità. https://web.archive.org/web/20070617103524/http://www.abocamuseum.it/bibliothecaantiqua/Book_View.asp?Id_book=76

Aine’s Black Stone Scroll

The verse at the beginning of the poetry doesn’t follow any specific meter, but I tried to incorporate 1-syllable alliteration per line. The court text is adapted with permission from Master Fridrikr Tomasson. Written in Younger Futhark. Linework and runes by me, paint by Lord Sasson della Sancta Victoria. Design based on a valkyrie pendant from the Swedish History Museum.

Old Icelandic

Sólarljós skínr á Dáinnsdottir
Dregillshodd hon es glóðrauðr
Hondum hon gorir eldsmatr
Glóar hugansteinn allglatt
á afl svartasteinnfjalls

Vér, Ichijo Honen, góðar Svartasteinfjalls, ok Cerridwen de Skene, elskukona hans, fremja Aine ny Allane á Bróðerni Svartasteinn. Bjoðum þetta daginn átti ok tuttugandi Harpa vetr annarr fimm tigar landsbygðar at Svartasteinfjall goðorð um Svartastein Bardagi.

English:

The sun’s light shines on Dáinn’s daughter
Her ribbon’s hoard is ember-red
Her hands make fire’s food
Glows brightly the stone of thought
In Blackstone Mountain’s forge

We, Ichijo Honen, baron of Blackstone Mountain, and Cerridwen de Skene, his beloved wife, induct Aine ny Allane into the Order of the Black Stone. Done this 28th day of April, 52 year of the settlement in the Barony of Blackstone Mountain at Blackstone Raid.

Notes:

The first line is a play on Aine’s name: Aine was an Irish goddess of summer and generally means radiance, etc. Allane is supposedly an Old Irish word for deer, and Dainn was one of the four deer that feed on the low branches of Yggdrasil.

Ribbon’s hoard is a kenning for hair (original); fire’s food is literally coal, but also the work that fuels the barony (http://norse.ulver.com/dct/zoega/); the stone of thought is a kenning for heart (http://skaldic.abdn.ac.uk/db.php?if=default&table=kenning&val=HEART).

Darian’s Onyx Scroll


The verse at the beginning of the poetry doesn’t follow any specific meter, but I tried to incorporate 1-syllable alliteration per line. The court text is adapted with permission from Master Fridrikr Tomasson. Written in Younger Futhark. Linework and runes by me, paint by Lord Sasson della Sancta Victoria. Design based on Urnes-style brooch from the Swedish History Museum, SHM 3871. https://www.flickr.com/photos/historiska/13622254033

Old Norse/Icelandic:

At haugi Gorms greri eiki Óðins
Grennir gunnmars, skald, ok þjónn
Byrðar góðar svertsteinnums
Fjallstonnum ok landbeinum
Han hefir auðveldliga þeim

Vér, Ichijo Honen, góðar Svartasteinfjalls, ok Cerridwen de Skene, elskukona hans, fremja Darri inn Valski á Bróðerni Svarta-raf. Bjoðum þetta daginn átti ok tuttugandi Harpa vetr annarr fimm tigar landsbygðar at Svartasteinfjall goðorð um Svartasteinn Bardagi.

English:

From Gorm’s Grave grows Odin’s Oak
Feeder of war-gulls, poet, servant
The burdens of Blackstone Baron
Mountain’s teeth and Land-bones
He carries them with ease

We, Ichijo Honen, baron of Blackstone Mountain, and Cerridwen de Skene, his beloved wife, induct Darri in Valski into the Order of the Onyx. Done this 28th day of April, 52 year of the settlement in the Barony of Blackstone Mountain at Blackstone Raid.

Notes:

The first line is a play on Darian’s name. Gorm’s grave refers to Wales, where the Rhodri Mawr defeated the Danish leader Gorm around 855AD. Odin’s Oak refers to Odin’s spear; perhaps not my most accurate kenning, but I liked the sound, and Darri means spears. Feeder of war-gulls means warrior (Þorbjörn Hornklofi: Glymdrápa); Mountain’s teeth and land-bones refer to rocks and stones (http://skaldic.abdn.ac.uk/db.php?if=default&table=kenning&val=ROCK).