Random Saturday morning thoughts

I once read a very scholarly tome on the techniques of Anglo Saxon silversmithing which suggested that the main pre conquest source of silver polish was earwax.

Obviously, eew!

But apart from the obvious. When I get a cold or bad hay fever I get pretty waxy ears, but even so I can’t imagine ever collecting enough to polish a chalice, say, or a pair of candlesticks, let alone an entire set of altar furniture.

I wondered if perhaps when the venerable bede felt the desire to polish the church silver at jarrow he had to declare an earwax tithe in which the entire population of South Tyneside dutifully lined up to offer their aural excretions to the glory of The Lord and all his little saints?

Cos if he did you’d think he would have mentioned it.

~ by opusanglicanum on March 22, 2014.

12 Responses to “Random Saturday morning thoughts”

  1. If you poke about in your ears a lot, your body makes lots of earwax, though, I guess? Not that that makes the prospect of using earwax as polish any more appealing.
    Some strange last resort solution? Help, the bishop is coming tomorrow, and we misplaced all rags and assorted cleaning materials, and all that’s left to us are our ears!

  2. I am finding this wonderful image of monks greasing the church plate with earwax slightly hard to believe, although an earwax spoon was often included in small sewing kits for travellers in the 19th century. As well as unclogging your lugholes, it was there to provide emergency wax for your sewing thread.

    • The earwax scoop was also included in the standard set of personal grooming tools since roman times, but I think I’ll stick to beeswax on my sewing threads!

      • Yes, winding dried caterpillar-spit lubricated with bee-vomit around rotten plant stalks is a much more hygienic hobby.

        My grandmother told me she polished her table with elbow grease. That stopped me wanting to eat off it!

      • When I was a kid my granda used to come home with thing he said had fallen off the back off a lorry, I honestly thought he spent all day hanging around by the side of the a19 with a giant version of one of those American catchers mitt thingies

  3. It doesn’t seem very likely to work very well, let alone the difficulties of gathering enough earwax to clean a candlestick. Do you think academics actually listen to themselves when they say these things?!

  4. These are the sorts of questions medieval historians should be asking.

  5. Thanks for the laugh!

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