The Leech

The Leech has, from a very early age, been used as a means of letting

blood; but, among the old Romans, it had medicinal uses such as we know

not of now. It was used as a hair dye. Pliny gives two receipts for

making it, and it must have been powerful stuff, if we can believe his

authority:--"Leeches left to putrify for forty days in red wine, stain

the hair black. Others, again, recommend one sextarius of leeches to be

left to putrefy the same number of days in a leaden vessel, with two

sextarii of vinegar, the hair to be well rubbed with the mixture in the

sun. According to Sornatius this preparation is, naturally, so

penetrating, that if females, when they apply it, do not take the

precaution of keeping some oil in the mouth, the teeth, even, will

become blackened thereby."

Olaus Magnus gives us the accompanying picture of the luxurious man in

his arm-chair by the river-side, catching his own leeches, and suffering

from gnats; and also his far more prudent friend, who makes the

experiment on the vile body of his horse, and thus saves his own blood;

but he gives us no account of its habits and customs.