Over on Twitter, there was a discussion about personal hygiene as a seduction tool. Apparently, because the Viking invaders into what’s now England brushed their hair and cleaned their teeth every day, washed their clothes, and took a bath once a week, the women were leaving their husbands in droves.
“It must be recognized that the Christians of the time avoided bathing specifically because they considered too much cleanliness to be a sign of vanity, which was sin. Thus the infamous smelliness of the medieval period began.” (C. J. Arden, Were the Vikings Dirty? 03/20/2015)
To put this in context, the Viking age was ~793–1066 AD. But what I got to wondering about was, when did we go from cleanliness as a vanity and a sin to cleanliness is next to Godliness?
My brief search led me to John Wesley who, in a sermon in 1778, stated that cleanliness was indeed next to Godliness. (There’s a lot of media and books available by and about him here at the Internet Archive, a cool place in itself.)
But even in 1778 personal hygiene was more difficult than we have today. It’s a good reminder we should never expect our norms to fit history. Things evolve and change. I’m grateful every day for indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water.