Weyrfest 2000 Panel Summary:
Healer Hall: Common Ailments and Remedies
presented by: Helene Schappell, Sue Callaway, & Chantal Whittington
This panel was basically broken into
three parts, each covered by a different presenter. Helene covered basic
health and hygiene issues, Sue dealt with herbal remedies, and Chantal talked
about first aid. I've had several requests to summarize the hygiene issues
first, as it's something not really dealt with in any of the canon Pern books
but can be a part of fandom stories which focus more on daily life on
Pern. The specific hygiene issues covered concern Pernese equivalents of
toothbrushes, mouthwash, deodorant, toilet paper, and feminine sanitary
napkins. If this is something you'd rather not think about, then don't
read any further! (Once I get the other sections of this panel summarized,
I'll put them first and move this part to the end.)
Consider first what the original colonists likely did for dental hygiene.
Would they still use something like our modern bristled toothbrushes or have
invented something entirely different by then? Would they have been able
to use their dental technology on Pern, or would they have to resort back to
simpler methods as they abandoned technology and started a pastoral life?
Perhaps something like our bristled
toothbrushes was reinvented, using horse hair as was done on Earth when the
first toothbrushes were made. But consider the work that would go into
crafting such a brush, as well as that the first horses took eleven months after
landing to be born.
So what alternatives might there
be? Looking into Terran history, there are several possibilities.
Gnawing green shoots from trees and brushes is known from Elizabethan
times. The key with gnawing on a stick is that it must be green or it
won't be strong enough and would disintegrate rather than splitting nicely at
the end. Hazel shoots and licorice have disinfectant properties, making
them particularly useful for this purpose; however licorice is not known to be
found on Pern (hazel likely is).
From the 14th to 16th centuries,
people are known to have rubbed their teeth with woolen clothes, and wool is
available on Pern. Sometimes this method also involved a cleaning mixture
such as charcoal or chalk wetted with a bit of wine. Charcoal is not
common on Pern, wood being to valuable to sacrifice for fires, but chalk is a
naturally occurring rock that would be found on Pern.
Our "minty fresh" mouthwashes are likely not going to be found on
Pern, but likely there would be a need for some sort of mouthwash to combat
bacterial growth in the mouth and the bad breath it causes. Wine would make
an excellent mouthwash, as would other alcohols, likely fermented with aromatic
herbs for flavor. Although redwort would make an excellent mouthwash,
given its antiseptic properties, it's not likely used for this purpose given the
red stain it leaves behind. I can't imagine it tasting particularly good
Various types of physical labor are the lifeblood of Pern, and given the close
quarters shared by all, underarm odor would certainly be an issue. While
to a certain extent people might adjust to a certain level of body odor, at
times one would expect alternatives to be explored. Our anti-persprants
are based on aluminum salts, which would be available on Pern in sea salt
crystals. These can be found naturally or purposefully grown by
sea water, then shaped and smoothed into something that can be rubbed under the
A very easy deodorant is ordinary
baking soda, which can be mixed with cornstarch for a smoother feel and perhaps
also perfumed with crushed herbs. Though not always highly effective,
perfumes might be used on their own to cover up odor: I recall from Dragonflight
that Lady Tela had put sweet oil on her hair to try to mask the smell of its
long unwashed condition (which didn't impress F'lar!).
One other method of attack is cooking
with hyssop, an herb which reduces perspiration. I could see that this
would be a very common additive to food, perhaps especially in the Weyrs.