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Otters Oddities

If your privy looks like this, it's time to hire a maid.

The privy, the loo, the powder room, the WC, the can, the john, the crapper, the dook tube, the porcelain god. It goes by many names, but it's actually, the toilet.


Society today has attached a stigma to the toilet. I don't know why. (yes I do, and I know who's to blame...) Like the popular children's book says, "Everybody Poops". (unless you get the catholic version, 'Nobody Poops But You'). Pooping is a fact of life. You have to do it. If you don't, well, you'll end up in the hospital with a raving septic infection from a burst colon and ruptured bowel.

But, everybody poops. It's gross and smelly, but we all have learned to deal with it because it's one of the inevitable things in life.

What we've done, as a species, is learned how to deal with it in a sanitary method. Until the Catholic Church got involved. Ooop......spoiler alert!

Today, we use a modern toilet to flush away the waste to a treatment facility or a storage tank. That keeps it out of the water supple.


But, that wasn't always the case.

There was a time when people had a more lackadaisical attitude towards poop. But it may surprise you to find out why.


Some of the first settlements found in Europe consist of some well preserved ruins on the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland. The ruins date back as far as 8,000 BCE. That's pretty much around the time that man settled down from the life of a hunter/gatherer, and started making permanent homes.

Now, even 10,000 years ago, man knew how toxic ones own waste was. When they were nomadic, they always made sure to do their business away from camp. But when they settled down, that became more difficult. And, if you've ever been to the Orkney Islands, you'll know that most of the time, leaving the house to go to an outhouse wasn't a pleasant option.


That's why the stone age inhabitants built indoor toilets. They were just basic ones. A seat with a hole that was placed over a diverted stream so it washed the waste out of the house. Not an ideal solution, as it made choosing where you got your drinking water from trickier. You didn't want to be downstream of the settlement.

But, they worked. It kept the settlement clear of poop. And that made for a healthier place to live.


As time went on, the concept of pooping indoors and removing the waste was improved on. By 3,500 BCE, the Egyptians had a toilet design where they would poop into a pit, then empty a suspended tank into the pit to wash it all away. The first primitive flush toilet.

The Greeks and Romans improved on the concept as well. The Romans had hot and cold running water in their houses. (so did the rich Egyptians before them), but the Romans had a way of turning the water on and off.


While the Greeks and Romans had communal toilets where they would conduct business, they also had them in their houses. With running water and a primitive flush toilet, life was pretty good. And, Romans, at least the non peasants, used their running water to maintain a level of cleanliness surpassed only by modern times.

But, like all good thing, good sanitation came to an end. This was around 500 CE, and coincided with the fall of the Roman Empire. Invading tribes found nothing more enjoyable than destroying everything Roman. Including the aqueducts that brought fresh water into the cities.


The infrastructure could have been rebuilt, and sanitation could have been maintained, except for one major factor. The Catholic Church.

Rebuilding would have been expensive. And the early church was incredibly greedy. 'Why rebuild old Roman artifacts when God needs a shiny new house', they'd ask. So, as the church gained influence over the cities and the people, they funneled money into their own coffers. (you think the Catholic Church is bad now, read up on it's history. They took corruption to entirely new levels.)


As a result, people went back to out houses and chamber pots. They also stopped caring about cleanliness as well. Whereas ancient Egyptians and Romans bathed regularly, in the middle ages, a European citizen would be bathed when baptized. And, probably not ever again. They would do localized washing, but not full body bathing.

Why would they put up with the stink? Well, we can blame the Catholic Church for that as well.


To bathe, one had to strip down. This exposed the body to all who cared to watch. This would then cause lewd and lascivious thoughts that would end with the pleasures of the flesh. So, bathing was looked on as a sin by the church. And sinners went to hell, so you'd go to hell for bathing. And that's the way it stood for almost 1,000 years.

Because of the lack of sanitation, Europe suffered from disease and plagues quite frequently. Since no one bathed, everyone stunk. The rich would cover the stink with perfumes, but the poor didn't. People today would either pass out or vomit if they went into a crowded marketplace 600 years ago.


The English King even had to make a royal decree in 1651 that no one was to 'deposit night soil, (poop), or urinate in the stairwells, closets or cubby holes' of his palace. That's a pretty care free attitude towards pooping.

With the industrial revolution, Europeans cam into more contact with people from the middle east and far east. They started to re-learn about hygiene. Modern inventions made it possible to have running water indoors again. And by the early 19th century, indoor toilets were starting to come back into vogue.


The era in Europe from ~500 CE until ~1700 CE was not a pleasant time to be a European. Things like sanitation were unheard of. Learning was reserved for the wealthy and the priests. People had miserable lives. Many people would wait for the Night Soil man to dump his cart at the tannery and then dig through it for any bit of lost valuables before the tanner used the poop to cure leather.

And, a lot of the responsibility for the decline lies squarely on the Catholic Church. It had to keep the common people poor and illiterate so they could stay in power. It was only the coming of the industrial revolution that allowed the people to begin to throw off the yoke of religion and put it where it belongs: as a supplement to a fulfilling life. Not as the sole guiding factor.


I bet you never thought I could place the blame for toilets falling into disuse onto the church, did you? Never underestimate the power of the Otter! Nor should you ever underestimate humans. We be whack!

So, go poop in your house, then take a shower, and thumb your nose at the Catholic Church!

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