These Crazy Pirate Traditions Will Shock and Stun You- You Wouldn’t See Jack Sparrow Doing Some of These





Pirates seem pretty straightforward when they’re portrayed in the media. Oftentimes, they are shown as swashbuckling drunkards who love nothing more than a raid for gold. Aside from drinking, raiding and attacking people, they are frequently spotted yelling “Yaaaar Matey” to all of their other pirate friends and getting into bizarre and sticky situations on the seven seas. It may surprise you that the reality of pirates is very different from what they’re portrayed as in media today. Interestingly, olden day pirates were actually very intelligent, disciplined and organised crooks who, despite being quite cruel and reckless, were very aware of everything they did. As well as this, many things that were considered taboo up until recently were regularly practised by ancient day pirates, making them a progressive and accepting lot.

Here are some of the most bizarre pirate traditions ever, and the purposes that they had- you won’t believe some of these crazy things!



Pirates Practised Gay Marriage

Long before being even acknowledged the existence of the LGBTQ+ community, pirates were practising same-sex marriage! Interestingly, pirates could marry their colleagues in a ceremony called Matelotage, which was sometimes a platonic pairing but could be romantic, too. If two pirates were bonded in a Matelotage agreement, it meant that they shared possessions, loot and were heirs to one another. 




Health Insurance Was Used on Board

It seems baffling today, but way back when pirates ruled the oceans, they used a form of health insurance within their crew. If someone was badly injured while at work on the sea, there would be a payout in the form of money or slaves. Say, for example, if someone lost a limb- they would be guaranteed a large payout from their crew and captain. This was revolutionary because there weren’t many advancements in medicine at the time, so a payout was more valuable than medical treatment. 






Looting Gold was Not a Priority

While there is a popular stereotype of pirates looting large chests of gold from enemy ships, this is pretty inaccurate when it comes to what pirates really stole. If a crew of pirates was to raid an enemy ship, the two main things they were looking for were booze and weapons. These were two things that would come in useful while at sea and could be exchanged for money only if necessary. If you were expecting to find some buried gold, we’re sorry to disappoint… 





The Plank Wasn’t Real

Getting prisoners to “walk the plank” is a popular trope in movies, books and TV shows about pirates, but experts have realised that this is completely made up by pop culture. In reality, pirates didn’t have a “plank” to dump prisoners off, and instead just killed them on the spot. Pirates had a number of awful torture methods like whipping, marooning on desert islands and dropping people into the ocean, but the plank wasn’t one. 







Pirates’ Earrings Were Used as Insurance

Pirates’ earrings weren’t just used for style, they also acted as a kind of insurance to whoever was wearing them. Oftentimes, the earring of a pirate had his or her homeplace engraved on them, and they were made of expensive silver and gold. The purpose of this was so that the pirate would be given a proper burial if he or she died- the crew would know what location to send the body home to, and the gold or silver could be sold to pay for a funeral. 






Alcohol was Used as Medicine

Now here’s a strange tonic! During their time at sea, pirates noticed that drinking dirty water made them sick, so they came up with a solution. In order to purify the water on board, pirates would mix rum into it before drinking, as the alcohol would kill off any bacteria in the water. In a further advance to this bizarre drink, they began adding some lemon to the water to prevent scurvy. All in all, despite being hugely alcoholic, the drink acted as a tonic to ward off any sickness at sea- and it worked!








Eye-Patches Were Worn By Everyone

Did you know that it wasn’t just the one-eyed pirates that wore eye-patches? Interestingly, eye patches had a very important purpose which was to allow pirates to have better vision at night-time. Pirates believed that having one eye in total darkness would allow their sight to adjust quickly when they were plunged into darkness, which came in handy especially during a raid.







Female Pirates were Common

While the media portrays pirate crews as all-male, there were plenty of female pirates on board a number of ships, too. These women were just as fearsome as their male counterparts and held the exact same ranking on the ship as the men. While some women were open about their gender, others dressed as men to try and hide the fact that they were female. 







Earrings Served a Health Purpose

If you’ve ever thought that the huge earrings worn by pirates were just for insurance like we mentioned before, you’d be wrong. In a clever move, these earrings actually served the purpose of protecting pirates’ hearing. If a ship was going to shoot off some canons, pirates would simply slot a part of their earring that was made of wax into their ears. This would block out the sound of the cannon and protect their hearing. Amazing! 



The Red Flag Was The Most Terrifying

While most of us assume that the image of the classic black “Jolly Rodger” flag was the most fearsome, in reality, it was the red flag that signified danger. If a pirate ship was flying their red flag, it meant that no mercy would be given to anyone who raided the ship. It was also a sure sign that anyone who entered the ship would be killed instantly, with absolutely no exceptions. Yikes. 

Did you know any of these crazy pirate traditions? As well as being fearsome killers, it’s clear from this that pirates were also highly organised and smart people who organised their own micro-society very well.



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