How to Stay Young, 1489

head of middle-aged Ficino in hat Portrait of Marsilio Ficino
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Zacariah in the Temple (1486-90)

There is a common and ancient opinion that certain prophetic women who are popularly called ‘screech-owls’ suck the blood of infants as a means, insofar as they can, of growing young again. Why shouldn’t our old people… likewise suck the blood of a youth? — a youth, I say who is willing, healthy, happy and temperate, whose blood is of the best but perhaps too abundant. They will suck, therefore, like leeches, an ounce or two from a scarcely-opened vein of the left arm; they will immediately take an equal amount of sugar and wine; they will do this when hungry and thirsty and when the moon is waxing. If they have difficulty digesting raw blood, let it first be cooked together with sugar; or let it be mixed with sugar and moderately distilled over hot water and then drunk.

Marsilio Ficino, De vita libri tres

(trans. Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clarke) One wonders how difficult it was to find a willing youth to serve as an ingredient for Ficino’s rejuvenating recipes.