Beauty marks haven't always been beautiful; in fact, for a significant part of human history, they've been considered hideous, bad luck, or even a sign of poor money management. And while
Madonna may have ditched her mole back in the early '90s, for many of us, these marks are permanent features. Check out the crazy ways different cultures have interpreted beauty marks, and find out whether your moles would have netted you a good husband or a visit to the exorcist.
The Ancient Greeks believed that moles and birthmarks could foretell a person's destiny. Melampus, scribe to King Ptolemy I, wrote a whole tract on mole divination.
Apparently, a mole on your cheek meant great future wealth, while those with marks on the backs of their throats would end up beheaded.
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In Classical Chinese medicine, there was a longstanding tradition of moleomancy, a divination style based upon a person's moles and birthmarks.
The good or ill luck of your particular marks was determined by their relation to the face's nine "wealth spots" and well as their color and size. Easily seen moles were thought to serve as warnings or reminders while hidden ones indicated good luck or fortune.
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For Romans, fair and unblemished skin was the sine qua non of beauty. Moles, freckles, and other marks were considered problematic, and Roman women attempted to remove or fade them with ashes made from snails.
However, moles or birthmarks were considered better than blemishes or branding marks left over from having been a slave, so many people used soft leather patches made to look like moles to cover up their "defects."
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In medieval Europe, moles and birthmarks (like so many other things) were considered signs of demonic possession. Church edicts from the period even took warts and moles to be physical signs of where, precisely, the devil entered a body like some kind of supernatural hickey.
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People in the Renaissance had their very own wacky ideas about the meaning of moles. Quack Richard Sanders invented a faddish "system" by which he claimed people could use facial moles to find out where people had corresponding birthmarks.
At the time, birthmarks were believed to give deep insights into personality. So if you could find out where someone's moles were, you'd know where their birthmarks were, too, and then could use them to discern whether someone would make a good husband, business partner, etc.
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The 18th Century
In the 18th century mouches (meaning "flies") — felt patches made to look like beauty marks — became an insanely popular makeup item among the women of Western Europe. So much that designers began creating increasingly large and elaborate ones. At the height of their popularity, there were mouches that looked like coaches drawn by four horses and even ones that looked like three-masted ships.
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The Victorian Era
The Victorians had a great deal of faith in phrenology, or the "science" of using a person's head to determine their personality, intelligence, and overall character. Moleoscopy, a special subgenre of the practice, claimed to be able to identify character traits based on mole placement.
For example, those with marks on the right sides of their foreheads were considered extremely intelligent and competent. If your mole was on the left side of your forehead, though, you were probably just a spendthrift.
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The 1950s were a time of buttoned-up sexuality, and Marilyn Monroe, the era's greatest sex symbol, quickly became known for the off-center mole on the left side of her mouth. A century before, moles near a person's mouth denoted high levels of sensuality, and the association was still clearly hanging around in the 20th century.
Now, however, instead of being a negative trait, moles like Marilyn's became sexy, inciting a generation of young women to draw them on for a little extra sex appeal.
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The 1980s and 1990s
Cindy Crawford may have gotten made fun of for her mole when she was a child, but once she hit the runways in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the beauty mark on top of her lip became just as iconic as Marilyn's almost half a century before.
Even earlier, Madonna copied Marilyn's look to bring the big, sexy mole back in the 1980s.
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If you don't have a beauty mark where you'd like one these days, you can always follow
Amy Winehouse's lead and get a Monroe piercing. The round above-lip studs are meant to look like Marilyn Monroe's mole, but you can also get fake mole piercings on your cheeks and chin.
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