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Trove Tuesday: Strange Remedies

I came across this article on Trove and just had to use it for Trove Tuesday.  One can imagine the trouble superstitious early settlers would have had if they continued the practice of swallowing live spiders, especially if they chose red backs, white tails or funnel web ones. As to some of the other suggestions eww!

Source: Strange Remedies. (1887, October 25). The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893), p. 4. Retrieved October 22, 2013, from


Strange Remedies.

In an articles on "Strange Medicines," in the Nineteenth Century, Miss Cumming quotes a few of the healing spells which are to this day practised by the peasantry of various districts in Great Britain, and which are considered certain remedies.
The Northumbrian cure for warts is to take a large snail, rub the wart well with it, and then impale the snail on a thorn hedge.  As the creature wastes away, the warts will surely disappear.  In the west of England, eel's blood serves the same purpose.  For goiter, or wen, the hand of a dead child must be rubbed nine times across the lump, or, still better, the hand of a suicide may be substituted.
In the vicinity of Stamfordham, in Nortumberland, whooping cough is cured by putting the head of a live trout into the patient's mouth, and letting the trout breathe into the later.  Or else a hairy caterpillar is put into a small bag and tied around the child's neck.  The cough ceases as the insect dies.
Another cure for whooping cough is offerings of hair.  In Sunderland, the crown of the head is shaved and the hair hung upon a bush or tree, with the full faith that as the birds carry away the hair so will the cough vanish.
In Lincolnshire a girl suffering from the ague cuts a lock of her hair and binds it round an aspen tree, praying the latter to shake in her stead.  In Ross-shire, where living cocks are still occasionally buried as a sacrificial remedy for epilepsy, some of the hair of the patient is generally added to the offering.  At least one holy well in Ireland (that of Tubber Quan) requires an offering of hair from all Christian pilgrims who come here on the last three Sundays in June to worship St. Quan.  As a charm against toothache, it is necessary to go thrice around a neighbouring tree on the bare knees and then cut off a lock of hair and tie it to a branch.  The tree thus fringed with human hair of all colours is a curious sight and an object of deep veneration.
The remedy for a toothache at Tavistock, in Devonshire, is to bite a tooth from a skull in the churchyard, and keep it always in the pocket.
Spiders are largely concerned in the cure of ague.  In Ireland the sufferer is advised to swallow a living spider.  In Somerset and the neighbouring counties he is to shut a large black spider in a box and leave it to perish.  Even in New England a lingering faith in the superstitions of the mother country leads to the manufacture of spider web pills for the cure of ague, and Longfellow tells of a popular cure for fever-
"By wearing a spider hung round one's neck in a nutshell."
This was the approved remedy of our British ancestors for fever and ague ; and in Sussex a live spider rolled up in butter is still considered good in cases of obstinate jaundice.
At Loch Carron, in Ross-shire, an occasional cure for erysipelas is to cut off half the eat of a cat and let the blood drip on the inflamed surface.
In Cornwall, the treatment for the removal of whelks or small pimples from the eyelids of children is to pass the tail of a black cat nine times over the part affected.
In Devonshire, the approved treatment for scrofula is to dry the hind leg of a toad and wear it round the neck in a silk bag ; or else to cut off that part of the living reptile that answers to the part affected, and having wrapped the fragment in parchment, to tie it round the sufferer's neck.
In the same county the "wide man's" remedy for rheumatism is to burn a toad to ashes and tie the dust in a bit of silk to be work round the throat.
Toads are made to do service in divers manners in Cornwell and Northampton for the cure of nose bleeding and quinsy ; while "toad powder," or even a live toad or spider shut up in a box, is still in some places accounted as useful a charm against contagion as it was in the days of Sir Kenelm Digby.  The old smallpox and dropsy remedy, known as pulvis ethiopicus, was nothing more or less than powdered toad.
Frogs, too, are considered remedial.  Thus, frog's spawn placed in a stone jar and buried for three months till it turns to water has been considered wonderfully efficacious in Donegal, when well rubbed into a rheumatic limb.  In Aberdeenshire, a cure for sore eyes is to lick the eyes of a live frog.  A man thus healed has thenceforth the power of curing all sore eyes by licking them!
In like manner, in Ireland, it is believed that the tongue that has licked a lizard all over will be forever endowed with the power of healing whatever sore or pain it touches.
Another Irish remedy is to apply a fox's tongue to draw a thorn from the foot.  The tooth of a living fox, worn as an amulet, is deemed a cure for an inflamed leg.  For deep seated thorns, the application of a cast-off snake skin is efficacious- not to attract the thorns, but to expel it from the opposite side of the hand or foot.
In some of the Hebradean Isles, notably that of Lewis, the greatest faith prevails in the efficacy of perforated water-wornstones, called "snakestones."  These are dipped into water, which is then given to cattle as a cure for swelling or snake bite.  If the stone is unattainable, the head of an adder dipped in the water gives an equally good result.
In Devonshire, any person bitten by a viper is advised to kill the creature at once and rub the wound with its fat.  It is said that this practice has survived in some portions of the United States, where the flesh of the rattlesnake is accounted the best cure for its own bite.  Black, in his "Folk Medicine," states that the belief in the power of snake skin as a cure for rheumatism still exists in New England.  Such a belief is probably a direct heritage from Britain.
In Durham, an eel's skin, worn as a garter round the naked leg, is considered a preventive of cramp, while in Northumberland it is esteemed the best bandage for a sprained limb.
So, too, in Sussex, the approved cure for a swollen neck is to draw a snake nine time across the throat of the sufferer, after which the snake is killed, and its skin sewed in a piece of silk and worn round the patient's neck.  Sometimes the snake is put in a bottle, which is tightly corked and buried in the ground, and it is expected that, as the victim decays, the swelling will subside.- Scientific American.


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