‘Weird’ remedies and the problem of ‘folklore’

A post on ‘weird’ remedies and the problems in talking about ‘folklore’.

Dr Alun Withey

“For a child that wets the bed, roast a mouse and give him the gravy to drink, and it will cure certainly”.

“For whooping cough, take a large hazel nut, bore a small hole in one end and take out the kernel; then place in the hollow a living spider, close up the hole and place to the child’s neck. When the spider dies, the child will be cured”.

“to discern the king’s evil, hold an earthworm to the aggriev’d place. If it dies it be king’s evil, otherwise not”

These are just a few examples of what might be, and indeed often are, termed ‘folkloric’ remedies. They are taken from various Welsh sources and are typical of the sorts of animal/ritual healing receipts that commonly occur in recipe collections and through recorded oral testimony. My own academic work on Welsh medical history has tended to move away from ‘folklore’…

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2 thoughts on “‘Weird’ remedies and the problem of ‘folklore’

  1. Fabulous article, as usual! So glad you referenced Rebecca’s article on oil of swallows. I completed several of her courses at UCCS for my undergrad degree and was happy to find her website via your most recent post. It must be absolutely thrilling to comb through the original manuscripts as you continue to break new ground in the history of medicine (yes, I am green with envy!).

    1. Thanks for your kind comments Joni – yes, I’m a big fan of Rebecca’s work too. Enjoying getting back to the manuscripts now; there’s always something new to find! Thanks again.

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