Sundry Cures



Popular Romances of the West of England
Collected and Edited by Robert Hunt





I. THE vicar of Bodmin found, not long since, a bottle full of pins laid in a newly-made grave. I have heard of this as an unfailing remedy; each wart was touched with a new pin, and the pin then dropped into the bottle. I am not quite certain that it was necessary that the bottle should be placed in a newly-made grave; in many cases burying it in the earth, and especially at a "four cross-roads," was quite sufficient. As the pins rust, the warts decay.

II.  A piece of string should be taken, and as many knots tied on it as there are warts on the body; each wart being carefully touched with the knot dedicated to it. The string is then to be buried, and the warts fade away as it decays. A few years since a ship-wright in Devonport dockyard professed to cure warts by merely receiving from an indifferent person a knotted string,--the knots of which, had been tied by the afflicted. What he did with the string I know not.

III.  To touch each wart with a pebble, place the pebbles in a bag, and to lose the bag on the way to church, was for many years a very favourite remedy; but the unfortunate person who found the bag received the warts. A lady once told me that she picked up such a bag, when a child, and out of curiosity, and in ignorance, examined the contents. The result was that she had, in a short time, as many warts as there were stones in the bag.

IV. Another remedy was to steal a piece of meat from a butcher's stall in the public market, and with this to touch the warts, and bury it. As the meat putrefied the warts decayed.

V.        I remember, when quite a child, having a very large "seedy wart" on one of my fingers. I was taken by a distant relation, an elderly lady, residing in Gwinear, to some old woman, for the purpose of having this wart charmed. I well remember that two charred sticks were taken from the fire on the hearth, and carefully crossed over the fleshy excrescence, while some words were muttered by the charmer. I know not how long it was before the wart disappeared, but certainly, at some time, it did so.



 MARGERY PENWARNE, a paralysed woman, about fifty years of age, though from her affliction looking some ten years older, sat in the church porch of St --, and presented her outstretched withered arm and open palm to the congregation as they left the house of God after the morning service.

 Penny after penny fell into her hand, though Margery never opened her lips. All appeared to know the purpose, and thirty pennies were speedily collected. Presently the parson came with his family, and then she spoke for the first time, soliciting the priest to change the copper coins into one silver one. This wish was readily acceded to, and the paralytic woman hobbled into the church, and up the aisle to the altar rails. A few words passed between her and the clerk; she was admitted within the rails, and the clerk moved the communion-table from against the wall, that she might walk round it, which she did three times.

 "Now," said Margery, "with God's blessing, I shall be cured; my blessed bit of silver must be made into a ring" (this was ad-dressed to the clerk, half aside); "and within three weeks after it is on my finger I shall get the use of my limbs again."

 This charm is common throughout the three western counties for the cure of rheumatism,--the Devonshire halt,--or for any contraction of the limbs.



CRAWL under a bramble which has formed a second root in the ground. Or get a woman who has been delivered of a child feet foremost, to tread the patient.




IF this moss is properly gathered, it is "good against all diseases of the eyes."

 The gathering is regarded as a mystery not to be lightly told; and if any man ventures to write the secret, the virtues of the moss avail him no more. I hope, therefore, my readers will fully value the sacrifice I make in giving them the formula by which they may be guided.

 On the third day of the moon --m when the thin crescent is seen for the first time--show it the knife with which the moss is to be cut, and repeat,-- 

"As Christ heal'd the issue of blood,
Do thou cut, what thou cuttest, for good !"

At sun-down, having carefully washed the hands, the club-moss is to be cut kneeling. It is to be carefully wrapped in a white cloth, and subsequently boiled in some water taken from the spring nearest to its place of growth. This may be used as a fomenta­tion. Or the club-moss may be made into an ointment, with butter made from the milk of a new cow.



I.       GATHER nine spar stones from a running stream, taking care not to interrupt the free passage of the water in doing so Then dip a quart of water from the stream, which must be taken in the direction in which the stream runs ;-- by no means must the vessel be dipped against the stream. Then make the nine stones red hot, and throw them into the quart of water. Bottle the prepared water, and give the afflicted child a wine-glass of this water for nine mornings following. If this will not cure the whooping-cough, nothing else can, says the believer.

II. A female donkey of three years old was taken, and, the child was drawn naked nine times over its back and under its belly. Then three spoonfuls of milk were drawn from the teats of the animal, and three hairs cut from the back and three hairs cut from the belly were placed in it, this was to stand for three hours to acquire the proper virtue, and then the child drank it in three doses.

This ceremony was repeated three mornings running, and my informant said the child was always cured. I knew of several children who were treated in this manner in one of the small villages between Penzance and Madron Church town, some twenty or thirty years since. There were some doggerel lines connected with the ceremony, which have escaped my memory, and I have endeavoured, in vain, to find any one remembering them. They were to the effect that, as Christ placed the cross on the ass's back when he rode into Jerusalem, and so rendered the animal holy, if the child 'touched where Jesus sat, it should cough no more.



ONE good man informed me that, though he had no faith in charming, yet this he knew, that he was underground one day, and had the toothache "awful bad, sure enough; and Uncle John ax'd me, 'What's the matter ?' says he. 'The toothache,' says I. 'Shall I charm it ?' says he. 'Ees,' says I. 'Very well,' says he; and off he went to work in the next pitch. Ho dedn't my tooth ache, Lor' bless ee; a just ded, ye knaw; just as if the charm were tugging my very life out. At last Uncle John corned down to the soller, and sing'd out, 'Alloa ! how 's your tooth in there,' says he. 'Very bad,' says I. 'How's a feeling ?' says he. 'Pulling away like an ould hoss with the "skwitches,"' says I. 'Hal drag my jaw off directly,' says I. 'Ees the charm working ?' says he. 'Es, a shure enuf,' says I. 'Es,' says he, 'al be better d'rectly.' 'Hope a will,' says I. Goodness gracious dedn't a ache; I believe a did you; then a stopped most to once. 'Es better,' says I. 'I thought so,' says he; 'and you waan't have un no more for a long time,' says he. 'Thank ee, Uncle John,' says I; 'I 'll give ee a pint o' beer pay-day,' and so I ded; an' I haben't had the toothache ever since. Now, if he dedn't charm tin, how ded a stop ? and if he dedn't knaw a would be better a long time, how ded he say so ? No, nor I haven't had tin never since. So that 's a plain proof as he knaw'd all about it, waden't a you ?"

 I nodded assent, convinced it was useless to argue against such reasoning as that.



WET the forefinger of the right hand with spittle, and cross the front of the left shoe or boot three times, repeating the Lord's Prayer backwards.



THIS irregularity in the circulation is at once removed by crossing the foot with saliva.



THE following superstitions are still prevalent on the north coast of Cornwall :--

"This root (the sea-poppy), so much valued for removing all pains in the breast, stomach, and intestines, is good also for disordered lungs, and is so much better here than in other places, that the apothecaries of Cornwall send hither for it; and some people plant them in their gardens in Cornwall, and will not part with them under sixpence a root. A very simple notion they have with regard to this root, which falls not much short of the Druids' superstition in gathering and preparing their selago and samolus. This root, you must know, is accounted very good both as an emetic and cathar­tic. If, therefore, they design that it shall operate as the former, their constant opinion is that it should be scraped and sliced upwards--that is, beginning from the root, the knife is to ascend towards the leaf;--but if that it is intended to operate as a cathartic, they must scrape the root downwards. The senecio also, or groundsel, they strip upwards for an emetic and down' wards for a cathartic. In Cornwall they have several such groundless opinions with regard to plants, and they gather all the medicinal ones when the moon is just such an age; which, with many other such whims, must be considered as the reliques of the Druid superstition." [a]

They, the 'Druids, likewise used great, ceremonies in gathering,. an herb called samolus, marsh-wort, or fen-berries, which consisted in a previous fast, in not looking back during the time of their plucking it, and, lastly, in using their left hand only; from this last ceremony, perhaps, the herb took the name of samol, which, in the Phoenician tongue, means the left hand. This herb was considered to be particularly' efficacious in curing the diseases incident to swine and cattle.--( C. S. Gilbert.)

[a] Borlase's Observations on the Ancient and Present State of the Island of Scilly" "Notes and Queries," vol. x. p. 181. 1854.



This, and other Cornish Folk-Tales, can be found at Sacred Texts