Sunday, January 25, 2009

This Week’s Blinding Thought (V)

The next time you’re stricken down by an minor ailment, or if you’re in the throes of one now, take into account some of these medieval remedies and be glad you live in the 21st century. (Please note that A Doubtful Egg takes no responsibility if you attempt to cure yourself by the following methods.)

Catch a badger, draw his teeth while he is alive, and say: “I thee slay and draw thy teeth.” Then tie them in a garment and they will protect thee from hail, storm, wicked men and pestilence.
For difficult breathing, put the lung of a fox into sweetened wine and drink the mixture.
For sore ears, mix a fox’s gall with oil and smear the ears with it.
To avoid oversleeping [or sleeping at all, quippeth the Egg] drink a hare’s brain in wine; “wonderful it amendeth”.
For sore feet, beat a boar’s lung small, and mix it with honey. “Quickly this salve easeth the sore.”
To remove ugly marks from the face, smear the face with the blood of a bull. “It taketh away the marks.”
For pain and pricking sensation in the eyes, break into pieces the head of a hound. If
the right eye ache, take the right eye, if the left eye ache, take the left eye, and bind it to the affected eye. “It healeth well.”
For cataract or white spots, catch a fox alive, cut his tongue out, let him go, dry the tongue, tie it in a red bag, and hang it round the neck.
However, not all medieval cures were based on cruelty to animals and swallowing disgusting things. Many involved a doubtlessly sensible use of herbs and the like to alleviate symptoms (such as “For sore of feet, take [mugwort] and pound it with lard [and] lay it to the feet; it removes the soreness.”). Others, though, seem downright bizarre to the modern mind.

To avoid inflamed eyes, when you see a star fall or cross the heavens count quickly, for you will be free from the trouble for as many years as you can count numbers.
For the same, write on a clean sheet of paper, ούβαίχ, and hang this round the sufferer’s neck with a thread from a loom.
If a bone be stuck in your throat, say thrice nine times: “I buss the Gorgon’s mouth.”
For a sore eyelid, poke the sore with nine grains of barley and say: Flee, flee; barley thee chaseth.
For sleep, lay a wolf’s head under the pillow. “The unhealthy shall sleep.”

Or, my absolute favourite:

When you have toothache, say argidam margidam sturgidam, spit in the mouth of a frog and ask the frog to make off with the toothache.

Yeah, to hell with the dentist; next time I get a twinge in the jaw, I’m off into a field to find a frog …

[Source: Frederick Harrison's Medieval Man and his Notions, published in 1947 by John Murray]


Claudia said...

I am very much relieved I didn't practice nursing in those days.

As a very experienced R.N., I can assure you that, if you have a bone stuck in your throat, you would never be able to "say thrice, nine times, I buss the Gorgon's mouth." You would be gone in 2 minutes, if you (or someone else) will not execute the Heimlich Maneuver (abdominal thrusts). See Vikipedia for complete informations.

I thought it was my duty to tell you this, as you intend to adopt at least one of those remedies.

Good luck! May the Medieval Spirits inspire you in time of bodily harms.

darren said...

Hares brain in the auld vino relaxo?I wonder if thats where hes 'Hare-brained' comes from?rather that then 'Rat-arsed' eh?

A Doubtful Egg said...

Claudia: I think, when it comes to health, I'll put my faith in paracetemol over the Medieval Spirits any day! Although I do think that, for minor ailments, medicinal herbs are often the business, and are used far less than they ought to be.
Rereading my post, I'm also baffled by the instruction to put a wolf's head under the pillow to help you sleep. It would be horribly uncomfortable, extremely pungent, and hard to balance your head on.
This is, of course, assuming it's not still attached to a living wolf...

Darren: I think even Medieval Man drew a line at carving the arse off a rat and serving it in wine. "Verily, thou must taketh me for a Fool if thou thinks I'll swallow that, ye scurvy knave! Methinks I'll stick with my pounded boar's bladders in sherry. Ye local quack said "wonderful it amendeth!"