Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/71

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Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society. 63

serious discussions in regard to the origins of such substances and the mode of making sure of their genuineness and excellence read to-day like mere parodies on pharmacy. One is told, for instance : " You ought to be careful, likewise, that every Bundle or Parcel of vipers, which is usually a Dozen, have the Hearts and Livers along with them, these being the most noble Parts of the Animal." And again : " They are much more sprightly and gay when they are in the Field than after they are taken, because they then draw themselves up into a narrower Compass and contract their Pores." The whole descriptions of the medicinal use of vipers, of the sources and preparation of bezoar, of moss from human skulls, and so on, read like the directions for the preparation of a voodoo charm or the rabbit-foot talis- man. Indeed, very little reading of old treatises on materia medica and herbals is necessary to make clear the fact that folk-medicine represents the first step of the series which ends in the scientific pharmaceutics of to-day.

It is necessary to say, once for all, in regard to the items of folk-medicine contained in the following pages, that they are not inserted because they are merely fancies. Very many of the remedies cited are certainly useful ; tea made from butternut bark is as efficacious as tincture of aloes or of cascara sagrada, if less expensive ; and sassafras-pith makes as grateful an application for inflamed eyes as anything known to the most skilful oculist. But those medicaments which are unknown or nearly so to the modern practitioner, while they are of common use in domestic medicine among simple people, are legitimate subject-matter for any collection of folk- remedies. It should be added that the animal and plant remedies here described form but an insignificant part of the list which could be collected within the limits of the United States and Canada, since every region has drawn largely upon its own local fauna and flora for medicinal use.

This notice may be concluded with the final passage of Mr. Bergen's Introduction: —

As I have suggested in an earlier paragraph, much of our folk-lore is of Old World origin. Considering that we have perhaps the most mixed population on earth, it could not be otherwise ; our folk-lore must be a compound of the most various ingredients. If we cannot detect in it morsels from every country in Europe, from half the tribes of Africa, from a large part of Asia and the great Pacific islands, as well as from many tribes of American Indians, it is only because our analysis is not sufficiently minute. The present is the time, while the fragments of the folk-lore of English-speaking America are only cemented into an angular breccia, to gather specimens of the mass from as many parts of it as may be. When the materials shall have been worked over into a compact whole, and when our superstitions shall have been catalogued with the fulness and care with which those of Great Britain or of Germany have been set down, there will be r. chance for some one to do for American folk-lore what Simrock, Grimm, and Wuttke have severally done for that of Germany.

W. W. N.

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