Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/41

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27
Presidential Address.

African folk-tale?[1] Take folk-medicine for example. Old-fashioned village doctresses all over England will tell you that you should never touch a hurt or sore with the forefinger, because that finger is poisonous. The middle finger must always be used. "Any doctor will tell you so," one informant assured me; and once upon a time this was true enough. The use of the digitus veneficus was prohibited in all early medical treatises.[2] Now it only survives among the folk.[3]

Again,—in 1902 a man was tried at Blackburn for stealing a valuable dog, with intent to kill it, boil its body, and use the fat as an ointment for rheumatism.[4] More recently, an Irish friend volunteered the information to me that in Connaught the fat of young puppies (known as dog-grease) was esteemed a valuable remedy for rheumatism; and only last October I saw, (and unfortunately omitted to take note of), a newspaper article on dogs in Germany, in which it was incidentally mentioned that dogs there are liable to be killed for the sake of their fat, which is used for the cure of consumption. In another English case, which occurred in 1885, a woman was found to have killed a newly-born puppy, boiled it, and given the broth to her weakly infant to strengthen it.[5] Signor Busutil gives a recipe for the use of puppy broth in Malta as a popular remedy for the ill-effect of fright, which seems to be a common malady there.[6]

Now if we go back to the sixteenth century and to the autobiography of Ambroise Paré,[7] the great French surgeon, the most advanced and innovating practitioner

  1. Trevelyan, Folklore and Folk-Stories of Wales, p. 234; Lucas, Studies in Nidderdale; Jekyll, Jamaican Song and Story, pp. xxxvi., 26, 286.
  2. Unfortunately I have lost the reference to this.
  3. Let me point out in passing that this is not a matter of magic or of religion, but, like the prohibition to use the willow rod for chastisement, a precautionary measure based on a supposed natural property of the finger.
  4. Mr. Percy Manning in Folk-Lore, vol. xiv., pp. 85-6.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Miss Eyre, Ibid., p. 85.
  7. Cited in Confessio Medici, p. 65.