Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/387

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373
ANIMAL AND PLANT LORE.

frequently recognized colors in the taste of various articles of food. Sometimes she would say to her mother that this food—otherwise agreeable—"tastes so very yellow that I can not eat it." She was reproached for such eccentric notions, and finally out-grew them. Now she is unable to recall any of these associations, or to remember what substances formerly tasted yellow, and what ones blue or green.

I may close this discussion with a wise observation of Francis Galton: "Persons who have color associations," he says, "are unsparingly critical. To ordinary individuals one of these accounts seems just as wild and lunatic as another, but when the account of one seer is submitted to another seer, who is sure to see the colors in a different way, the latter is scandalized and almost angry at the heresy of the former."

 

ANIMAL AND PLANT LORE.
By Mrs. FANNY D. BERGEN.
IV.

ACCORDING to popular tradition, a surprising variety of physical ailments or discomforts may be relieved by human saliva, used in compliance with certain explicit rules. Such prescriptions abound both in our own day and in the pseudo-medical literature of earlier ages, varying more or less in different places and in different periods, but here an d there to-day we find some interesting survival that tallies exactly with a superstition two thousand or more years old.[1] Many of these popular prescriptions apparently are based entirely upon supposed curative virtues of human saliva, while others may more properly be said to be directions for working, by means of spittle, spells or charms, that are supposed to cure bodily disorders.

So general do I find to be the belief that human saliva has medical properties, that, desiring to be on the safe side before ranking as out-and-out superstitions many very common customs dependent upon this belief, I have consulted a number of trustworthy medical authorities in regard to the matter. The universal testimony is to the effect that there is not the slightest scientific warrant for any prescriptions in which relief of pain is promised on account of any specific remedial quality of spittle. Warmth and moisture may be grateful to a burn, insect-bite, or


  1. The present paper, which deals almost entirely with the uses of saliva in folk medicine, forms only a part of a somewhat extended treatment of the subject of American superstitions in regard to saliva which the writer hopes, at some future time, to present in a more permanent form in connection with other folk lore.