Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Influence Of The Sun And Moon and Folk Medicine by William Black 1883

See also Folk Medicine, Alternative Remedies & Herbal Cures - 100 Books on DVDrom andAlternative Medicine & Spiritual Healing - 175 Books on DVDrom

Folk Medicine and the Influence Of The Sun And Moon by William George Black 1883

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Mead says that "the learned Kirckringius" relates the following story:—He knew a young gentlewoman whose beauty depended upon the lunar force, insomuch that at full moon she was very handsome, but in the decrease of the moon became so wan and ill-favoured that she was ashamed to go abroad till the return of the new moon gave fullness to her face and attraction to her charms. If this wore indeed the case, we can fully credit a later assertion of Mead, that the powerful action of the moon is observed not only by philosophers and students of natural history, but "even by common people, who have been fully persuaded of it time out of mind." True it is that Cornishmen believe that a child born in the interval between an old moon and the first appearance of a new one will never live to attain puberty; old people of extreme age are said to die at new or full moon. Galen is cited to the effect that animals born at full moon are strong and healthy. Bacon is said to have fallen invariably into a syncope during a lunar eclipse. In Sussex a new May moon is credited with curing scrofulous complaints when aided by certain charms. A correspondent in Rochester, U.S.A., tells me that an old black woman there asserts that asthma can be cured by walking three times round the house at midnight alone, at the fall of moon; to cure rickets, further, if you bury a lock of the child's hair at a cross-road it will be all the better if the full moon is shining. When the moon is one day old, he who is attacked by sickness, according to the leeches, "will be perilously bestead. If sickness attacks him when the moon is two days old he will soon be up. If it attacks him when the moon is three days old he will be fast-ridden, and will die. If it attacks him when the moon is four days old he will have a hard time of it, and yet will recover. If it attacks him when the moon is five days old he may be cured. If it is six days old, and sickness comes on him, he will live. If it be seven days old he will be long in a bad way. If it be eight days old, and disease attacks him, he will die soon. If it be nine, ten, or eleven days old he will be ill long, and, notwithstanding, recover. If it be twelve days old he will soon be up. If it be fourteen nights old, or fifteen, or sixteen, or seventeen, or eighteen, or nineteen, there will be great danger on those days. If it be twenty days old he will be long abed and recover. If it be twenty-one, twenty-two, or twenty-three, he will lie long in sickness and suffer and recover. If it is twenty-four he will keep his bed. If it is twenty-five he is perilously bestead. If he is attacked when the moon is twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, or twenty-nine days, he will recover. If he is attacked when the moon is thirty days old he will hardly recover, and yet will leave his bed." Martius, in his Erfurt address of 1700, speaking of the effect, according to rustics, of the moon's position upon the sap of growing plants, from which he says "primum nemo negabit, lunam virtute sua in corpore sibi subjecta manifesto agere," proceeds, "et observarunt medici ac chirurgi, referente Waldschmidio, non solum vulvera capitis in plenilunio ob cerebri turgescentiam majori cum periculo conjuncta esse, quam in novilunio, ubi cerebrum magis subsidet," but that all purgatives have happier issues when the moon is waning. Mead, following Galen, says the moon governs the period of epileptic cases, and that when he had met sailors who had contracted the disease by frights in sea-engagements or storms in Queen Anne's wars, he was often able to predict the times of the fits with tolerable certainty; "and T. Bartholin," he continues, "tells a story of an epileptic girl who had spots in her face which varied both in colour and magnitude according to the time of the moon. So great, says he, is the correspondence between our bodies and the heavens." Chaucer refers to a fever caused by the moon when he speaks of a blaunche or white fever in Troilus and Cressida—

And some thou seydest hadde a blaunche fevere,
And preydest God he sholde never kevere.

To cure warts in the west of Scotland, the sufferer is directed —instead of addressing words of endearment to the moon as would a Lancashire maid, desiring to know her true love— to stand still, and take a small portion of earth from under the right foot when he first catches sight of the new moon. The earth he makes into a paste, which he puts on the wart, wrapping it round with a cloth; plaster and cloth should remain till the moon is out.

Sir Kenelm Digby, in his Discourse on the Power of Sympathy, in a well-known passage asks if one would not think it a folly that one should wash his hands in a well-polished silver basin, wherein there was not a drop of water; "yet this may be done by the reflection of the moonbeams only, which will afford it a complete humidity to do it; but they who have tried it have found their hands much moister than usually; but this is an infallible way to take away warts from the hands if it be often used."

Mead's general explanation of the moon's influence is— "If the time in which either the peccant humour is prepared for secretion, or the fermentation of the blood is come to its height, falls in with those changes in the atmosphere which diminish its pressure at the new and full moon, the crisis will then be more complete and easy; and also that this work may be forwarded or delayed a day upon the account of such an alteration in the air, the distension of the vessels upon which it depends being hereby made more easy, and a weak habit of body, in some cases, standing in need of this outward assistance."

It is a common superstition that it is when the tide is at the lowest that death occurs. Who does not remember the end of Sir John Falstaff,—"A' parted," says the Hostess, "even just between twelve and one, even at the turning o' the tide;" and better than many other quotations will be the familiar words of Dickens in David Copperfield. Barkis is dying. "'He's a going out with the tide,' said Mr. Peggotty to me, behind his hand.

"My eyes were dim, and so were Mr. Peggotty's; but I repeated in a whisper, 'With the tide?'

"'People can't die, along the coast,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'except when the tide's pretty nigh out. They can't be born, unless it's pretty nigh in—not properly born, till flood. He's a going out with the tide. It's ebb at half arter three, slack water half an hour. If he lives 'till it turns, he'll hold his own till past the flood, and go out with the next tide.'

"I was on the point of asking him if he knew me, when he tried to stretch out his arms, and said to me, distinctly, with a pleasant smile:

"'Barkis is willing!'

"And, it being low water, he went out with the tide."

It is said, in Ireland, that if a woman's last child is born when the moon is on the increase, the next birth will be a boy, but if on the decrease it will be a girl. The following common lines, formerly repeated by Ulster midwives after they had marked each outside corner of the house with a cross, but before they crossed the threshold, is virtually a prayer to the moon. It is still, with the alteration of the third person to the first, in use as a prayer in rural districts:—

There are four corners to her bed,
Four angels at her head:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John;
God bless the bed that she lies on.
New moon, new moon, God bless me,
God bless this house and family.

The influence of the belief in planetary influence was seen in the constellated rings to which reference is elsewhere made; and so recently as June 1875, at the inquest held on the body of Miriam Woodham, who died under the prescriptions of a herbalist, it was elicited that the pills he gave her were made from seven herbs which were governed by the sun. A Babylonian exorcism runs, "On the sick man, by means of sacrifice, may perfect health shine like bronze; may the Sun god give this man life; may Merodoch, the eldest son of the deep, give him strength, prosperity, and health; may the king of heaven preserve, may the king of earth preserve." The Assyrians trusted in an image of Hea placed in the doorway keeping away the evil spirits. The Finns invoke the sun by the name of Beiwe, "pour le proteger des demons de la nuit et guerir certaines maladies, specialement les infirmites de l'intelligence, de meme que les Accads leur Oud, qui personnifie la meme astre." A Persian remedy for bad dreams comes to me from America,— if you tell them to the sun you will cease to be troubled with them. The manifold contortions of the dervishes are supposed to repeat the movements of the planets. The devil dancers of Southern India are thought to tempt the evil spirits of the stars to enter them, and so become dissipated, instead of afflicting the people generally.

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Fracastorius could predict plague by the conjunction of many stars under the large fixed stars. Kircher, "after a strict examination of almanacs and astrological tables," pointed out the evil effects of a conjunction of Mars and Saturn, which he contended emitted both very deadly exhalations; myriads of animalcules were generated, and such diseases as small-pox, measles, or fever became inevitable." Culpepper declares the greatest antipathy to be between Mars and Venus in a passage which is as quaint now as it was once, no doubt, satisfactory: "One is hot, the other cold; one diurnal, the other nocturnal; one dry, the other moist; their houses are opposite; one masculine, the other feminine; one public, the other private; one is valiant, the other effeminate; one loves the light, the other hates it; one loves the field, the other the sheets; then the throat is under Venus, the quinsie lies in the throat, and is an inflammation there. Venus rules the throat (it being under Taurus, her sign). Mars eradicates all diseases in the throat by his herbs (of which wormwood is one), and sends them to Egypt on an errand, never to return more; this by antipathy. The eyes are under the luminaries; the right eye of a man, and the left eye of a woman, the sun claims dominion over; the left eye of a man, and the right eye of a woman, are the privileges of the moon; wormwood, an herb of Mars, cures both; what belongs to the sun by sympathy, because he is exalted in his house, but what belongs to the moon by antipathy, because he hath his fall in hers."

It was to the tail of the demon Rahu that the Indians traced, not only comets and meteors, but also diseases, and the name, Ketu, is said to be almost another word for disease.f The first time a Cornish invalid goes out he must go in a circuit, and with the sun; if he goes the contrary way to the sun there will be a relapse. When a New England woman will cure warts she rubs the wart seven times round with the third finger of the left hand with the course of the sun, and if she is truly gifted the wart will disappear in a few days; but not everyone, I am told, has the power to make this charm. This was the natural progression, and perhaps, as Dalyell has suggested, motion with the sun's apparent course may involve a religious act in following it with the gaze from below. To move against the sun was to exhibit respect for Satan, in much the same way as repeating the Lord's Prayer backwards was supposed to do. But going "widderschynnes," as this retrograde motion was termed, was much resorted to. When Thomas Grieve, with some idea of sacrifice in his mind, took an animal to kill for the cure of a sick family, he put the animal out of the window thrice, and took it at the door thrice, "widderschynnes." This was in 1623. John Sinclair carried his sister backward to the kirk, and then laid her to the north. To cure sleepy fever in north-east Scotland, the patient's left stocking was taken and laid flat. A worsted thread was placed along both sides of it over the toe, and the stocking was so rolled up from toe to top that the two ends of thread hung loose on different sides. Three times this stocking was passed round each member of the family contrary to the course of the sun. If a member were affected the thread changed its position from outside to inside, otherwise it kept its position. When the process had been gone through three times in perfect silence the thread was burned.* When, in former times, a baptismal party were about to start on the often long journey to the church where the ceremony was to be performed, a quantity of common table-salt was carried "withershins" (the spelling varies, but the word is the same) round the baby. When the salt had been thus carried round it was believed that the child, even in its unregenerate state, was safe from harm. Salt, of course, was in repute on account of its own celebrity; for, apart from the fact that salt, or salt and water, was applied anciently for distempered eyes, and used as a bandage for bites of mad dogs, salt was, as every reader of tales and ballads knows, a favourite way of procuring disenchantment. Noel du Fail recommends, to cure gout, that a piece of linen, which has previously been steeped in salted water, should be applied to the painful part.

The importance of time in birth, in disease, and other incidents of life, was suggested by consideration of planetary influence. If a child in China is born between nine and eleven o'clock, if his early path be rough at last he will arrive at great riches; and unlucky all his days will be the child born between three or five o'clock either of the morning or of the evening But although such importance attached to the time of birth in the celestial empire, yet the fate of a man might be modified by his good works, for one was told "your filial piety has touched the gods, a protecting star-influence has passed into your nativity sheet, and you will come to no harm." In Lancashire, persons born during twilight are supposed to see spirits, and know which of their acquaintance will be soonest to die; but others hold that this power belongs only to those born exactly at midnight. This perhaps arises from the superstition, common both in England and China, that midnight is a fatal period; consequently any spirit coming into being at that time might be supposed to have met those spirits which were quitting life. Not without reason, then, it would be argued they should be able to recognise what others, having no opportunity of ever seeing, could never know or recognise—the dead spirits. It was at midnight that rickety children used to be put naked on the Logan stone, near Nancledrea. By day-time it was impossible to move the stone, but exactly at midnight it would rock like a cradle. Many a child was said to be cured. It is after midnight of the seventh day of the seventh month that Canton women draw the magical water which, if used in cooking food for the patient, will cure cutaneous diseases or fevers.

Such water, though kept for years, will never become putrid. Rain which falls on Holy Thursday is, in the neighbourhood of Banbury, to return to our own country, carefully bottled for use in cases of sore eyes. So, too, in Worcestershire, a correspondent informs me, and probably generally over England, the superstition holds good. Good Friday bread, as known in the same county, is a small lump of dough put in the oven early in the morning of Good Friday, and baked until perfectly hard throughout. A small quantity of this, grated, is given to a patient when all other remedies fail. It is kept hanging from the roof. Hot cross buns, if kept from one Good Friday to another, are thought, in Lancashire, to prevent an attack of whooping-cough. On the whole, the reputation of Friday is good throughout folk-medicine. The most favourable time to visit a seventh son is said to be, in Ireland at least, on a Friday, just before sunrise—just at the cock-crowing perhaps, which in Europe generally was looked upon as the proper time for taking medicine. For plying venom, and every venomous swelling, the leeches say churn butter on a Friday from cream which has been milked from a neat or hind all of one colour; let it be mingled with water, sing over it nine times a litany, and nine times the Paternoster, and nine times an incantation. Even for deep wounds this Friday ceremony would be good.

In Scotland illness was expected to be more severe on Sunday than on any other day; and a relapse was anticipated if the patient seemed easier. And yet it was a day of special healing at many wells. Sick children were carried, on the first Sunday of May, to St. Anthony's Well, near Maybole, and on that day were the waters of the cave of Uchtrie Macken, and the white loch of Merton, most efficacious, and the well at Ruthven. The well at Trinity Gask was sought on the first Sunday of June. There appears to have been some old charm for toothache, which ran over the days for the week, for we have the following as a mock charm in A. C. Mery Talys:—

"The son on the Sonday,
The mone on the Monday,
The Trynyte on the Tewsday."

It was on Sunday that the people of Apulia circumvented the walls of their town nine times, to secure the cure of one bitten by a tarantula, or a mad dog.

When Shane, the son of Croohoore Bawn, was a priest in Rome, he saw one of the students shaving himself on a Monday.

"'Mor a smoh, lath veh vuan
Naw dane lum an Lnan,'

said Shane. 'What's that you're saying?' said the student. 'Why,' said Shane, 'it's an old Irish saying; and the meaning of it is, 'if you wish to live long, don't shave on a Monday.' 'I have you now,' thought the student, though he said nothing to Shane; but as soon as he had done shaving away he goes to the abbot, and told him what Shane said, saying it was a great crime for a priest to believe in any such thing, and that he had no right to be bringing his auld Irish pishogues (charms) to Rome." All rhymes as to the days of birth seem to agree that Monday's child should be fair of face, but I am surprised that the day of the moon should not have had more honour in the medical lore of the people. Possibly, further research may result in information on this point.

The first Wednesday in May is the day in Cornwall for bathing rickety children, and on the first three Wednesdays of May children suffering from mesenteric disease are dipped three times in Chapell Uny "widderschynnes," and widderschynnes dragged three times round the well. A ring of pure gold, inscribed with certain letters, was to be worn on a Thursday, at the decrease of the moon, by the patient of Marcellus (temp. Marcus Aurelius), who suffered from pain in the side. If the pain were in the left side the ring was to be worn on the right hand, and if in the right side the ring was to be worn on the left hand.

Vervain is recommended for "sore of liver" in the Herbarium Apuleii, if taken on Midsummer Day, and lithewort (Sambucus ebulus) for another complaint, if taken before the rising of the sun "in the month which is named July."

To conclude, let us note the days of danger, as the leech-books give us them. They are, in March the first, and fourth before the end; in April the tenth, and eleventh before the end: in May the third, and seventh before the end; in June the tenth, and fifteenth before the end; in July the twelfth, and tenth before the end; in August the first, and second before the end; in September the third, and tenth before the end; in October the third, and tenth before the end; in November the fifth, and third before the end; in December the seventh, and tenth before the end; in January the first, and seventh before the end; in February the fourth, and third before the end. It is not so long ago that medical men stoutly defended their belief in the influence of the moon on lunacy; and that a full moon has more influence than a waning moon is still a far from rare thought of country people.

See also Folk Medicine, Alternative Remedies & Herbal Cures - 100 Books on DVDrom andAlternative Medicine & Spiritual Healing - 175 Books on DVDrom

[For a list of all of my digital books & disks click here]

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