Friday, July 14, 2017

Wolves Used in Medicine By C. F. Gordon Cumming 1891

Wolves Used in Medicine By C. F. Gordon Cumming 1891

We find that, as some sort of compensation for the damage done by them when in life, their remains after death were turned to excellent account by the learned medical men who treated our ancestors. Just as in China at the present day the blood, eyes, sinews and skin of tigers, and the skin of the great white snake, are eagerly secured by the people as precious medicine, so were the teeth and skin of British wolves treasured by multitudes in our own land, as a sure remedy for divers diseases.

In an erudite medical work ("Medicina de Quadrupedibus") we are gravely assured that the most certain cure for sleeplessness is to place a wolf's head under the pillow of the patient! and a supper of well-seasoned wolf's flesh is the best charm to prevent anyone from being disturbed by satanic apparitions or any form of "devilsickness." The skin of a wolf was to be worn either to cure hydrophobia or to prevent epilepsy; and the skin of the head was a safeguard against all malevolent demons. The head-bone or skull of a wolf, thoroughly burnt and finely pounded, was warranted to heal racking pain in the joints; and an ointment prepared from the right eye of a wolf was the most valuable prescription known to the Saxon oculist. Precious, too, and by no means easily procured, was the milk of the she-wolf, a draught of which, mingled with wine and honey, was accounted a potent remedy for women in dire suffering in the hour of labor, as also the most efficacious solace where with to rub the gums of a teething child.

Many and varied were the uses, both in magic and in medicine, of the teeth of this evil beast. As a nursery treasure wherewith to facilitate teething, a wolf's tooth was an invaluable instrument, almost as efficacious as the aforesaid milk, and certainly more easily obtained. So great an authority as Pliny recommends horsemen to provide themselves with these valuable safeguards; "for," saith he, "the great master teeth and grinders of a wolfe, being hanged about a horse's neck, cause him that he shall never tire and be weary, be he put to never so much running in any race whatsoever." Such a tooth wrapped in a bay-leaf was an amulet which insured the wearer against ever being angrily spoken to. This last is recommended in another learned work entitled "De Virtutibus Herbarum."

More noxious is the cure recommended in the sixth century, by Alexander of Tralles, as a certain cure for colic, namely wolf's dung inclosed in a hollow tube, and worn upon the right arm, the hip or the thigh during the paroxysms. But this peculiarly revolting class of remedy figured prominently not only in the Leechdons of the Anglo-Saxons, but in the recognized British Pharmacopeia of the last century!

Perhaps one of the strangest superstitions regarding wolves at the present day is to he found in China, where, I was told by Dr. Dudgeon, of Peking, it is considered lucky, if a child has died of any infectious disease, that a wolf should carry away the corpse, as he therewith removes the cause of the calamity, and averts evil from the other children. In Mongolia it is customary to throw out the dead on the plain, for this express purpose, that they may be devoured by the wolves!

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