Amulets

Usually used for prophylactic purposes rather than therapeutic. For example, it used to be said in Warwickshire that a child wearing a cross made of the white pith of an ELDER would never have whooping cough (Palmer). Necklaces made of small twigs from a churchyard elder for the same purpose are recorded too (Lewis). That same necklace would have been used to prevent teething fits (Friend). Similarly, in Ireland, nine pieces of a young twig were used for epilepsy; should the necklace fall and touch the ground, it had to be burned, and a new one made (Wilde). That was probably because it was believed that the really efficacious elders themselves would never have touched the ground, for the preferred amulet tree would have grown in the stump of some other tree, a willow for preference, where birds had dropped the seed. PEONY roots were, in the same way, used as amulets. A necklace turned from the roots was worn by Sussex children to prevent convulsions, and to help teething (Latham), and a necklace made from the seeds was also used in parts of France to keep children free from fits (Sebillot). Gerard also mentioned a necklace made from the roots "tied about the neckes of children" as an effective "remedy against the falling sicknesse". Langham went beyond the falling sickness; he claimed that it protected against the "haunting of the fairies and goblins". These necklaces were known as Anodyne necklaces in the 17 and 18 ' centuries. The galls on a DOG ROSE were once treated as amulets, by wearing them round the neck to cure whooping cough (Grigson. 1955), or even merely hanging them in the house (Rolleston); they were worn against rheumatism (Bloom), or piles (Savage). Putting one under the pillow was a Norfolk way to cure cramp (Taylor), and carrying one in the pocket would prevent toothache (Leather). Occasionally, whole plants of BUCK'S HORN PLANTAIN were worn round the neck as amulets against the ague, a practice recorded in Sussex (Allen), but it seems to have come from Gerard, but he warned, "unto men, nine plants, roots and all; and unto women and children seven". Yorkshire schoolboys carried them as a charm against flogging (Gutch); that is why they were known there as Savelick, or Save-whallop (Gutch, Robinson).

In Italy, amulets for the prevention of insomnia were made by binding OAK twigs into the form of a cross (Leland. 1898). Amulets of FENNEL were sometimes made - the seeds were hung round a child's neck to protect from the evil eye (W Jones), and in Haiti it protects from loupgarous (F Huxley). A medieval Jewish protective amulet used a sprig of fennel over which incantations had been recited, wrapped in silk along with some wheat and coins, and the whole lot encased in wax (Trachtenberg). CAMPHOR was once used to keep off evil spirits (Maddox), while in more recent times it was worn to protect the wearer from epidemics (the strong smell would be enough to repel evil, and so would be antiseptic in some way). In the Balkans, VALERIAN was sewn into a child's clothes, as an amulet to ward off witches (Vukanovic), and WOODY NIGHTSHADE was hung round a baby's neck to help teething, and around the neck of cattle that had the staggers (Brand/Hazlitt).

Welsh tradition in particular valued VERVAIN as an amulet, the dried and powdered roots to be worn in a sachet round the neck (Trevelyan). But similar practices were recorded elsewhere. In the Isle of Man, neither the mother nor a new-born baby were let out of the house before christening day, and then both had a piece of vervain sewn into their underclothes for protection (Gill. 1963). In Sussex, too, the practice was to dry the leaves and put them in a black silk bag, to be worn round the neck of a sickly child (Latham), most probably to avert witchcraft rather than to effect a cure, and it was sewn into children's clothing to keep fairies away. ST JOHN'S WORT is just as good, at least at its proper season, which would be St John's Eve and Day. It will keep out all evil spirits and witches. Some say it should be found accidentally. In the Western Isles it had to be sewn into the neck of a coat, and left there. Interfering with it in any way would rob it of his powers (Spence. 1959).

Figures cut from a MANDRAKE root were worn as amulets by both men and women in Palestine as fertility charms (Budge). The plant was believed to be an aphrodisiac, and Palestinian women quite often used to bind a piece of the root to their arm, the belief being that it could only exert its magical influence if worn in contact with the skin (G E Smith).

Amygdalus communis > ALMOND

Anacyclus pyrethrum > PELLITORY-OF-SPAIN

Anadenanthera peregrina > COHOBA

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