Camphor

(Cinnamonium camphora) Camphor, though solid, is the essential oil from this tree, made by distillation of the shoots. Aboriginal people observed sanctions in the gathering of camphor. The Malayan Jokuns, for example, used to believe that there is a "bisan", or spirit, that looks after the camphor trees, and that without propitiating the spirit, it would not be possible to get the camphor. The bisan makes a shrill noise at night, and that is a sign that there are camphor trees about (actually the noise is made by a cicada). The offering to the bisan was simply a part of the food being taken into the jungle. No prayers were offered, but all food had to be eaten dry, without condiments. Salt must not be pounded fine, or the camphor would only be found in fine grains. Conversely, the coarser the salt, the larger the camphor grains (Skeat).

The drug use probably emanates from the earlier belief that the smell keeps off evil spirits. It was used as an amulet for this purpose (Maddox), and there are still signs of it in recent times - in Maine, for instance, they used to say that the way to cure boils was to hang a camphor bag round the neck (Beck). As recently as

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