Hernia

One of the best known and widespread of charms is that of passing children through holes in an ASH tree as a remedy for hernia. In Cornwall, the ceremony had to be performed before sunrise, and a further Cornish belief was that the child would recover only if he were washed in dew collected from the branches on three successive mornings (Deane and Shaw). The Wiltshire practice was to pass the child through a maiden ash, i.e., one that had never been pruned, at sunrise on 1 May, head towards the sun (Eddrup). Gilbert White reported that it was customary to split an ash, and to pass ruptured children through. If any injury should happen to the split tree, the child would suffer accordingly. The practice of planting a tree to commemorate the birth of a child may well be a relic of this belief that the life of an individual is bound up in that of a tree. Perhaps this is the reason why it is always so unlucky to break a branch off an ash. The rules given for the split ash ceremony in Suffolk are:

1. Must be early in the spring before the leaves come

2. Split the ash as near east and west as possible

3. Split exactly at sunrise

4. The child must be naked

5. The child must be put through the tree feet first

6. The child must be turned with the sun

7. The child must be put through the tree three times (Gurdon).

The Somerset rules include 2,4 and 6, but go on further to say that the child must be handed in by a maiden, and received by a boy (Mathews), though the "maiden" requirement may be an error, and refer to the tree rather than a participant in the ceremony. A maiden ash is one grown from seed, and never topped. Evelyn mentions the split ash rites, which continued in England at least to 1830 (Graves) -indeed, it was still being done in Essex in 1925 (Mason). Rarely, there are records of HOLLY being used in the same way. One such cure is from Surrey (Clinch & Kershaw): the usual slit was made in the tree, the two sections being held apart by two people, while two women, one at the child's head and one at the feet, passed him naked several times backwards and forwards through the slit. And in Portugal the same was done with a REED. The child's injury will heal while the injury to the plant heals. There is the usual ritual to be observed: in this case it had to be performed at midnight on St John's Eve (23 June), by three men of the name of John, while three women, each called Mary, spun, each with her own spindle, on one and the same distaff (Gallop).

Another spectacular way of dealing with the problem can be quoted from the Cree Indians, who used the powdered root of the poisonous AMERICAN WHITE HELLEBORE (Veratrum viride) for the purpose. The procedure was to raise the patient up on a platform, in a horizontal position, when he would take a good pinch of the hellebore snuff, and during the violent sneezing that followed someone would be standing ready to push the hernia back with his fist! (Corlett).

Comfrey is a fracture herb, the fracture herb in fact, but the Pennsylvania Germans extended the virtue to include hernia also. It is really a magical cure - you have to hold it on the hernia until it is warm. Then the comfrey has to be planted. If it grows, the hernia will be cured (Fogel). Gerard advised the use of the powdered herb and roots of DOVE'S FOOT CRANES-BILL to treat hernia, "as my selfe have often proved, whereby I have gotten crownes and credit".

Heuchera americana > ALUM-ROOT

Heuchera bracteata > NAVAJO TEA

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis > ROSE OF CHINA HICCUPS

An Alabama cure for the hiccups is to drink a tablespoonful of QUINCE juice (R B Browne). Wickop, or Wicopy, are American names for ROSEBAY WILLOWHERB (Chamaenerion angustifolium). They mean hiccup, for which the root was used as a cure (Sanecki). ANISE, according to Gerard, "... helpeth the yeoxing or hicket, both when it is drunken or eaten dry ...". An infusion of WHITE HELLEBORE has been used in Russian folk medicine. It would "stop hiccuping immediately" (Kourennoff). Naturally, with a plant as poisonous as this, doses would have to be very small. A few drops of CAJUPUT oil on sugar will quickly end hiccups (Mitton). Maya medical texts prescribed KIDNEY BEANS for the hiccups (Roys).

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