There are more folk cures for warts than for any other ailment, featured in virtually every regional collection. Some simply advise rubbing them with a specified plant product, for example the inner skin of broad-bean pods, sliced potato, the juice of dandelion, spurge, or greater celandine. If the wart is a large, fleshy one, it can be starved of blood by tying a thread or hair tightly round the base, and will soon shrivel and drop off. But very often *magical actions are prescribed; the warts are touched with some object(s) such as pebbles, pins, or knotted cord, or identified with them by counting, after which the object(s) is/are thrown away or buried. Such methods have been recommended since the Middle Ages; recently recorded examples include: 'Rub wart with raw meat and bury meat afterwards' ('at a crossroads at midnight', according to some); 'Tie as many knots as there are warts in a piece of string, throw away the string'; 'Count warts, take the same number of buds from an alder bush, bury them'. Some older sources suggest rubbing the wart with a snail or slug, which is then impaled on a thorn bush and left to die.
   The underlying assumption is that the fate of the object(s) determines that of the warts: as it rots or is lost, so will the warts be; as the *snail dies, so does the wart. Sometimes, it is thought they will be transferred to someone else; in 1807 Robert Southey wrote:
   Stealing dry peas or beans, and wrapping them up, one for each wart, he carries the parcel to a place where four roads meet, and tosses it over his head, not looking behind to see where it falls; he will lose the warts, and whoever picks it up will find them. (Letters from England, no. 50)
   Less maliciously, they can be 'given' to the dead:
   Wait till you see a funeral then stroke the wart in the direction in which the funeral is going, saying at the same time: 'Corpse, corpse, take my wart with you'.... t never fails, but again secrecy is important, for no one must see or hear what you are doing. ([i]N&Q 11s:3 (1911), 446)
   There were, and are, people credited with the ability to charm away warts by 'buying' them, making the sign of the cross over them, touching them, or merely looking at them; they sometimes also murmured a charm, but its words are not recorded. Various rhymes are known for self-administered charms, for instance to stick a pin in an *ash tree and say:
   Ashy tree, ashy tree,
   Pray buy these warts off me,
   or cut a *cross in a potato, throw it away, and say:
   One, two, three, Warts go away from me, One, two, three, four, Never come back no more. (Tongue, 1965: 43)
   For samples of cures, see Opie and Tatem, 1989: 422-4; Susan Drury, Folklore 102 (1991), 97-100. For material from the 1960s and 1990s, see Gabrielle Hatfield, Warts: Summary of the Wart-Cure Survey for the Folklore Society (1998).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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