medicine


medicine
   'Folk' medicine is an accumulation of very diverse techniques and beliefs, on which many layers of cultural history have left a mark; it could never have been known in its entirety to any one community, let alone one individual. The two primary aspects, predating any written records, are a practical knowledge of the effects of *herbs and plants, and the principles of *magic by contact or similarity. An important principle was that disease could be transferred from one person to another, or to an animal or object. This is obvious in *wart cures, and in the notion that *onions 'draw' infection; it is probably one factor in more complex rituals such as passing a child with hernia through a split *ash. Perhaps the widespread belief in the curative touch of a *dead hand implied that the ailment would go with the dead man to his grave; however, contact with death seems to have been effective in itself, judging by the healing power attributed to *skulls, *coffin nails, *churchyard earth, and similar grim objects.
   Christianity had a strong impact on folk medicine. From Anglo-Saxon times onwards, instructions for gathering or administering medicinal herbs routinely involved making the sign of the cross, and repeating formulas of prayer. Many traditional verbal charms, such as those for *toothache, *nightmare, and *burns, invoke the power of Jesus, or of saints and angels. The medicinal efficacy of *cramp rings, *Good Friday buns, rain falling on *Ascension Day, and much else, rested ultimately on religious associations.
   Other traditional cures seem arbitrary: keep a potato in your pocket against rheumatism; give a child cooked *mice for bed-wetting or whooping cough; eat a live *spider for ague; take powdered cockroaches, or woodlice in wine, for dropsy - and very many more. It would be wrong to call such things 'magic', for there was nothing supernatural about them; they were taken for granted as natural properties of everyday items.
   When the sickness was itself attributed to *witchcraft, magical *counterspells would be set in motion, often under the guidance of a *cunning man or woman. Others gifted with healing powers were *charmers, *seventh sons or daughters, and (in the case of *king's evil) the anointed monarch. Certain personal peculiarities also made one a healer for certain ailments; thus, a 'left twin' (survivor of a pair where the other had died) could cure thrush by blowing three times in the sufferer's mouth (Latham, 1878: 38); bread and butter made by a couple named Joseph and Mary would cure *whooping cough (Hole, 1937: 10-11); so would anything recommended by any man riding a piebald horse (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 305-6). How long such ideas have existed, or how they began, is beyond conjecture; one must simply accept that traditional medicine ranges from sound pragmatic advice, through symbolism, to downright silliness. See also *herbs and *charms (verbal).
   For an assessment of the effectiveness of herbal treatments, see Hatfield, 1994. Books on regional folklore almost always include cures, and there is a good selection from all over England in Wright, 1913: 239-56.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • medicine — 1. A drug. 2. The art of preventing or curing disease; the science concerned with disease in all its relations. 3. The study and treatment of general diseases or those affecting the internal parts of the body, especially those not usually… …   Medical dictionary

  • Medicine — steht für Medizinisches Gender Medicine Humanmedizin unter geschlechtsspezifischen Gesichtspunkten Open Medicine, medizinische Projekte im Geiste des Open Source Geografisches Medicine Bow Mountains, Bergkette der Rocky Mountains Medicine Hat,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • medicine — (n.) c.1200, medical treatment, cure, remedy, also used figuratively, of spiritual remedies, from O.Fr. medecine (Mod.Fr. médicine) medicine, art of healing, cure, treatment, potion, from L. medicina the healing art, medicine; a remedy, also used …   Etymology dictionary

  • Medicine 8 — Origin London, England Genres Acid House Electro House Techno Years active 1996–present Labels Regal Recordings, Trashmouth Records …   Wikipedia

  • medicine — medi‧cine [ˈmedsn ǁ ˈmedsn] noun industrial/​occupational medicine HUMAN RESOURCES the study of the conditions under which people work and the effects of these conditions on their health and safety: • It is known from occupational medicine… …   Financial and business terms

  • Medicine — Med i*cine, n. [L. medicina (sc. ars), fr. medicinus medical, fr. medicus: cf. F. m[ e]decine. See {Medical}.] 1. The science which relates to the prevention, cure, or alleviation of disease. [1913 Webster] 2. Any substance administered in the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Medicine — aging ear altruistic donor andrologist antigerm ape diet apitherapy baggage malaria bed blocker …   New words

  • Medicine — Med i*cine, v. t. To give medicine to; to affect as a medicine does; to remedy; to cure. Medicine thee to that sweet sleep. Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • medicine — ► NOUN 1) the science or practice of the treatment and prevention of disease. 2) a drug or other preparation taken by mouth in order to treat or prevent disease. ● give someone a dose of their own medicine Cf. ↑give someone a dose of their own… …   English terms dictionary

  • medicine — [med′ə sən; ] Brit [ med′sən, med′sin] n. [OFr < L medicina < medicus: see MEDICAL] 1. the science and art of diagnosing, treating, curing, and preventing disease, relieving pain, and improving and preserving health 2. the branch of this… …   English World dictionary

  • medicine — Medicine, Medicina. Medicine ou bruvage où il y a de la saulge, Saluiatum. Medecine pour les yeux, Medicamentum oculorum. Medecine qui guarit soubdainement, Praesens medicina. Medecine qu on baille à toutes bestes qui portent somme, Veterinaria… …   Thresor de la langue françoyse