Wednesday 2 February 2011

Cures for Black Warts

Curious folk cures were also one of the genres which greatly interested Alexander Carmichael. The following cure for black warts or foinneachan dubha was probably noted down from Archibald Currie (1821–1896), a shoemaker who was aged around 46 at the time, and who belonged to Iochdar, South Uist, on 28 October 1872:

Foineachun du[bha] old wom[an]
at Bornish had warts. She set
to get straws with 9 uilt on
each sop & 81 for each wart.
Then to dig a pit & put 81 of these
in each for each wart. They were
to be left in the pits till they crione[adh]
& the warts were gone.

Elsewhere in Carmina Gadelica, Carmichael adds the following, presumably stemming from the same source:

A woman of Upper Bornish, who had many warts on hands and feet, procured with time and trouble ‘naoi naoi glùinean’, nine nine knees, i.e. nine stalks with nine joints on each stem. These she buried in the ground, and as the knots of the straws decayed, the warts disappeared.

Mar a chrìon a sìos na stràilleanan,
Chrìon gu bràth na foinneachan.

As withered down the straws,
Withered till doom the warts.

Other perhaps more scientific cures are then suggested by way of rubbing dry dust upon a wart, or to apply moist rust to it. Another method was to apply a poultice of broad-leaved tangle, a type of seaweed, to the wart which may result in getting rid of it due to the beneficial effect of the constituent iodine. Perhaps the most unlikely cures that were said to work are between these two methods: either to go to a cemetery and to ‘dip the wart in water lying on a gravestone’ or to rub ‘the wart against the clothes of one who has committed fornication.’

CW 106/102.
Carmina Gadelica ii, p. 334.
Carmina Gadelica iv, p. 221.
Image: Barley Straw.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]