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Scrofula, imposthumes of the parotid glands, and throat diseases, they say, may be cured by the contact of the hand of a person who has been carried off. by an early death: indeed there are some who assert that any dead body will produce the same effect, provided it is of the same sex as the patient, and that the part affected is touched with the back of the left hand.1 To bite off a piece from wood that has been struck by lightning, the hands being held behind the back, and then to apply it to the tooth, is a sure remedy, they say, for toothache. Some persons recommend the tooth to be fumigated with the smoke of a burnt tooth, which has belonged to another person of the same sex; or else to attach to the person a dogtooth, as it is called, which has been extracted from a body before burial. Earth, they say, taken from out of a human skull, acts as a depilatory to the eyelashes; it is asserted, also, that any plant which may happen to have grown there, if chewed, will cause the teeth to come out; and that if a circle is traced round an ulcer with a human bone, it will be effectually prevented from spreading.

Some persons, again, mix water in equal proportions from three different wells, and, after making a libation with part of it in a new earthen vessel, administer the rest to patients suffering from tertian fever, when the paroxysms come on. So, too, in cases of quartan fever, they take a fragment of a nail from a cross, or else a piece of a halter2 that has been used for crucifixion, and, after wrapping it in wool, attach it to the patient's neck; taking care, the moment he has recovered, to conceal it in some hole to which the light of the sun cannot penetrate.

1 This superstition still exists among the lower classes of this country, with reference to the beneficial effects of stroking neck diseases with the hand of a man who has been hanged.

2 Made of "spartum." See B. xix. cc. 6, 7.

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), AUGUR
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SACRIFICIUM
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