“A fat, middle aged fox caught in the autumn” was considered to have a wide range of healing powers. Time has long forgotten some of the mysteries surrounding the alleged curative properties of animal parts. You may wince at the list of palliative charms our ancestors used. Musk deer secretion is good for cardiac, circulatory and respiratory problems.
Now we have modern science based medicine, but for centuries folkloric unguents were used to heal and cure all manner of illnesses. Long before the fox was hunted by hounds and horses he was regarded as a medicinal source for those fortunate enough to afford the best medical attention. A distillation of Pulmone vulpis – fox’s lung, no less – and reduced to a sticky paste, was considered the right treatment for ulcers, especially on the leg. Not just his lungs, with the skin and entrails discarded, the flesh was trimmed off the skeleton and boiled. When the broth had cooled the fat would be skimmed off to make Oil of Fox, an ointment used to counter joint pain and rheumatic conditions. It was still being used in the early 19th century, as distilled in spring water it was considered a good treatment for chest ailments.
Moles were popular to in the 18th century. A live one held until it died was believed to confer healing powers on the hands that held it. A dead mole hung around the neck would prevent toothache. Powder rendered from a skinned and dried male mole was a cure for ague. As recently as 100 years ago the severed and dried hands of a mole were carried as a talisman to fend off a variety of physical problems and evil influences, a bit like a rabbit’s foot should bring you good luck.
The mole even claimed royalty as a victim or at least a molehill did. King William 111 died when his horse stumbled on a molehill and he was thrown breaking his collar bone and leading to his death from pneumonia.
The countryside was rife with these old wives tales, in 1963 a survey revealed 134 treatments for 73 conditions. Folk remedies that were to some extent still being practiced, never mind penicillin!
Boiled or roast mouse was documented as a treatment for sore throats, coughs, bronchial and pulmonary ailments. The sufferer of throat and chest complaints in some counties was told to swallow a live spider or drink milk first tasted by a ferret or fox (or by a weasel in the case of a fever). Alternatively, one could imprison a live spider in a linen or black silk bag and hang it around the neck. Cuts and nosebleeds could be stemmed with spider’s webs and fried mice were also good for smallpox.
What a wonderful assortment of cures, if the ailment didn’t get you, the cure probably would. Today, we have GP’s, the NHS and Pest Purge. For all your severed mole hands, or to avoid moles getting too established, call Pest Purge and get them under control.