Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/162

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serious and acrimonious discussion arose as to "whether it was necessary that the moss should grow absolutely on the skull of a thief who had hung on the gallows, and whether the ointment, while compounding, was to be stirred with a murderer's knife." The mode of application was this: The wound was first washed, bandaged, and ordered to be kept at rest, and then the offending weapon was anointed with the salve, carefully wrapped up, and placed in a safe position. If the weapon was left undisturbed the wound healed in a few days, but, if anything happened to the anointed weapon the wound would break out afresh. In Dryden's version of Shakespeare's "Tempest," he makes Ariel say, in reference to the wound received by Hippolito from Ferdinand:

"He must be dressed again, as I have done it:

Anoint the sword which pierced him with this weapon-salve;
Wrap it close from air, till I have time to visit him again."

In Glapthorne's comedy, "The Hollander," the doctor says, "The same salve will cure at any distance, as if a person hurt should be at York, the weapon dressed at London, on which the blood is." That the belief in this salve was not universal is proved by an attack made on it by John Hales, of Eton, in a letter "to an honorable person" in 1630. He declares it is a child of but yesterday's birth, one among the pleasant fantasies of the Rosicrucians; and, as for the cures it has worked, "the effect is wrought by one thing, and another carries off the glory," etc.[1]

The sympathetic powder was much the same kind of remedy, and was introduced into England by Sir Kenelm Digby, a gentleman of the bedchamber of Charles I. It is said that a Carmelite friar, returning from the East, brought the recipe for this powder with him. Sir Kenelm did him some service, and was rewarded by obtaining the secret of the sympathetic powder. It consisted merely of blue vitriol prepared with mysterious ceremonies. Digby revealed the secret to James I, who disclosed it to Dr. Mayerne, his physician. The latter sold it to many distinguished persons, and then it soon ceased to be a secret. A solution of the powder was made, and some of the wounded man's blood-stained garments immersed in it, the wound at the same time being washed and bandaged, and strict abstinence being enjoined on the patient. As may be inferred, the sympathetic powder, like the weapon-salve, was quite as efficacious at a distance as near by. These remedies did one good: they taught people how soon wounds heal if kept clean and undisturbed, and, in fact, opened the way to our present method of treating wounds. Surgeons learned that, in their healing, Nature was a powerful factor, and must be aided, not interfered with.[2]

  1. Chambers's "Book of Days," vol. ii.
  2. A somewhat similar superstition exists in many parts of the country to this day. I well remember, when a child, that, having my hands full of warts, they were rubbed by my nurse with a piece of raw meat; the meat was then placed under a stone, and I was told (and this was generally believed) that as the meat decayed the warts would disap-