Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/254

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ing that one must not swallow a hair of a cat, since if swallowed it will develop into a kitten within its hapless host.

From southern Illinois comes the notion that a felon may be cured by simply putting on, dry, three hairs from the tip of a black cat's tail. It would be so very easy a matter to test the efficacy of this remedy that it is almost incredible that experiment has not before now dissipated such an absurd belief even from the most credulous mind. Possibly there is some relation between this prescription and a saying found in central Maine that in the tip of every cat's tail are three hairs of the devil. All are aware of the ease with which in cold, dry weather, the fur of a cat is electrified by friction; but who would imagine that any connection could be conjectured between this phenomenon and lightning? There is, however, a New England superstition, of greater or less extent, that it is very unsafe to tolerate the presence of a cat during a thunder-storm. I know of one lady in Salem, Mass., who never allows her cat to remain in the living rooms of the house when a thunder-storm is threatened. No sooner do dark clouds begin to gather than Tabby is relegated to the cellar for fear "she may draw the lightning." The reasonableness of this precaution is quite worthy of the superstition which occasions it. The grease tried out by roasting a perfectly black cat is recommended in northern Ohio as a curative ointment in any disease of the skin. From central Maine came the preposterous notion that consumption may be cured by cooking a black dog (one without a white hair) and eating the fat on bread. In the same region a much-prized unguent for pimples, roughened skin, or any other cutaneous disturbance, is the grease of a weasel. It would certainly seem that but a trifling quantity of fat could be obtained from one of these slender creatures. Pliny states that the gall of one kind of weasel (probably the ferret) is a most efficacious remedy for the sting of an asp; also that the flesh of another species, preserved in salt, is a cure for the bites of serpents. The dried flesh of the weasel was often kept by the ancient Romans to be given in small quantities as an antidote for any narcotic poison. Indeed, great remedial powers were, according to Pliny, attributed by his contemporaries to these animals, their ashes being often kept to form an important ingredient in some of the grewsome compounds that figured so largely in Roman therapeutics. Most Aryan mythologies abound in tales of the supernatural wisdom and cunning of the weasel. Phaedrus and Æsop both introduced it into their fables; and Aristotle, in his History of Animals, among other attributes ascribes to it enough reasoning foresight to eat the herb rue before attacking serpents. The Greeks supposed the odor of this plant to be obnoxious to these reptiles, and credited their wily adversary with a