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by Mary Lewis

from The queer side of things (1923)

  Extraordinary though it seems in this practical
age, the professional "wise man" and "witch" are, I
believe, scarcely yet extinct in the remote country
districts of Wales, though, of course, their
number, already few, is dwindling yearly.  Also it
is very difficult to hear of them nowadays, as they
rarely display their talents.  But there is
certainly no doubt that instances could easily be
found up to quite a few years ago — perhaps even
now — of ailing people consulting the local wise man
as a last resort when the ordinary doctor's
treatment has failed.

  Whatever the quality or attribute peculiar to
wise men and witches, it was sometimes said to be
confined to certain families.  In a hamlet not many
miles from my own home there was a "witch" family;
that is, there was always some member or another
who could claim "witch" powers.

  The connection between witches and hares was very
widely spread.  Addison mentions the belief in one
of his Essays, writing of an old crone called Moll
White.  "If a hare makes an unexpected escape from
hounds, the huntsman curses Moll White... I have
known the master of a pack upon such an occasion
send one of his servants to see if Moll White had
been out that morning."

  Not only was it thought that witches transformed
themselves into hares, but Elias Owen, in his
"Welsh Folk-lore," tells us that, in his day, aged
people in Wales believed that witches, by
incantation, could change other people into
animals.  He quotes instances of a man being turned
by witchcraft into a hare, in the neighbourhood of
Ystrad Meurig (Cardiganshire).  Another case he
relates is that of a woman in North Wales, who knew
before any one told her that a certain person died
at such a time.  The clergyman of the parish asked
her how she came to know of the death if no one had
informed her and she had not been to the house. 
Her answer was: "I know because I saw a hare come
from towards his house and cross over the road
before me."  Evidently the woman connected the
appearance of the hare with the man's death.

  Here there seems to have been a trace of the
belief, which formerly obtained in some parts of
Wales, of the transmigration of souls, the idea
being that the departing soul went into the body of
some animal.

  But it is probable that all through Wales the
hare was vaguely regarded as the herald of death. 
It is said that this animal was much used by the
Druids for the purpose of augury, prophecies being
made according to its various movements when set
running.  So it is quite possible that the
uncomfortable atmosphere which seems to surround
this harmless beast in all Celtic countries is due
to its traditional connection with far-away
Druidical mysteries.

  In olden days Welsh witches used to put spells on
the animals of neighbours who annoyed them.  If a
cow was the victim it would sicken of no apparent
disease, cease to give milk and, if the spell were
not removed, would die.  The effect of "witching" a
pig was to cause an odd kind of madness, something
like a fit; this, again, ended fatally unless a
counter-charm was forthcoming.  Quite recently I
saw one of these charms quoted in a local paper by
a collector of folklore.  "An old witch, living not
far from Llangadock (in Carmarthenshire)... on one
occasion when she had witched a pig, was compelled
subsequently to 'unwitch' the animal.  She came and
put her hand on the pig's back, saying, 'Duwa'th
gadwo i'th berchenog' (God keep thee to thine
owner)" — which seems a mild way of calming a
frenzied pig.

  A noted witch used to live about a mile and a
half from my own home.  She was known as "Mary
Perllan Peter," from the name of her house "Perllan
Peter," deep down in a thickly-wooded ravine, or
dingle as we call it in Cardiganshire.  This way of
designating individuals is common in Wales, where
surnames amongst the peasantry are apt to be
limited to a few favourites, such as Jones, Davies,
Evans, etc.  So that a person's Christian name,
followed by that of his house, is far more
distinctive than using a surname probably common to
a third of the people in a parish.  Therefore the
witch was "Mary of Peter's Orchard" ("perllan"
meaning "orchard," though who Peter was, I never
found out) and she was undoubtedly a powerful one,
as the following stories will show.

  One day she asked a neighbour to bring her some
corn which she required, and the man only consented
unwillingly, as the path down to the cottage was
very steep and the corn heavy to carry.  On the way
he spilt some, and Mary was very angry and muttered
threats to her friends when he left.  And when he
got back to his own home and went to the stable,
what was his amazement to see his little mare
"sitting like a pig" on her haunches and staring
wildly before her.  He went to her and pulling at
the halter, tried to get on her feet, but in vain;
she did not seem able to move.  Then the man, very
frightened, bethought him of the witch's threats,
for he felt sure the mare was spellbound.  So he
sent off for Mary to come and remove the spell, and
when she arrived, she went straight up to the
animal; and "Moron fach, what ails thee now?" was
all she said, and the mare jumped to her feet as
well and lively as ever.

  Another time Mary Perllan Peter went to the mill
at a neighbouring village to get some corn ground. 
The miller was very slow over the business, so slow
that Mary grew annoyed and cursed the mill. 
Whereupon it instantly began to turn round the
wrong way, and went on like that till the witch was
appeased and removed the spell.

  These instances were related by a cousin of
Mary's, called John Pŵllglas, who apparently
quite believed in the uncanny powers possessed by
his relative.

  In Cardiganshire, as in many other rural
districts, it was always firmly believed that when
the butter would not "come" on churning-day, the
cream or churn had been bewitched.  There were many
remedies against this trouble — one being a branch
of the rowan tree hung over the dairy door; another
was a knife put into the churn, for all witches,
like fairies, hate iron.

  I know a house where, some few years ago, the
dairymaid left in a fit of temper.  Never had there
been any trouble over the churning in that
particularly well-regulated dairy, but, strange to
say, from the week when "Jane" left the place the
butter refused to "come."

  Churning, which in spring began early in the
morning, went on for hours, everyone in the house
taking a turn at the handle, and at length, towards
afternoon, the long-delayed butter appeared.  But
what butter!  It was scarcely fit to eat, and this
state of things continued for several weeks, no
theory of temperature, unsteady churning, or any
other reason that scientific butter-makers
appreciate, accounting for the extraordinary
behaviour of the cream.  Of course, all the local
people said that Jane departing had bewitched the
churn; how that was I do not know, but there is no
doubt that after five or six weeks, and quite
without apparent cause, the butter suddenly "came"
properly again, the "spell" being presumably ended.

  When staying at Aberdovey once, I noticed a
strangely shaped depression on the hill behind the
schools, and inquiring, I was told that it was
called the "Witch's Grave," and that a witch was
supposed to have been burnt there and her ashes
buried on the spot.  The old village green used to
be on the little plateau where the "grave" is, so
that if any burning did take place it is quite
likely to have been there.

  This is the only tradition I have so far
encountered of witches being ill-treated in Wales. 
My own idea is that, unlike many other districts,
witches and wise men were never much molested in
the Principality, but were rather feared and looked
up to.  This witch burning at Aberdovey, if the
tradition be true, was perhaps due to a backwash of
that terrible wave of persecution and burnings that
swept over Great Britain and the Continent in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

  The practice of "charming" with yarn was, I
found, well known in the Aberdovey district, though
not much of it is done now.  "Witches' butter" is
also believed in round there.  This is a kind of
fungus which shakes and trembles when touched.  It
is very unlucky to find it, for it means you are
bewitched.  The remedy is to take up some of the
fungus very carefully, and stick it full of pins. 
These pins will prick the conscience of him or her
who has bewitched you, and they will remove the

  I heard a quaint little story of an old
sea-captain at Aberdovey, whose garden was infested
with worms, which he declared was the result of a
spell laid on it by a witch woman he had offended.

  "Wise men" seem to have flourished from time
immemorial in Wales, every village having its "dyn
hysbys" in old days.  It is said that their numbers
were kept up by the superstitious practice amongst
the very ignorant country-folk of "sacrificing
children to the Devil," in order to make "wise men"
of them.  The Rev. Rees Prichard, of Llaydovery, in
a hymn against "conjurors," alludes to this
dreadful custom:— 

    Tynnu'r plentyn trwy ben crwcca.  
    Neu trwy'r fflam ar nos f'lamgaua, 
    A'u rhoi ymhinny felyn uchel, 
    Yw offrumm plant i Gythraul.

Meaning that "to drag children through a hoop or
flame of fire, on All Hallows Eve, and taking them
to the mill bin to be shaken, is the way of
sacrificing them to the Evil One."

  I think the first item of this description — viz.,
dragging through a hoop — may refer to the old Welsh
custom of passing delicate children through a split
ash to cure them of rickets and other troubles.  I
know someone to whom this was done when he was a
child, but most certainly in his case the intention
was distinctly curative, and had nothing to do with
dedication to the Evil One.  However, in Vicar
Prichard's time — about three hundred years or so
ago — there existed, no doubt, many remnants of
beliefs in the country, which have long since died
out; just as those which obtain in our day are
gradually disappearing, and unless noted by those
interested in such things, will be lost to the
generations to come.

  Of course, the Prince of Welsh wizards was
Merlin, of whom many wonderful tales and traditions
still linger in the neighbourhood of Carmarthen, in
which town the great astrologer and soothsayer is
supposed to have been born.  A prediction of his in
Welsh is preserved, foretelling the attempted
landing of the French at Fishguard, in 1797, and
its frustration by Lord Cawdor; the lines are very
curious, but I will spare readers a further
infliction of the vernacular.

  It is said that Merlin also prophesied the
inundation of Carmarthen, a calamity which
fortunately has not yet come to pass.

  Leaving the shadowy personality of the great
wizard, with the host of lesser lights who followed
him, and coming to historical times, we have many
records of celebrated "wise men," of whom it may be
said that on the whole their influence amongst the
people was for good, and that their talents seem to
have turned in the direction of benevolence rather
than spite.  One wizard of North Wales, who died
about a century ago, was called "Mochyn y Nant,"
and was held in great terror by all evil-doers of
his district on account of the uncanny knowledge he
possessed of their crimes, however secret.  De
Quincy once visited "Mochyn y Nant," and gives an
entertaining description of the experience in his

  The following story which I find amongst my
notes, well illustrates the kind of affair about
which these seers were constantly consulted.

  A gentleman in Denbighshire, lost a large silver
cup of much value, which had been an heirloom for
several generations.  After making diligent
inquiries respecting the cup without success, he
determined to place the affair in the hands of
Robin Ddu, the wizard.  Robin attended at the hall,
and after placing his red cap on his head, he
called the inmates of the hall before him, and
declared he would find the thief before midnight. 
All the servants denied the theft.  "Then," said
Robin, "if you are guiltless, you will have no
objection to a magic proof."  He then ordered a
cockerel to be placed under a pot in the pantry,
and told all the servants to go and rub the pot
with both their hands.  If any of them were guilty,
the cockerel would crow whilst the thief was
rubbing the vessel.  After all had gone through the
ceremony, the wizard ordered them to show their
hands, when he perceived that the hands of the
butler were clean.  His conscience had stricken him
so that he could not touch the pot.  Robin accused
him of the theft, which he admitted, and the cup
was restored to its owner.

  The next stories, told me on excellent authority,
relate to the parish of Llanfihangel-Geneurglyn, in
Cardiganshire, and the "John Price" referred to was
living a very few years ago, and is still alive,
for anything I know to the contrary.

  There was a man belonging to the village of
Llanfihangel who had a sick cow.  He could not
discover what was the matter with her, and at last,
in despair, he went to consult John Price, the wise
man, who lived at Llanbadarn-fawr, a few miles
away.  John immediately declared that the cow was
bewitched.  "Because," said he, "you will find when
you look that every tooth in her head is loose."

  "Why, who has done that?" asked the farmer.

  "That I cannot tell you," was the reply, "but
this I will tell you, that the person who bewitched
her has visited your house to-day."  He would say
no more, and the inquirer hurried off home.

  He lost no time in examining the cow's mouth,
and, sure enough, every tooth was loose.  Then he
asked his wife, "Who has been here to-day?"

  "No one," she answered, "except indeed
So-and-so," naming a poor girl who came sometimes
to get work.  Then the farmer knew who had
ill-wished his cow, which, by the way, recovered.

  In the same parish of Llanfihangel there was a
child very ill — so ill, in fact, that the doctors
gave him up.  The father went secretly and
consulted John Price, who said that the child was
bewitched but would recover; and he did.

  I know the clergyman who was the vicar of this
parish at the time these two instances occurred,
and it was he who made notes of the cases.  He is
now vicar of a parish in North Pembrokeshire.

  Another wise man lived at a farm near Borth (on
the coast not far from Aberystwyth) not so long
ago, and was often consulted.  I heard of the case
of a girl who was ailing, and thought by her
relations to have had a spell put on her.  So they
took her to the wizard, who told them that on the
way home the first person they met on the road
would be the "witch" who had laid the spell on the
invalid.  They set off home, and before they had
gone far, who should they meet but a poor, harmless
old man, whom they knew could not have worked the
mischief.  So they hurried back to the wise man
with this information, who coolly replied, "It was
not he, but his brother who is dead.  And the girl
will not be well till the brother's body is
decayed — i.e., for about twenty years."  History
does not relate if the wizard was believed on this
occasion, but the person who told me about him said
he had many clients, and that one of his
accomplishments was the writing of "charms" for
people to wear.

  At the time I was told of this wizard, my
informant asked me if I had ever heard of "Vicar
Pritchard of Pwllheli" (now dead), who in his time
was a noted layer of ghosts, and whose fame still
survives in Merionethshire, for he was in great
demand throughout the country whenever an uneasy
spook gave trouble.  Armed with candle and book, in
the orthodox way, he said to one ghost: "Now, will
you promise me to cease troubling this house as
long as this candle lasts?"  The spirit gladly
promised, thinking that was but an hour or two to
wait.  But the vicar promptly extinguished the
flame, put the candle into a lead box, sealed and
buried the box beneath a tree, where it lies to
this day, and the ghost can do no more harm.

  This is a digression; but most readers will
excuse the irrelevancy because of its mention of a
more or less modern cleric as a professional ghost

  The account that follows, of a Pembrokeshire
witch, was sent me by an old friend a few years
ago, and is best given in his own words, only
substituting initials for the personal names.

  "I was at Carmarthen last week, and returned in
company with Archdeacon H—— and Mr. H—— W——. 
At Whitland a local doctor came into the
compartment; I did not know him, but they did, and
this is the substance of what he told us.  A
reputed witch lived near Whitland Abbey.  The house
she lived in was sold, and bought by a
brother-in-law of the teller of the story.  A
gamekeeper of Mr Z——, the owner of the Abbey,
went into the cottage of the witch.  She was very
angry and gave out that she would be even with all
concerned.  The following things happened.  The
keeper's wife (the narrator attended the case)
became a mother, and the infant was born with an
abnormal number of limbs and died.  The doctor's
brother-in-law was suddenly seized with a
mysterious illness one morning whilst dressing, and
was laid up for a long time.  The doctor lost a
cow, two horses and a sow.

  "These happenings made a stir, and even Mr Z——
was troubled.  He was a bit superstitious and was
very desirous that the doctor should 'draw the
witch's blood' by holding the blade of a penknife
between finger and thumb, so that just enough of it
should project to draw blood without inflicting a
serious wound.  The doctor said that would not do,
as the woman would run him in for assault!

  "When asked to do so, the doctor attended the
witch, but for the life of him dared not send in a

  If the above facts were correctly reported, they
certainly form an extraordinary instance of
"ill-wishing" — a power known for many ages to be
possessed by a few people of very strong will and a
malevolent disposition, and the fear of which is a
trait as old as humanity, still lurking, as we have
seen, amongst the country-folk in remote districts
of this and many other countries.

  From the subject of witches one passes naturally
to the extraordinary remedies often prescribed by
them and the old-fashioned herb doctors up to the
beginning of the last century, or perhaps later. 
There are still people to be found who visit and
consult herbalists, sometimes finding them hidden
away in dark and dusty little shops in the quiet
back streets of towns, or living, often solitary,
in isolated cottages near wood or moor in remote
country districts.  And there is no doubt that some
of the mixtures prescribed by these modern "herb
doctors" possess virtue and are probably nowadays
derived from more or less wholesome and certainly
harmless plants and normal food materials.  It is
hardly likely, for instance, that a twentieth
century herbalist would sell dried earth worms to a
patient as a remedy for fits, or advise oil of
earth worms as beneficial for the nerves, and to
"ease pain of the joints."  Even if this kind of
dose were prescribed, nobody now would swallow
anything so nauseous.

  But little more than a hundred years ago, not
only did "wise men" and herbalists use such
unpleasant things in their prescriptions, but there
is every reason to believe that ingredients which
seem to us quite horrible were taken docilely and
with perfect faith in their efficacy by people of
intelligence, and not only by the ignorant and less
fastidious classes.

  A quaint old book was lent to me once; it was
called "A General Dispensatory," by R. Brookes,
M.D., and the date of publication was 1753.  There
was a long list, arranged alphabetically, of all
the materia medica used in the eighteenth century,
and very odd some of those "materials" were.  Much
store was set on preparations made from various
stones; of these, the chief were Eagle-stone, Jew's
stone, Bezoar and Blood stone.  Bezoar was taken
from a certain species of "Mountain-goat, called by
some, Capricarva....  It is a most timourous
animal, and delights in the mountains, seldom
descending into the plains....  The stones are
cried up as an antidote against all manner of
poisons, plagues, contagious diseases, malignant
fevers, the smallpox and measles...."

  This stone was ground and given in powder. 
Others were applied outwardly by rubbing the part
affected.  I know of the existence of a stone in
Cardiganshire, about the size of a large marble,
which was formerly used for the cure of goitre; it
was lent to sufferers from that complaint and
rubbed on the neck.  Its present owner, an old
lady, knows of undoubted cures wrought by it in
former years.  There seems to be an idea that this
stone has some connection with a snake, though
apparently the exact relation has been forgotten. 
But it is very probable that in old times it was
called a snake stone, and believed to have been
taken out of the head of a snake; for it was
thought in Wales that such stones were sometimes
found in the heads of toads and adders, and were
endowed with wonderful powers of healing and magic.

  Blood stone, of course, has been used from times
unknown to stop bleeding, and among other cures for
the same thing was the bone or "stone" taken from
the head of the manatee or sea-cow.  Hare's fur as
an application to the wound was also advised.  A
hare's foot, carried in the pocket prevented
heartburn.  Another "pocket" remedy was a piece of
potato for rheumatism, which I have known practised
very lately.  Gabs' eyes — probably dried and
powdered — seem to have been a popular medicine; a
pike's jaw was supposed to have much the same
virtue as crabs' eyes, but was more "efficacious in
the pleurisy and peripneumony."  Amber, burnt and
reduced to powder was thrown on a chafing-dish, and
the smoke inhaled to stop bleeding of the nose.  In
Wales this beautiful sea-product was worn as a
powerful charm against witches, the Evil Eye, and

  Snail broth was a great country remedy for
consumption in old days.  Culpepper, in his
"Herbal," gives a recipe for it.  "Snails with
shells on their backs, being first washed from the
dirt, then the shells broken, and then boiled in
spring water, but not scummed at all, for the scum
will sink of itself, and the water drank for
ordinary drink, is a most admirable remedy for
consumption."  "Snail water" is also prescribed for
the same complaint; this was a really terrible
mixture, as besides "Of Garden Snails two pounds,"
there was included the juice of ground ivy, colt's
foot, scabious lungwort, purslain, ambrosia, Paul's
betony, hog's blood and white wine, dried tobacco
leaves, liquorice elecampane, orris, cotton seeds,
annis seeds, saffron, the flowers of red roses and
of violets and borage; all to be steeped three days
and then distilled.  One wonders if the unfortunate
patient who imbibed this decoction had any idea of
what he was swallowing.  A fox's lung dried and
made into a "lohoch" (a substance to be licked up,
rather thicker than a syrup) and sucked off the end
of a liquorice stick was also "a present remedy in

  Flummery, or wheat boiled to a jelly, was another
country cure for consumption, especially in Wales,
where the old people also extolled the virtues of
nettle tea as "very good for the chest," and for
other ills besides.

  A decoction of nettle seeds was supposed to cure
hydrophobia, but many other remedies were advised
for this dread disease.  One which I found in a
very old manuscript collection of recipes, headed
"For the Bite of a Mad Dog," was simple in the
extreme.  "Pare an onion, mix it with honey and
salt and lay it on the wound."  A piece of onion
rubbed on a bee or wasp sting is certainly an
excellent impromptu relief, but one would scarcely
imagine it could do much to counteract the deadly
poison of hydrophobia.  The root of liverwort — 
lichen caninus — was thought to be an infallible
cure or preventive in the case of a mad dog's bite. 
One was bidden to mix the ground liverwort with
black pepper, and the patient "is to lose nine or
ten ounces of blood, and then a dram and a half of
the powder is to be taken fasting every morning,
for four mornings successively, in half a pint of
warm cow's milk; after this he must go into a cold
bath, cold spring, or river for thirty days
together early in the morning, and before
breakfast, and to be dipped all over; but he is not
to remain in it with his head above water, not
longer than half a minute, if the water be very

  Another curious specific for hydrophobia is
mentioned by Iolo Morganŵg in his Diary,
dated 1802.  When on a walk to Llanfernach, in
North Pembrokeshire, he met a man "who carries a
stone about the country, which he calles Llysfaen. 
Scrapes it into powder with a knife, and sells it
at about five shillings an ounce as an infallible
remedy for the canine madness.  He says this stone
is only to be found on mountains after a
thunder-storm, and that every eye cannot see it.  I
assured him it was only a piece of Glamorganshire
alabaster; but I was surprised to hear many
positively assert that they had actually seen the
hydrophobia cured in dogs and man from this powder,
given in milk and used as the only liquid taken for
nine days and the only food also."

  A far more drastic method of treating hydrophobia
patients than the above is quoted by Mrs.
Trevelyan, as being formerly very popular all along
the coast of Wales.  The person bitten was taken
out to sea in a boat.  "Before starting, he was
securely bound by the hands and feet, and when out
at a distance from the shore, two men plunged him
in the water three times.  Each time the man or
woman as the case might be, was asked if he or she
had had enough.  But just as he opened his mouth to
reply he was dipped again.  This dipping was
repeated nine times, with a pause between each
three dips, to enable the patient to have an
opportunity for breathing.  The shock or temporary
fright caused by repeated dips into the sea, and
the quantity of water swallowed, worked the cure."

  The use of the number nine in so many of these
old cures, is remarkable, and shows that originally
there was a mystic meaning behind these rude
treatments in which the "curative" power lay, and
which possibly did really continue to heal those
who used them with faith, long after the knowledge
of their mystical significance was lost.

  Very extraordinary were some of the remedies
administered for "the falling sickness," as
epilepsy used to be called.  I have already
mentioned the use of earth worms dried and
powdered; but decoctions of the wood and leaves of
the mistletoe were also taken, and an elk hoof,
either worn in a ring, or scraped and taken
internally, was much recommended.  "But," says an
authority, "it must be the hoof of the right foot
behind."  Most firmly believed in as a potent cure
was a powder made from the human skull, which
dreadful ingredient figures in a recipe I have for
"convulsion fits."  "Take native cinnabar, the
roots of male Piony and Human Skull prepared, of
each an ounce, castor and salt of amber of each a
dram, mix them and divide into forty-eight equal
parts.  This is Dr. Pughe's Receipt."

  Especially valuable were the skulls of those who
had died a violent death, and the heads of
criminals were eagerly bought for that reason. 
Hedgehog's liver, dried, powdered and drunk in wine
was another specific for epilepsy.

  Vipers were much esteemed as medicine in various
parts of the country, and prepared in different
ways were swallowed with the greatest faith.  The
old "Dispensatory" before quoted, said: 'Viper's
flesh is looked upon as a great restorative, to be
very balsamic, an enemy to all malignity and
excellent to purify the blood, hence it is given to
prolong life and to resist poisons."

  I have read an old recipe for "viper broth,"
which included chicken as well as snake, so let us
hope the prevailing flavour was of fowl and not of

  There is some plausibility about the idea that
various herbs possessed efficacy in clearing the
sight; the common "eyebright" was much used for
this purpose.  But we can hardly believe that the
eating of young swallows, which was also advised,
can have benefited the eyes much, unless a great
deal of faith was taken with the fledglings.

  In some districts a dried toad worn in the armpit
was thought to ward off fever.  The poor creatures
were put alive into an earthen pot, and gradually
dried in a moderate oven till they were fit to
reduce to powder.  Bees were treated in the same
way; and an old prescription says, "Burnt to ashes
and a lye made with the ashes, trimly decks a bald
head being washed with it."

  A strange remedy for jaundice was a live spider
rolled in butter to form a pill and then swallowed. 
Quite lately I saw a case reported in a paper of a
child found wearing a spider enclosed in a nut
round its neck to cure whooping-cough; but that, of
course, was worn as a "charm"; a form of remedy
which seems likely to be popular as long as the
world goes round.

  Diet drinks were formerly much used in amateur
doctoring in rural districts, and recipes for their
manufacture are sure to be found in any of those
quaint "house books" treasured in old country
houses.  In one of these which I have handled,
there is a recipe for a "Dyet drink," composed of
no fewer than nineteen ingredients, mostly herbs,
such as dwarf elder, salendin, broom robin, brook
lime, wormwood, eyebright, etc., etc., all making
"two payls and a half of Drink."  Pity the poor
victim who had to begin the day by swallowing a
mugful of such nauseous mixtures.

  In Cardiganshire to-day, a decoction of the wild
ragwort is believed to be excellent for rheumatism;
also another of garlic for "the indigestion."  I
have known blackberry leaves applied to heal sores
in the same county; this is a very old remedy, and
its survival is interesting.  So is the fact that
in the parish of Talybont, in North Cardiganshire,
there is a family owning a recipe for the cure of
erysipelas, which has quite a local fame, but of
which no one knows the secret but themselves.

  This element of secrecy is nearly always a
feature of these rural "cures"; doubtless a vestige
of the ancient belief that medical treatment to be
successful must be wrapped in mystery.