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Traditions of Folk Medicine in America

James C. Whorton, PhD
JAMA. 1987;257(12):1632-1635. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390120094031.
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ONE OF the more engrossing medical consultations of the 19th century began when Tom spied Huck ambling down the road swinging a dead cat. Curiosity getting the better of him too, Tom asked the obvious question and learned that what dead cats "is good for" are to "cure warts with." But warts could also, Tom rejoined, be cured with "spunk-water," if one followed his instructions: back up to a stump filled with water, and just at midnight, thrust a hand into the stump while reciting "Barley-corn, Barley-corn, injun-meal shorts, spunk-water, spunk-water, swaller these warts," then rapidly walk away 11 steps, with eyes closed, turn around three times, and finally continue home without speaking to anyone. True, Huck acknowledged, and they could be cured if one split a bean in half, rubbed one side with the blood of the incised wart, buried it at a crossroads at midnight, and then burned


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