Showing posts with label cures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cures. Show all posts

Monday, August 7, 2017

#CollectiveMemories Monday - Charming Warts with Dianne Carr

Dianne Carr of the Spaniard's Bay Heritage Society. Photo by Terra Barrett.
On Tuesday July 31st, as part of the Collective Memories project, I interviewed Dianne Carr about her memories of charms and cures from Spaniard's Bay, Newfoundland. One of the stories Dianne told me was about her sister Jeanette and how she had her warts charmed as a child. Listen to the clip below to learn more about how a local woman charmed the warts away!

If you have any stories about folk charms, and cures, or practical recipes for things like soap, toothpaste, or wallpaper paste me know at or call Terra at 1-888-739-1892 ex. 5.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A cabbage cure for migraine headaches! #FoodwaysFriday

"My Grandmother, Mary Jane Gosse, had a ‘cure’ for migraine headaches. I’m familiar with it having been her patient several times. The treatment was this. A dark green cabbage leaf was soaked in strong vinegar, place on your forehead and carefully tied on with a sock, nothing else, and kept there until the headache was gone. My guess is that the stinging of the strong vinegar hurt more and the headache was soon forgotten."

- Wesley Gosse, Stories and Stuff Spaniards Bay, page 31. March 2007.

Monday, July 31, 2017

#CollectiveMemories - Folk Cures and Practical Magic - Oral History Night

Participants describing types of poultices to Dale Jarvis.
On Wednesday July 26th, Dale, Andrea (McGuire), and I went out to Spaniard's Bay for the Folk Cures and Practical Magic Oral History night. The event took place at the Wesley Gosse United Church in Spaniard's Bay where 22 people came out to share stories of cures, charms, and recipes for ailments such as warts, arthritis, cuts, colds, freckles, etc.

The Cures and Practical Magic Night is part of the foundation’s Oral History Roadshow. This project is an initiative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office of the HFNL made possible with assistance from the New Horizons for Seniors program. The Oral History Night Roadshow will see researchers travel from community to community, hosting a series of Oral History Nights, open-mic storytelling sessions led and inspired by seniors in that community.
Andrea taking notes on the cures and charms.
We discussed recipes for bread poultices used to draw out splinters, and to cool burns and mustard poultices which would be spread over the chest for a cold. Several people remembered Aunt Eminy Barrett who would charm warts but wouldn't accept thanks for the work. Shelly Bowring went to see Aunt Eminy as a child and hasn't had a wart since. Shelly also shared her own knowledge of using a wedding band to make the sign of a cross to remove a sty, or using a needle and thread to divine whether or not someone would have children and the amount and sex of the children.
Shelly Bowring and her daughter Courtney Bowring.
Midwives and midwifery were discussed and there were stories of babies being thrown in the snow or dunked in hot and cold water until they were able to catch their breath. Two woman at the event were delivered by midwives and there was a discussion of Anne Marie Sheppard from Trinity Bay who was said to have delivered over 1200 babies!
Sharing stories!
If one was nauseous during pregnancy a mixture of 2 tbsp cider vinegar, and 2 tbsp of honey mixed with water would settle the stomach. Cures for seasickness included a ginger drink or a cloth bag of salt worn around the neck. The bag of salt could also be used for car sickness.

When the crowd was asked about uses for vinegar they repeated the second verse of Jack and Jill. We were told brown paper and vinegar could cure headaches and bruises! Jack and Jill is a traditional English nursery rhyme dates back to the 18th century and there are several variations. The version repeated last night is as follows:

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after

Up Jack got and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper;
And went to bed and bound his head
With vinegar and brown paper.

If you want to learn more about vinegar and it's uses check out this blog post on the Folklore of Vinegar!

We finished off the evening with a cup of tea and some blueberry cake. This is a just a small sample of the stories we heard in Spaniard's Bay. We will be doing some follow up interviews and are hoping to produce a booklet of practical magic.  If you would like to learn more keep your eye on the blog, our Facebook, and Twitter! If you know any cures or charms reach out by phone to Terra at 1-888-739-1892 ex. 5 or or Andrea ex. 7,

Cup of tea!
~Terra Barrett

Monday, July 17, 2017

Folk Cures and Practical Magic Oral History Night - Spaniard’s Bay, Conception Bay North

Photo from:
Have you ever made a bread poultice? Do you remember stories about a seventh son or daughter? Do you know the perfect mix for wallpaper paste? Have you had a wart charmed? The Heritage Foundation NL, in partnership with the Spaniard’s Bay Heritage Society, wants to know!

The Foundation will be hosting a Cures and Practical Magic Oral History Night at the Wesley Gosse United Church, Spaniard’s Bay on Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 at 7:00pm.

“We are looking for anyone with memories of cures, charms, or practical recipes such as soap or wallpaper paste, as well as midwives, and healers with memories of practicing medicine in the area,” says the foundation’s folklorist Dale Jarvis.  “If you have memories of cures and recipes, we would love to hear from you."
The Cures and Practical Magic Night is part of the foundation’s Oral History Roadshow. This project is an initiative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office of the HFNL made possible with assistance from the New Horizons for Seniors program. The Oral History Night Roadshow will see researchers travel from community to community, hosting a series of Oral History Nights, open-mic storytelling sessions led and inspired by seniors in that community.
Come for a cup of tea, share a memory or two about a cure, and bring some home recipes. The information gathered will be used alongside oral history interviews and archival research to create a booklet about folk cures and practical traditions in Spaniard’s Bay. If you have photos or old written recipes, bring them along.
For more information please contact Terra Barrett with the Heritage Foundation toll free at 1-888-739-1892 ext. 5 or email

Thursday, April 20, 2017

From Pliny to Placentia Bay: The Folklore of Vinegar. #folklorethursday

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got, and home did trot
Fast as he could caper,
He went to bed to mend his head,
With vinegar and brown paper.

The traditional “Jack and Jill” rhyme we learned as children dates back at least to the 1700s, and exists with a number of different verses and variations. What we are focussing on today is that second verse, with the reference to the vinegar plaster. An earlier version, noted in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, goes:

Up Jack got, and home did trot
As fast as he could caper;
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper.

The idea of patching your nob with a vinegar plaster goes back a long way. Greek physician and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40 – 90 AD) included vinegar in a cure for headaches in his five-volume De Materia Medica. Dioscorides was employed as a medic in the Roman army, so I suspect he knew a thing or two about bumps on the head (and hangovers, for that matter). The idea was supported by Pliny the Elder, who encouraged the use of a vinegar plaster as a cure for snakebite and scorpion stings. Vinegar as a headache cure persisted for a couple thousand years, ending up in children’s rhymes. Well into the modern era it was a common practice in areas without sophisticated medical care, and still survives as a home remedy today. In a 1946 article in Decks Awash, Victor Butler writes,
Many years ago when people lived in the harbours and coves of Placentia Bay, they were without medical assistance in time of sickness and accident. This was one of the prices liveyers had to pay for living in isolation. However, in all the communities first settled, there resided from one to three middle aged mothers who were skilled in administering to the needs of the sick and suffering. Some were more skilled than others in using the limited amount of available remedies to cope with the different ailments. In later years I have given much thought to how those very intelligent, although illiterate women, acquired the skill to use the different roots, leaves, barks and buds of trees and plants in a suitable manner to ease the pain and discomfort of people suffering from so many different ailments. The majority of settlers in the Bays and Harbours migrated to Newfoundland from England, Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. They must have been aware of the different remedies mentioned and then passed the information along to their descendants.
Butler then goes on to list various traditional healing concoctions. Two of those involve vinegar:
7. White liniment —- Equal parts of spirits turpentine and white vinegar were combined with the whites and the shells of two eggs. 
8. Brown paper and vinegar — Brown paper saturated with cold vinegar was placed on foreheads for headaches.
Dame-Dob-of-the-nursery-rhyme was, apparently, of the same school of traditional medicine as Butler’s three middle-aged Placentia Bay mothers.

Today, we are more likely to use vinegar on our fish and chips. Even that custom has its own traditions and folklore.

According to a 1980 article by Susan Coen, the 1953 Avalon Telephone Company phone book had one listing under "Chip Service" for St. John’s -- Ron's Snack Bar, Lime Street. In an interview with Ron Martin, son of the original owner, Martin noted this about vinegar:
The vinegar, fast foods don't even think about vinegar. But vinegar is a very important thing to fish 'n chips. It's got to be brown and it's got to be mixed vinegar. Little packages of that white vinegar, we just don't even use on fish 'n chips. It sounds foolish, but it's a fact. Brown vinegar. I drink it. I actually drink it. Yeah. Every hour I usually have a handful of brown vinegar.
Today in St. John’s, a new generation of vinegar-makers is emerging. Janet Harron is the proprietress of Wild Mother Provisions, a food company specializing in artisanal vinegar and the traditional baked goods of Britain and Ireland. Harron currently sells at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market and her beer-based vinegar (technically alegar) is also available at Rocket Bakery and other retailers in downtown St. John’s.

“We are looking for stories about the use of vinegar in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Harron says. “For example, do you remember a vinegar plant in your house when you were growing up, a home-fermented vinegar made from toasted bread, molasses, yeast and water? What was it used for? Do you remember eating vinegar pie? Or a vinegar drink sweetened with molasses?”

Harron notes that this vinegar drink dates from the 18th century and is called “switchel” or "Haymakers’ Punch" in United States, not to be confused with Newfoundland and Labrador switchel, which refers to tea left boiling on the stove all day.

What are your vinegar memories, or pieces of vinegar folklore from your community? Did you have a vinegar plant? Let us know! Comment below or email

Works Cited:

Butler, Victor. Angels of Mercy. Decks Awash, vol. 05, no. 05 (October 1976): 14.

Cohen, Susan. “Fish ‘n Chips” in St. John’s. Culture & Tradition, vol. 05 (1980): 43-54.

The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Finding Local Folklore at Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts

The ICH office, and the Bay Robert Cultural Foundation, are starting a project to document folk beliefs, superstitions, charms, and cures in the Bay Roberts area. We'll be doing a series of recorded interviews with locals, and we've also started a project with Level I students in Ms Welsh's English class at Ascension Collegiate.

We visited the school earlier this week, talking about local folklore and supernatural belief. We talked with the students about doing primary research, and going out and asking questions. To help them out, we developed a one-page questionnaire, for them to take home and use while interviewing parents, family members, friends, or neighbours.

We are heading back to Ascension on Friday morning to see what the students collected, and to help them write up some of their folklore findings.

Here are the questions the students are using:
1). Is there a place in your community that people say is haunted? ....a haunted cemetery, a haunted walkway, a haunted cliff or rock, a house, or other building? What are the ghostly stories connected to these places? 
2). When you were growing up, were there any places you were told not to go because the fairies would get you? Where was this and what are the stories you were told? 
3). What are the local stories about shipwrecks? ...buried treasures? What about ghost or weather lights seen on the water?

4). Are there any people who are believed to be witches in the community? Why do people think this? What kind of powers does this person have? 
5). Have you ever had a visit from the Old Hag while you were sleeping? What happened and do you believe that this experience was real or just a dream?

6). Do you know of any special charms, superstitions, cures or remedies that are used in your community?
If you know of a story like this from the Bay Roberts area, you can email

Teachers, librarians or museums: you can download a pdf of these questions right here.