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deafness, earache


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A regular cure for deafness or earache in English folklore is to apply a hot onion to the ear, or to drip its juice into the ear, although some sources claim that garlic, figs, or even leeks can be used for this purpose. Another substance used is the froth of a snail pricked with a pin. Less obviously medicinal, however, is the further instruction which is sometimes mentioned, that the ear should also be stuffed or covered with ‘black wool’, the significance of which is not explained. Yet another infallible cure is to use adder fat. Correspondence in N&Q (5s:9 (1878), 488, 514; 5s:10 (1878), 57) reveals some confusion about field-poppies in this context. A writer claims that a local name for the flower in Derbyshire was ‘Ear-ache’ because that is what would happen if you put one to your ear. A reply from Lincolnshire claimed they were called ‘Head-aches’, which happened if you sniffed them. A third writer claimed, however, that poppies were effective in curing pains in the ear (see also under poppy).

See also EELS.

N&Q 11s:3 (1911), 69, 117, 171;11s:11 (1915), 68, 117–18, 247–8, 328, 477;Hatfield, 1994: 36–7;Denham Tracts, 1895: ii. 294–5;Black, 1883: 117, 158, 161, 193.


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