Thursday, April 7, 2022

17th Century Rabbit's Foot or Hare's Foot

 Samuel Pepys (surname pronounced PEEPS or PIPS, due to old fashioned spelling which interchanges Y and E -- "Pepes") lived in London in the 17th century, and kept a very thorough diary for several years. Amidst his writings are his adventures with a magico-medical hare's foot. He used it for protection and alleviation of diseases. This was important for a man like him, who had suffered severe enough bladder stones that he needed surgery (back before anesthetic or sanitation.) 

The term "rabbit" in the 17th century was only used to refer to the babies of the animal usually called in this period a coney. This is a slightly different animal from a hare but the two animals, then as now, are regarded as somewhat interchangeable in regular discussion. Even medical books of the time frequently say "a hare or coney" like either will do in their recipes. 

Here are excerpts about Pepys's hare's foot:

But I bless God I never have been in so good plight as to my health in so very cold weather as this is, nor indeed in any hot weather, these ten years, as I am at this day, and have been these four or five months. But I am at a great losse to know whether it be my hare’s foote, or taking every morning of a pill of turpentine, or my having left off the wearing of a gowne.


So homeward, in my way buying a hare and taking it home, which arose upon my discourse to-day with Mr. Batten, in Westminster Hall, who showed me my mistake that my hare’s foote hath not the joynt to it; and assures me he never had his cholique since he carried it about him: and it is a strange thing how fancy works, for I no sooner almost handled his foote but my belly began to be loose and to break wind, and whereas I was in some pain yesterday and t’other day and in fear of more to-day, I became very well, and so continue.


To my office till past 12, and then home to supper and to bed, being now mighty well, and truly I cannot but impute it to my fresh hare’s foote. Before I went to bed I sat up till two o’clock in my chamber reading of Mr. Hooke’s Microscopicall Observations, the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life.


This is the day seven years which, by the blessing of God, I have survived of my being cut of the stone, and am now in very perfect good health and have long been; and though the last winter hath been as hard a winter as any have been these many years, yet I never was better in my life, nor have not, these ten years, gone colder in the summer than I have done all this winter, wearing only a doublet, and a waistcoate cut open on the back; abroad, a cloake and within doors a coate I slipped on. Now I am at a losse to know whether it be my hare’s foot which is my preservative against wind, for I never had a fit of the collique since I wore it, and nothing but wind brings me pain, and the carrying away of wind takes away my pain, or my keeping my back cool; for when I do lie longer than ordinary upon my back in bed, my water the next morning is very hot, or whether it be my taking of a pill of turpentine every morning, which keeps me always loose, or all together, but this I know, with thanks to God Almighty, that I am now as well as ever I can wish or desire to be, having now and then little grudgings of wind, that brings me a little pain, but it is over presently, only I do find that my backe grows very weak, that I cannot stoop to write or tell money without sitting but I have pain for a good while after it.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Cornelius Agrippa and Struwwelpeter

My life's introduction to Cornelius Agrippa was not through directly reading his books, but through the article about him in Man, Myth and Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural.

In that article, his appearance in the Struwwelpeter is mentioned purely because they wanted to use the public domain illustration of him.

Now, the first time I ever laid hands on Struwwelpeter, many years afterwards, it was through the Mark Twain translation (as Slovenly Peter) -- and I was surprised that in that version, there was no mention of Agrippa. 

The character is instead St. Nicholas.

In the original German, the verses read: 

Der Niklas wurde bös und wild, du siehst es hier auf diesem Bild! Er packte gleich die Buben fest, beim Arm, beim Kopf, beim Rock und West den Wilhelm und den Ludewig, den Kaspar auch, der wehrte sich. Er tunkt sie in die Tinte tief, wie auch der Kaspar »Feuer« rief. Bis übern Kopf ins Tintenfaß tunkt sie der große Nikolas.

The character "Agrippa" in the 1848 Shock-Headed Peter translation is the "Nikolas" in the German. In other words, he is Santa Claus. 

Why was Agrippa used, instead of Santa, for the earlier English version? It's likely that in the 1840s, Santa Claus/St. Nicholas wasn't perceived as well known in the English speaking world, and especially not if the translation was meant for a British rather than American audience. 

What made Agrippa seem like a good substitute? It appears that in the late 18th and early 19th century he had a semi-legendary status as a magician (you will find apocryphal stories about him meeting the devil and such, in texts from the era) comparable maybe to someone like Marie Laveau. Add in his German connection, and perhaps he was deemed the most logical boogeyman to mete out justice for the story of Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben.

You can read the text with Agrippa's full appearance at Project Gutenberg.

If you want to read works by the real, actual Agrippa, you can find many at the wonderful Esoteric Archive:

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Where to Buy Best Quality Hoodoo Products?


Once was a time when I was known for my Hoodoo Review blog, where I reviewed products from various occult shops and botanicas. Eventually I got rid of the blog because I was experiencing too much trouble with inconsistency in products -- that is to say, an item I had loved the first time I bought might not be made the same way when I ordered from the same manufacturer a year later. Sometimes this was due to certain occult shops or practitioners not following a set "recipe" and instead making the formulas however they felt like making them on that occasion. Other times the problem would be a decline in quality (especially from larger makers) as the search for cheapness and easiness overrode the tradition or effectiveness of older more expensive formulas. One example was the Ar-Jax brand of incense, which originally had some herbal matter in the mixture, but over time came to be made with the same plain, colored incense mixture that everything sold by Wisdom Products uses.

In the last ten years or so there's been a big rise in the number of small manufacturers and practitioners selling through places like Etsy and even as Amazon sellers. This can be good, as usually a small-time maker isn't just trying to crank out easy formulas using mass production, and so there is likely to be more care put into their making. The downside is not everyone's recipes are equal, and as stated before, sometimes even the same maker will be inconsistent in the way they make a certain formula.

I do think inexpensive formulas made with artificial fragrances can be just as good as "all natural" types, but over the last decade I've seen a real increase in the cheapness of some botanicas' products. Even back in the "Hoodoo Drug Store" days, pharmacists often cut corners or sold "fake" products as hoodoo mixtures (such as the relabeled popular perfumes from De Laurence), but these days it seems these big sellers don't even think you'll notice the difference when every product they sell is just the exact same thing relabeled. 

More and more I don't like to buy from other sellers due to poor quality or inconsistent products. It's increasingly common that I instead use the recipes from my Conjure Cookbook to prepare my own mixtures. Since I make a lot of different formulas, this isn't too impractical for me -- but an individual might need to buy $40 of herbs and oils to make just one formula. 

I don't like to make recommendations since you never know when a seller might demonstrate a sudden decline in quality. My best suggestion is to buy from individuals (not companies or brand names) who either offer their own shop or use online markets like Etsy, Ebay, etc to sell their handmade goods.