Pliny the Elder, Natural History (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Plin. Nat.].
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28.7 CHAP. 7.—PROPERTIES OF THE HUMAN SPITTLE.

But it is the fasting spittle of a human being, that is, as already [Note] stated by us, the sovereign preservative against the poison of serpents; while, at the same time, our daily experience may recognize its efficacy and utility, [Note] in many other respects. We are in the habit of spitting, [Note] for instance, as a preservative from epilepsy, or in other words, we repel contagion thereby:

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in a similar manner, too, we repel fascinations, and the evil presages attendant upon meeting a person who is lame in the right leg. We ask pardon of the gods, by spitting in [Note] the lap, for entertaining some too presumptuous hope or expectation. [Note] On the same principle, it is the practice in all cases where medicine is employed, to spit three times on the ground, and to conjure the malady as often; the object being, to aid the operation of the remedy employed. It is usual, too, to mark a boil, when it first makes its appearance, three times with fasting [Note] spittle. What we are going to say is marvellous, but it may easily be tested [Note] by experiment: if a person repents of a blow given to another, either by hand or with a missile, he has nothing to do but to spit at once into the palm of the hand which has inflicted the blow, and all feelings [Note] of resentment will be instantly alleviated in the person struck. This, too, is often verified in the case of a beast of burden, when brought on its haunches with blows; for upon this remedy being adopted, the animal will immediately step out and mend its pace. Some persons, however, before making an effort, spit into the hand in manner above stated, in order to make the blow more heavy. [Note]

We may well believe, then, that lichens and leprous spots may be removed by a constant application of fasting spittle; that ophthalmia may be cured by anointing, as it were, the eyes every morning with fasting spittle; that carcinomata may be effectually treated, by kneading the root of the plant known as "apple of the earth," [Note] with human spittle; that crick in the neck may be got rid of by carrying fasting spittle to the right knee with the right hand, and to the left knee with the left; and that when an insect has got into the ear, it

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is quite sufficient to spit into that organ, to make it come out. Among the counter-charms too, are reckoned, the practice of spitting into the urine the moment it is voided, of spitting into the shoe of the right foot before putting it on, and of spitting while a person is passing a place in which he has incurred any kind of peril.

Marcion of Smyrna, who has written a work on the virtues of simples, informs us that the sea scolopendra will burst asunder if spit upon; and that the same is the case with bram- ble-frogs, [Note] and other kinds of frogs. Opilius says that serpents will do the same, if a person spits into their open mouth; and Salpe tells us, that when any part of the body is asleep, the numbness may be got rid of by the person spitting into his lap, or touching the upper eyelid with his spittle. If we are ready to give faith to such statements as these, we must believe also in the efficacy of the following practices: upon the entrance of a stranger, or when a person looks at an infant while asleep, it is usual for the nurse to spit three times upon the ground; and this, although infants are under the especial guardianship of the god Fascinus, [Note] the protector, not of infants only, but of generals as well, and a divinity whose worship is entrusted to the Vestal virgins, and forms part of the Roman rites. It is the image of this divinity that is attached beneath the triumphant car of the victorious general, protecting him, like some attendant physician, against the effects of envy; [Note] while, at the same time, equally salutary is the advice of the tongue, which warns him to be wise in time, [Note] that so Fortune

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may be prevailed upon by his prayers, not to follow, as the destroyer of his glory, close upon his back.



Pliny the Elder, Natural History (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Plin. Nat.].
<<Plin. Nat. 28.6 Plin. Nat. 28.7 (Latin) >>Plin. Nat. 28.8

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