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Spittle


In witch lore this is the term meaning the spit of a witch. Witches caused their evil spells or curses to be effective against others by using their own saliva or spit when producing them. Some witches spit on stones while rubbing them when reciting curses.

There were various uses for spittle. In Lapland, witches could bring many kinds of illness and misfortune on people by spitting three times upon a knife and then rubbing the knife on their victims. Another Lapland witch charm for dooming someone to destruction called for tying three knots in a linen towel in the name of the Devil, spitting on them and naming the victim.

This practice of spitting during the casting of spells still exists, especially in tribal societies. Marquesan sorcerers spit into leaves and bury them while reciting incantations against their enemies. Malay sorcerers place spit, blood, urine, and excrement into clay effigies, which they roast to curse the victim to death. In necromancy, the practitioner sometimes spits when conjuring the spirits of the dead.

Likewise, in other practices of magic, some practitioners believe the saliva of the victim helps to increase the power of the spell. Therefore, various people think it unwise to spit indiscreetly because it is believed that demons capture one's saliva and use it for evil purposes. Among the tribes of East Africa, South Africa and New Zealand, spittle is hidden lest it would fall into hands of sorcerers.

European witch-hunters during the Middle Ages and Renaissance believed witches were incapable of shedding tears, and to fool the inquisitors they would smear spittle on their cheeks.

Spitting, in folk magic, is a universal defense against the evil eye, bad luck, illness, and witchcraft. The custom that dates back to ancient Roman times includes spitting into the right shoe every morning; spitting into the toilet after urination; spitting on the breast or on the ground three times; and spitting while passing any place where danger might exist. Pliny recorded the effectiveness of spittle against various disorders, such as boils, eye infections, epilepsy, and leprosy.

It is thought spittle is especially potent in protecting infants and children against fascination. In Italy, for example, those persons suspected of overlooking children (casting the evil eye on them) a re requested to spit in their faces to nullify the harm done.

The practice of spitting in both hands before fighting to strengthen the blows dates back to Roman times. A.G.H.


Source: 4, 325.