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Scottish Charms and Amulets
Charm Serpent's Skin


A "charm serpent-skin and a talisman ring with adder-bead attached" was exhibited in the Glasgow Exhibition of 1888, and is now deposited in the Museum of Science and Art, Edinburgh. The skin is sewed on a ribbon of silk, to one end of which is attached a bead of mottled serpentine. The finger-ring, which is of silver, with a small pebble of jasper set in the bezel, is probably of eastern origin. Unfortunately no particulars have been preserved of the virtues of this charm. The following extract from Martin, however, may throw some light on its use: "Some of the Natives [of North Uist] wear a Girdle of the Seal-Skin about the middle, for removing the Sciatica, as those of the Shire of Aberdeen wear it to remove the Chin-cough."

According to the Rev. Dr Henry, in the Highlands, "when a birth was attended with any difficulty, they put certain girdles, made for that purpose, about the woman in labour, which they imagined gave her immediate and effectual relief. . . . Such girdles were kept with care, till very lately, in many families in the Highlands of Scotland. They were impressed with several mystical figures; and the ceremony of binding them about the woman’s waist was accompanied with words and gestures, which showed the custom to have been of great antiquity."

"The skin of an eel tied round the leg or the arm was a specific against cramp when bathing" in the North-East of Scotland.


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