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Scottish Charms and Amulets
Written Charms to Cure Toothache

Charms written on slips of paper and carried about the person for the purpose of curing the toothache were not uncommon throughout the North of Scotland within recent years, and indeed may still be in use. Two of these written charms are in the National Museum, and are here described.

1. The first is written on a slip of paper 8 inches in length by 2½ inches in breadth. It was written and sold in 1855 by a professional witch named Kate M’Aulay, residing at Kishorn, Lochcarron, Ross-shire, and reads as follows :—

"Petter was Laying and his head upon a marrable ston weping and Christ Came by and said what else [ails] thou Petter Petter answered and sad Lord god my twoth Raise thou Petter and bee healed and whosoever shall carry these Lines in my name shall never feel the twothick.   Kett McAulay."

The paper, which was folded eight times, was worn for at least a year in a small silk bag, hung round the neck of a shepherd, who had given half-a-crown, to the witch for the charm; which, however, was to lose its efficacy when looked at.

2. The second charm was given in 1869 to a domestic servant in Dingwall, by the wife of a gamekeeper at Garve, Ross-shire. It is of similar import to the one already mentioned, and is written on a half-sheet of notepaper. The spelling is more uncouth than in the first specimen. It reads as follows:—

"Petter Sate Weapn on a Marabl Stone Christ Came Passn By and asynd watht eleth the Petter Petter ansered and sayed my Lord my Gode my tothe Christ ansered an sayed those that will carry those lines in my Name shall Be Heald for my Nam Sake. Amen.      Jessy McKenzie."

This charm has also probably been carried about the person in the same manner as the previous one as it has been folded seven times.

In Orkney the toothache was supposed to be caused by a worm gnawing at the affected tooth, and to drive it away, a copy of the above lines, called "Wormy lines," written on a slip of paper, was sewed into some part of the dress of the person affected, and carried about as long as the paper lasted. In Brand’s time a spoken charm appears to have been in use in Orkney for the cure of the toothache, as he writes:

"There is a Charm likewise they make use of for the toothach, whereof I had the following instance from an Honest Man worthy of Credit. Some years ago, there was one who used this Charm, for the abating the pain of one living in Eda, tormented therewith, and tho’ the action then was at a distance, the Charmer not being present with the Patient, yet according to the most exact calculation of the time when the charm was performed by the Charmer, there fell a living worm out of the Patient’s Mouth when he was at supper."

A similarly worded charm, formerly in use in Aberdeenshire, is printed by the Rev. Dr Gregor. It was also in common use in England and Ireland.

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