“Things That Have Not Seen the Sun”

“When pressing boils and abscesses, one should use the snout of a pig and a “thing that has not seen the sun” that grows under the bark of a birch:

Sink away, foul-looking,
The moon vanishes when waning,
The sun when setting,
Vanish even more than that,
Where the moon is unknown,
Where the bottom is unfamiliar.
May the roots of bird cherry bloat,
The roots of willow swell,
The roots of alder expand,
Not the skin of a human being!"

(SKVR VII4: 1898. Juuka. Krohn n. 11894. [1885])

The gnarl of a birch in the Magic Objects Collection of Finland’s National Museum. Photo by S. Hukantaival.

Small wooden gnarls are one of the more common types of objects in the magic collection of Finland’s National Museum. These are often called either “excess of a tree” (puuliika) or “thing that has not seen the sun” (päivännäkemätön). In the latter case, it is sometimes stated that one should be careful that the object would never be exposed to the sun after it was removed from under the bark of a tree.

These objects were most often used in healing problems involving swelling skin such as boils and abscesses. When healing, the infected area was pressed with the gnarl (and sometimes other objects such as the snout of a pig) usually three or nine times while an incantation was voiced.

As can be seen from the incantation example above, these often involved mental images of shrinking phenomena (the waning moon and setting sun) and an exorcism of the illness. The latter involves images of trees, where also the medicine object originated. The gnarl itself resembles the swollen skin, and thus the ailment was sent to plague the trees instead of the patient.

But what about the snout of a pig? That will be the topic of the next post.

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