250: Love Medicines

Tis the season! Love was often big business for Ozark hillfolk. Here are some love medicines collected by Vance Randolph for his “Ozark Magic and Folklore”:

“Many hillmen still believe in love powders and potions, and this belief is encouraged by the country druggists, who sell a perfumed mixture of milk sugar and flake whiting at enormous profits. This stuff is dissolved in a girl’s coffee or fed to her in candy and & said to be quite efficacious. Many mountain damsels carry love charms consisting of some pinkish, soaplike material, the composition of which I have been unable to discover; the thing is usually enclosed in a carved peach stone or cherry pit and worn on a string round the neck, or attached to an elastic garter. I recall a girl near Lanagan, Missouri, who wore a peach stone love-charm on one garter and a rabbit’s foot fastened to the other.”

“Surreptitiously touching the back of a man’s head is said to be a sure way of arousing his sexual passions, and every mountain girl knows that if she puts a drop of her menstrual fluid into a man’s liquor he is certain to fall madly in love with her. Whiskey in which her fingernail trimmings have been soaked is said to have a very similar effect.”

“Ozark girls sometimes carry little wasp nests in the belief that they somehow attract men. These objects are usually pinned to the lady’s undergarments…”

“Many a mountain girl conceals dried turkey bones about the room in which she meets her lover, or even secretes them in her clothing, in the belief that they will render him more amorous. I once heard some village loafers ‘greening’ a young chap because some turkey bones had been found behind the cushions of his Ford, the supposition being that they had been placed there by women who had ridden with him.”

“A plant called yarrow, or milfoil (Achillea millefolium), is used in making love potions. The same is said to be true of dodder, also called love vine or angel’s hair. Women in north- west Arkansas tell me that the roots of the lady’s-slipper or moccasin flower (Cypripedium) contain a powerful aphrodisiac. The leaves and stems of mistletoe are made into some kind of ‘love medicine,’ but the whole matter is very secret. I have on two occasions seen women boiling big kettles of mistletoe out of doors but was unable to get any details of the procedure.”

“The boys in northwestern Arkansas make a love medicine from the web of a wild gander’s foot, dried and reduced to powder. Put a pinch of this in a girl’s coffee, and she will not only fall in love with you at once but will be faithful to you as long as she Jives. This is somehow connected, in the hillman’s mind, with the belief that wild geese mate but once.”

“In some localities it is said that a man hides the dried tongue of a turtle dove in a girl’s cabin this makes her fall madly in love with him, and she can’t deny him anything. I was told of a case in which a girl’s superstitious parents searched the cabin for days, trying to find the tongue which they believed must be hidden there. The neighbors laughed about this, and the girl herself said that turtle doves’ tongues had nothing to do with the case, but the parents still believed the old story. They never did find the dove’s tongue, however.”

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