276: Sty Charming

If you’ve ever had a stye on your eye you will know how painful and annoying they can be. Before modern medical techniques hillfolk had their own magical cures for the infection. Most often the stye, much like the wart, was symbolically left at a certain location (like the crossroads) or “passed” onto a unknowing (and unlucky) passerby. A cat’s tail, specifically that of a black cat, was also often used to remove the stye either by rubbing it across the infection or by applying the blood of the tail to the stye itself.

Using a cat’s tail – “In treating what is known as a sty, it is necessary to cut the end of the cat’s tail a bit and apply a few drops of the blood to the sty itself, repeating this performance daily until relief is obtained.” ~Randolph OMF 138

“How to get a sty off your eye: you go to a cross-roads and rub a cat’s tail on your eye. Then you repeat:
Fool, fool, fool, am I
Rubbing this cat’s tail in my eye.
Sty, sty, get off my eye,
And get on the next one that passes by.” ~Parler FBA III 3349

Crossroads ritual – “Another method is for the sufferer to go alone to a crossroads, exactly at midnight in the dark of the moon, and cry:
Sty, sty, leave my eye,
Go to the next feller passin’ by!” ~Randolph OMF 138

“Go to a crossroads and stand on your head for three minutes, to cure a stye.” ~Parler FBA III 3337

“If you get a sty on your eye, you should walk backwards to a crossroad and say: ‘Sty, sty, leave my eye and catch the next one that passes by.’ Then your sty will get well.” ~Parler FBA III 3348

“If you have a sty on your eye, go to a crossroad and say, ‘crossroad, crossroad, take this sty off my eye and put it on the next person that comes by.” ~Parler FBA III 3350

“To remove a sty go to a cross road and say: Sty sty leave my eye, hop on the next one that passes by. You must then make a cross, spit in the cross and leave. The next person coming by will get the sty.” ~Parler FBA III 3351


Parler, Mary Celestia – Folk Beliefs of Arkansas
Randolph, Vance – Ozark Magic and Folklore

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