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8 March 2015

Clothing, perfumery, jewellery and nutrition tips seen at an exhibition about folk medicine and superstition in Austria

Most people use knowledge from their cultural memory unconsciously. Even when people 'read' signs of tattoos for example, the meaning of the signs can be decoded without knowing the 'etymology' or origin of their meaning which is mainly passed from one generation to the next. Yesterday, the exhibition 'Warzenkraut + Krötenstein' about nature in folk medicine and superstition opened at Landesmuseum Niederösterreich in St. Pölten in Lower Austria. The exhibition runs until 7 February 2016.

The exhibition could be described also as introduction into healthy gardening as most of the artefacts are taken from nature of this region. Most of them are staged in the way how people used the herbs, flowers, blossoms and seeds in former times and how some of them are integrated into daily life today. The four images here on this page give an overview in which directions the 'Warzenkraut + Krötenstein' exhibition goes: the exhibited objects can be categorized - such as the subtitle 'Nature in Folk Medicine and Superstition' suggests - as objects with measureable impact and objects that work because people believe(d) in them (keyword: placebo effect).

fig. from above: The clothing on an elder bush looks like a lightning conductor; in former times, people thought that diseases will pass by hanging the clothes of the ill person on the elder bush. In our days, the bed linen, clothing of feverish patients is cleaned in shorter intervals than the one of healthy persons because of hygienic reasons.

Elder is one of the plants that are favored in the exhibition as well as at the accompanying (German language) catalogue which is very entertaining and informative to read. The image shows the black elder berries and the crème colored blossoms; elder ingredients were used in various consistencies against almost everything. Elder is still part of today's medicine and used against feverish colds disease (elder tea).

The next picture shows a transparent box with smelling holes and behind a beaver. This station is about 'Bibergeil' which means translated 'beaver horny'. It's an extract from beaver glands and was used in former times as potency remedy and universal medicine. The box in front of the beaver contains the secretion which is used (in synthetic form) in perfumery until today.

The necklace is an artefact from the Krahuletzmuseum in Eggenburg. The term for such protective jewellery is 'Fraisenkette'. The necklace is equipped with various charms - such as it's fashion in our days. People collect preferred charms and create their own magic jewellery.

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