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Wart Charming

Wart Charming

Warts have always been considered as unsightly and associated with old crones and disease. It is therefore no surprise that many folk were keen to rid themselves of wart afflictions by any means possible. As you will see many of the cures are based on the theory that it took the time-lapse of a piece of meat to rot before the warts vanished. This could well have coincided with a period of natural healing that would have occurred anyway? Either way, for centuries people have been and indeed still are using a mind boggling array of wart cures, below are listed the moorland versions:

Find an oak apple (gall) and crush it to a powder, this should then be mixed with a strong vinegar and applied to the offending wart/s.

Take an eel and then cut off its head then rub the wart with the blood that seeps from the severed wound. Once this is done bury the head in the ground, as the head rots away the wart will gradually disappear.

Take as many small stones from a running brook as the number of offending warts, then put them into a clean white bag and throw it into road, preferably at a road junction. Then wash each wart in vinegar on seven consecutive mornings, whoever was unfortunate enough to pick up the white bag will get the warts and yours will disappear.

To get rid of warts you must steal from the butchers shop a very small piece of lean meat. This must then be rubbed on the wart three times from left to right. The meat must be immediately buried and as it is  you must say, “As you rot, so depart my warts!”

To cure a wart the first seen blackberry of the season should be picked and rubbed over the wart and then thrown away. As the berry either rotted away or was eaten by some bird or animal the affliction would disappear.

A rather complicated cure was practiced on the western moor and that was to take a live snail which was then rubbed on every wart whilst reciting three times, “Wart, wart, on this snails back, go away soon and don’t come back”. The poor old snail had then to be impaled on a hawthorn bush by one of its thorns, as the snail rotted away the warts vanished.

Rub the milky juice of the petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus) onto the wart.

For three consecutive nights, rub the wart with the furry inside of a broad bean pod, on each occasion bury it in the ground, as the pod rots so the warts vanish.

This one I heard in Ashburton, Prick the wart with a pin, and then stick the pin into the trunk of an ash tree. Next, recite the following rhyme, “Ashen tree, ashen tree, Pray buy these warts from me”. The warts will be transferred to the unfortunate tree.

Here is a modern cure that was related by a farmer, that is to simply cover the wart with Duct Tape and leave in-situ for three days, then rip off the tape and the wart will peel off with it.

Here’s an odd one from Tavistock, take an un-opened pea pod that contains nine peas and rub it on the warts whilst chanting, “Wart, wart, dry away”. Then bury the pod and wait until it rots by which time the warts will have gone. How would you know how many peas are in a pod without opening it?

Apply the ‘milk’ from the stem of a dandelion directly on the wart, this cure also worked for spots and pimples. It was recommended that the ‘milk’ should never put put on healthy skin as it is an irritant.

People would cut the apple in half and then rub one of the halves over the wart, the two pieces would be bound together and buried, as the fruit rotted then so the wart disappeared. Alternately you could cut the apple in half, rub one bit over the wart and then feed it to a pig whilst eating the remaining half.

Cut an onion in half and rub one half over the afflicted area. The two halves must then be tied back together and buried deep in the ground, as the onion rotted so the warts began to disappear.

Another cure from the Tavistock area was to take 9 leaves of Heart Fever Grass (Dandelion) and 9 Scarlet Pimpernel or Shepherd’s Dial flowers. These were then placed in a silk bag which was worn around the neck. Then every morning and night the bag had to be held over the wart/s whilst saying:

“Herb Pimpernel, I have thee found,

Growing, on Christ Jesus ground.

The same gift, Lord Jesus have thee,

When his blood He shed to spare thee.

Herb Grass this evil pass,

And God bless all who wear thee, Amen”.

But by far the most popular way of curing warts was by way of the ‘Wart Charmer’. Even today there are men and women who have the ability to charm away warts by various ways and means. I know of one gentleman who does not even have to see or touch the wart, he will simply ask you exactly where you will be at a certain hour. If for instance you say you will be stood at the kitchen sink at 10.00am then he will imagine the sink and the wart and wisht it away. Mind you if you aren’t at the sink at 10.00am the wart won’t go and you risk a tongue lashing if you go back for a repeat prescription. But at one time everybody on the moor knew of a wart charmer or someone that did. Other ‘charmers’ used to buy the warts for a nominal coin which then had to be kept safely stored because if it was ever lost the warts would return. In some cases the coin had to be thrown away as it was thought that the warts went with the coin. Another method that is related in the Holne area is of an old woman who cured warts. She used to instruct her patients to turn up with a thorn from a black-thorn bush, wool from a white sheep and fresh milk from a red cow. Whilst holding the thorn she would dip the wool into the milk and then rub it on the wart. After three visits where the same ritual was carried out the warts would vanish, along with the fresh cows milk. Ruth Ledger-Gordon tells the story of an old moorland squire whose hands had been peppered with warts for years. Whilst walking home from church one Sunday he met an old moorman who took one look at his hands and asked, “how many wurts ‘ave ee zir”? The squire replied that in fact there were 27 in total and scurried ashamedly off home, as he did so he heard the old man call, “Theym soon gaw”. He was relating the story to his wife when she asked in amazement, “surely you haven’t got that many warts, have you”? The squire then did a ‘hand count’ and in fact found 28 warts, one less than he had admitted to. A few days later all bar one of the warts had vanished and it is believed the remaining one was the mis-counted wart. To this day, nobody can explain the wart charming phenomenon except to say that in many cases it works.

A similar affliction to warts is the dreaded ringworm which again was always frowned upon. This is a fungal disease and not an actual worm, the easiest way to catch ringworm is to come into contact with an infected cow or to lean on a wooden gate where such a beast has rubbed itself against. The spoors can live in untreated wood which is why so much creosote is used in wooden farm buildings. Again, many of the wart charmers had the ability to cure ringworm by various means. However, having caught several doses of ringworm I can remember a cure that was given me. It was simply to take some cattle worming powder that contained Thibendazole and mix it with some cow’s udder cream. The salve was then applied to the ringworm which disappeared about three days later. It was after becoming involved in cattle anthelmintics (wormers) I learned that not only was Thibendazole capable of killing worms it was also a powerful fungicide. In fact it was such a good fungicide that the early space shuttles were coated in it to ensure no alien fungi was brought back to earth. I remember at school the worst type of ringworm was that which got onto your head. This resulted in a close shave and a coat of mauve jollup –  I think it was gentian violet. In one unfortunate lad’s case it was a crop cut followed by a good spray of Kopertox. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you realise it was an animal treatment which had a green marker dye in it – he looked like Orville the duck for about a month. So there you have it – warts ‘n’ all.



About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor


  1. Rosemary Connelly

    When I was around 12 or so, my cousins visiting Grandmother (no relation to me) saw that I had many warts on my leg. She told me to come and sit next to her and she looked at my leg for a few minutes and said “ok, you can go now and play with the others”. In just a few days the warts were gone. I know she had everything to do with it because my cousin said to me when we were adults that her grandmother was supposed to tell her how to do it, but never did.

    • A farmer charmed my warts by cutting notches out of an elderberry twig, and running it over each wart. ( a notch for each wart).
      He then said a prayer, then he told me to go away and bury the twig, he said when it rots the warts will disappear! And they did!

  2. I was around 7 years old when I went to a wart whisper. First he looked at all my visible warts and ask where “the momma wart” was. My momma told him that I have a bump in my mouth. He washed his hands and reached off in my mouth and rubbed it. While rubbing my wart he was speaking softly. Then he went to all my other warts, rubbing them and whispering. After he was done I had to spit on a rock and throw it over my shoulder. It was a couple weeks later my warts where gone!! Now I’m 35 years old and warts are popping up again. Wish that wart whisper was still alive. My dad said he asked him how he learn this whisper and the man told him “when you meet that person you will know. You will know to tell them the whisper. They can never tell the whisper until they know it’s time for them to tell the whisper”. He then said he was a young boy when he got told the whisper.

  3. Rita Rutherford Hartmann

    I was around 10 years old and had warts on the bottom of both of my feet. My mother had taken me to the Dr. and nothing had worked to rid me of them. Someone had told her of a person that lived in an area in our town that charmed warts off. She took me there and sure enough they were gone in a few days and never returned. I am 59 yrs old now and have told my own children about this. Of course they think I’m crazy.

  4. My mom bought my warts off me when everything else failed. I.e wart remover , going to the doctors etc. Nothing worked.

    She told me that when the moon is full in the sky and it turns midnight. She will buy my warts from me but I must bury the coin. The full moon came and she had a silver ring that I had to rub over the fingers affected Nd give her the ring back. I placed the silver ring in her palm and she handed me over this coin and said you must bury it in the ground and leave it forever. So I took the coin and buried straight away under the full moon. My warts disappeared and have never returned (we paved over the old dirt area in our old back garden). My mom passed away and I got that old silver ring. My warts have never returned.

  5. I was born and raised in Tiverton, Devon and suffered from many warts on my hands when I was about10-12.
    Tried everything, including that horrible green ether stuff on them, which did not work.
    Was due to have them surgically removed – which I did not fancy…
    A friend of my parents told them of a neighbour who knew an old farmer/countryman who was a wart-charmer.
    That neighbour (lovely man, a Freemason) took me – along with his son (being careful, even in those days – mid 1960s!) – to see this man, in the wilds of East Devon.
    (We had no car, hence his kind offer – for which he refused payment.)
    And, sure enough, the warts disappeared – soon after that!
    So, as the Monkees sang “I’m a Believer”!

  6. Let me start this off by saying I don’t really believe in any of this stuff and never really have but it does work. I used to be covered in warts my hands were covered like couldn’t close my hands covered. Had them on my arms legs started getting them bad on my feet and also had a few on my face. Nothing worked went to the dr for years 5-11 years old going to drs trying to burn them off cut them off tried all the medicines at the stores nothing worked. We gave up after they all grew back and for two years 11-13 they just got worse. One day my dad gave me a piece of ground beef and told me to rub it everywhere they were and go bury it so I did that and kinda rolled my eyes like whatever. A few days later I happen to notice thatball of my warts were flat but never really thought about it again till a few more days I noticed they were completely gone. No pain didn’t feel it didn’t even notice it right away they were just poof gone. I never really looked into and pretty much forgot about it till now I was curious if that was an actual thing come to find out it is!

  7. Frances Edmonds

    My daughter had the sole of her foot smothered in warts. Was advised to rub with steak bury it on a full moon which we did as a last resort as nothing else had worked. And they disappeared soon after. Would love to know how that works’

  8. Trust the name of Jesus. Use it to tell your diseases to leave you for good!

    My husband had bald patches, alopecia. I spoke to the bald patches for the hair to grow in Jesus’ name. After a few weeks his head was full of hair. No bald patches.

    No straining…no stealing meat from the butchers, no burying anything with rituals… Jesus will heal you. Dont wait until your children’s life depended on it. God forbid you need healing for a terminal disease and relied on “charms” that uses demonic powers. You will lose.
    If you are to use a weapon against a wart or diabetes, asthma.. Whatever disease…. Use the name of Jesus. It never will fail you and it is effortless.

  9. When I was about 10, I was visiting my nan , I had a wart on the front of my right hand. My grandad charmed it, and it was gone with in the week. So I believe. Sometimes the old ways are best

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