“Mr. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?” ~ Professor Snape, Harry Potter and the Sorcerors’ Stone
Among our many folk remedies today, the properties and use of the mad stone have fallen by the wayside. In fact, if you ask most healers today, they will look at you like you’re crazy if you ask them if they possess a mad stone. The same can be said for a bezoar, which is basically the same thing. If you ask a qualified medical practitioner about a bezoar, they will tell you it is a gastric blockage that usually has to be removed surgically. If you ask a veterinarian, they will tell you it is a digestive growth commonly caused by a hairball.
Back in the day, many healers possessed bezoars, or mad stones, because they were believed to save you from most poisons you might ingest. I should here specify that a bezoar was believed to save you from most any poison – a mad stone was generally used only to save you from rabies.
There was a very strict set of rules associated with the use and care of a mad stone. First, it should never be bought or sold. It must never be changed in shape. The person in need of it must go to the person who possesses the mad stone. The mad stone must never be brought to the patient. There can never be a charge for the use of the mad stone. The stone was usually passed down from father to son.
Edward Edmunds of the Beckton area, here in Barren County, was in possession of a mad stone. It came out of the stomach of a deer, which was said to be the most effective for this sort of undertaking. It was soaked in a glass of milk and then put on a bite. If you had the rabies in the bite, the stone would stick, pulling the poison out. When the stone fell off, it was put back in the milk. The poison would leech out of the stone and turn the milk green. You would then put the stone back on the bite. When the poison was all out of your system, the stone would turn the milk white again.
In hunting the old uses of a “Mad Stone” for rabies, it brought to mind a story shared by Jimmie Harrison Taylor from the Capitol Hill area of southern Barren County. She told of a black family who lived on what was in the 1970s the Mitchell Simmons’ farm. One of their small children was bitten by a rabid dog and came down with rabies. When they couldn’t locate anyone in possession of a mad stone, he was securely tied in a rocking chair to prevent him hurting himself or anyone else. It seems they left him tied there until he died. The child is buried, according to tradition, on the Jim Reneau (again 1970s era) place. As the “Highlights of Capitol Hill” were written many years ago, I’m sure both of those places are probably owned by someone else, and sadly the child or family was not named in the story.