Great Aunt Hattie's Asphidity Bag - Stories From My Childhood
Great Aunt Hattie in her orchard
Asphidity bags, what are they for?
To ward off the flu virus, polio and, other diseases, people used folk medicine remedies, and medicine bags pinned to their under garments called Asphidity bags (that is what my Great Aunt Hattie called her medicine bag). Asphidity bags were filled with herbs, and concoctions worn to ward off these maladies.
As a child I wondered about the strange smells, when we would visit Great Aunt Hattie and we would hug her. When she explained she had an Asphidity bag pinned to her undergarment and what was in it and what the herbs were for, I understood why there were different smells at different times. But the one to ward off the flu sure was ripe.
My cousin on my Father's side and her three children.
Where Did Aunt Hattie's knowledge come from?
I wondered, although I never asked where Great Aunt Hattie, (born July of 1885, Lawrence County, Alabama) learned what to put in her Asphidity bag. Was it from her grandfather, born 1828 in Taft, Tennessee?
Could Great Aunt Hattie's knowledge of herbal uses and cures come from, her great grandfather, born 1807 in Fairfield, South Caroline? Or had her great grandfather’s father brought the knowledge from his homeland?
Could great Aunt Hattie have learned what to put in her Asphidity bag from the Native Americans (ancestors on my father’s side) who lived in the area?
Uncle Elmer and Aunt Hattie
Giante Fennel Plant
Was Great Aunt Hattie a Medicine Woman?
Was she a Healer? If Great Aunt Hattie was a healer, why didn't she heal Uncle Elmer? As I think back now, maybe she kept him alive longer than he would have lived without her poultices and teas.
Aunt Hattie's poultice was made of ground Fenugreek seeds and made into a poultice. She placed the poultice on Uncle Elmer's swollen legs. When we asked what was wrong with him. Aunt Hattie would say he has dropsy.
I did not know what dropsy was, and I doubt that any of us kids knew and I don't think any of us kids ever asked.
Yellow Root, was one of the (herbs) Aunt Hattie kept in her kitchen for tea. So I am thinking right now, as I am writing this, Uncle Elmer must have been diabetic.
Recipe for winter flu
'Asafetida,' i.e. sap from the stems of the ‘Giant Fennel plant, which Aunt Hattie grew in her herb garden along the side of the barn. From slits in the stems of the Fennel plant the sap is drained and allowed to harden into a gummy substance.
The Fennel gum smelled bad. It was sometimes called Devil’s dung (according to an article I read,) and was supposed to ward off colds.
When I was a child I thought I would rather have the cold, at least if my nose was stuffy I couldn't smell the poo, I mean goo, in the Asphidity bag.
I don't remember when Uncle Elmer quit working the land and sold the horses and cows. My grandma and grandpa supplied Aunt Hattie with milk and Sassafras roots which we kids would gather when grandpa plowed the land to plant cotton in the spring and also plowed the old cotton stalks under after harvest in the late fall.
Aunt Hattie and Grandma would make Sassafras tea. There is nothing like a cup of hot Sassafras tea or Sage tea to warm a person just before bed. To this day I still make both of these teas.
Great Aunt Hattie would send my grandma herbs and seeds, according to what was needed.
Aunt Hattie's recipe for Fennel Muffins
Sift *2 cups of flour is all you need
.......to make 12 muffins
*2 Tablespoons of Fennel Seeds
* 1/4 cup of sugar or less
* 1 Tablespoon of baking powder
(unless you use self rising flour)
Mix this together then add
* 1 Cup of milk
*1 egg, right from the hen
*1/4 cup of melted (real) butter, right from the churn
Preheat oven to 400°
Spoon batter into (two 6 cup) muffin tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes
Great Aunt Hattie was a great cook.
Great Aunt Hattie could make the best Southern baked biscuits that I ever tasted. I liked her biscuits better than cake. Right out of her oven with butter and honey, or when they were cold and dunked in coffee, they would melt in your mouth.
Yes Great Aunt Hattie gave us coffee. Or maybe I should say a little bit of coffee in our milk.
My grandfather gathered the honey and there would always be enough to fill so many Mason Jars, that he could and would share with many families.
Aunt Hattie made the best Fennel muffins. See her recipe to the right −>
I don't know how she knew what the temprature was on her old wood burning cook stove.
What made me think of Aunt Hattie?
Reminiscing with my cousin Cherokeemom she mentioned how she asked Aunt Hattie where the smell was coming from. "My Asphidity bag," Aunt Hattie had answered.
Me: "Remember when Aunt Hattie use to wake us up at 4:00 AM so we could hear the birds singing?"
Cherokeemom: "Remember how she would make us feel grown up by giving us coffee with our biscuits for breakfast?"
Aunt Hattie's coffee consisted of 3/4 cup of milk 1/4 cup of coffee. We both laughed.
Me: "Remember the feather tick?"
You never slept in such comfort until you have slept on a feather tick. The down feathers came from the ducks my grandparents raised. That is what mattresses were stuffed with and Aunt Hattie had one of the best. The snowy sheets on the feather tick smelled like fresh sunshine, with a hint of lavender to sooth the senses. Even for a child this was like Heaven on earth, like sleeping on a fluffy white cloud.
"Remember the picture box we use to look through the pictures were in 3D?"
We shared so many fond memories and both of us knew we had lost someone very special, and we would miss her for as long as our precious memories last.
The Last I Saw Aunt Hattie
Have you ever known anyone who had a medicine bag (Asphidity Bag) pinned to their underclothes?
When I talked with my cousin we were confused on the correct spelling, and when I looked it up in my dictionary and could not find it, I looked it up on Bing and here is what I found.
Bing: What is Asphidity made from? 'Asafetida' (ass-uh-fuh-TYE-duh) is a soft, lumpy, brown gum resin (thickened plant sap) that is very bad-tasting and which smells awful.
My husband has an old family heirloom dictionary, about 7 inches thick, and that is where I found how to pronounce the herb that goes in the Asphidity bag: as-ä-fet’ida, as-áfæt’-i-dà, gum and fatere, to have a disagreeable smell, stink A. feted inspissated (yes, inspissate is in the heirloom dictionary) sap from Persia and the East Indies. It is the concrete juice of a large umbelliferous plant, the Fetula, or Narther, Astafatida, and is much used in medicine as an antispasmodic and a stimulant. Written also ‘Assafaetida’ [Asa, gum, and L. dulcis, sweet.] A much used drug of former times, and called also Laser, probably obtained from an umbelliferous plant of Europe and Africa. It was at one time thought to be the same as benzoin.
My Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: asa·fet·i·da or asa·foe·ti·da, the fetid gum resin of various Oriental plants, formerly used as an anti-spasmodic and in folk medicine as a general prophylactic against disease.
Words that my computer does not recognize as being spelled correctly
Dulcis: dulcify, meaning: 1. To make sweet, 2. To make agreeable, MOLLIFY
Inspissate: in·spis·sate, to make thick or thicker
Umbelliferous: of or relating to the carrot family (i.e. the giant Fennel plant)
Have you ever?
Known anyone special that you miss so much you heart aches when you think of them?
© 2014 Shyron E Shenko
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