„Hair of the dog that bit you” - beliefs of rabies in the Carpathian Basin

Dr. Mód László

In this presentation, I aim to give an overview of the beliefs connected to rabies that used to be widely known and accepted across the Carpathian Basin. In the case of other diseases, modern medicine and folk medicine had separated way sooner. In our case, this process was prolonged since professional and nonprofessional doctors had almost the same knowledge about remedies and possible treatments for rabies for centuries. Out of the defense techniques of the people living on the Great Hungarian Plain in market towns and villages, the most efficient way of dealing with rabies seemed to be employing doctors specializing in this disease since these specialists were able to prepare the remedies known by contemporary medicine. They had a clear understanding of the symptoms. Moreover, they were able to tell apart infected animals from the healthy ones. Authorities throughout the country were trying to stave off rabies using various methods, one of which was exterminating rabid dogs, renewing and declaring local and countrywide decrees in order to prevent the disease from spreading. Methods connected with burning and fumigating were widely used. The remains of dead rabid dogs were burned, then the bitten animals were driven through the smoke, this was believed to prevent rabies from further spreading. It was common to cure rabies with the fur of dogs. The ashes that remained from burning the animals were used in a similar fashion. Magic was also used in order to cure the disease. The primary aim of this presentation is to show in what way rabies appeared in folklore and what qualities the doctors specialized in rabies had.