Vom Ess-Zett (sz)

From the ongoing series “Bootless Knowledge for Everybody”.

I was reading in the Dæmonomania (mentioned here), innocently enough, when I came upon the following interesting passage :

Seiteinmal kundbar / daß wo ein Zauberer oder ein Hexin nur das Pulfferlein darvon in einen Schaaffstall leget / daß gleich das Viech darvon stirbt / wo es Gott nicht sonderlich bewaret; (gleich wie auch die Wurmkrämer ein Ratte[n] Aaß / die Mäuß darmit zutöden / wissen darauß zubereiten / daher es auch seinen Namen Maußzwibel bekommen.)”

Maußzwibel – that must be what he mentions in the previous paragraph as “Mörzwibel” or Squilla. A short research brings us the following result: In the Capitulare de Villis (Ger., Eng.) we find under number 16 a plant called “squilla(m)”, Urginea maritima (L.) Baker, also called “Meerzwiebel” (Ger., Eng.). The plant is known through the whole ancient world for medical uses. That the plant is deadly to mice and rats is mentioned in the Kräuterbuch of Tabernaemontanus (Ger., Eng.), one of the most important books of its kind of the 16th century, but it seems that the old Egyptians already knew how to use it.

Ratten Aaß – that threw me a bit off : “Aas” is a rotting carcass, but this would make no sense altogether in this sentence. A look in the holy Wörterbuch (Ger., Eng.) helped : aasz is not a cadaver, it’s something to eat, from ezan, essen ; the old word “Atzung” for food comes to my memory ; also an old word in my dialect, “aas[z]en” for stuffing oneself, over eating.

Wurmkrämer – A “Krämer” sells “Kram” – clobber, stuff, he’s a monger, a peddler. Is there a medieval worm-business I have not heard of ? Also Messers GRIMM can help : A Wurmkrämer sells drugs, “Arzney & Theriak”, against worms, parasites inhabiting the human body, a not uncommon illness in medieval Europe.

The sellers of anti-worm drugs know to prepare deadly rat-food from a plant called mice-bulb. The murine onions were not that deadly that  a cat who’d bit or munch on a poisoned mouse would also suffer. This is discussed in chapter III “Vom underscheid / so sich zwischen Guten und Bösen Geistern erhelt” (About the difference between good and bad spirits). Wurmkrämer – herrje …