Sometime around 1961 when I was about eight years old, my mother noticed a wart between two of my fingers on my left hand.
It might have been unsightly, but to me it was uncomfortable. Warts are caused by a virus. It is said that most will go away, after a time, by themselves. But who knows when?
One summer day, she drove down a country road in my Georgia hometown taking me to what I now know is called a “traiteur.” Traiteurs, or "treaters" in English, are the traditional folk medicine healers of south Louisiana.
Cajuns, Creoles, and Native Americans all participate in this Catholic healing ritual. There are many types of traiteurs. Some use herbal remedies – remèdes, gestures such as the sign of the Cross or the laying on of hands or material objects such as knotted string, a cordon, which is tied around the affected area, in their treatments, but all of them use prayer. Faith in God's power to heal is the heart of this practice.
Traiteurs can treat a wide variety of ailments, including but by no means limited to warts, such as sunstroke, bleeding, arthritis and asthma. However their services are not for sale. Patients tend to reciprocate by offering a gift of appreciation, but not even the empty-handed will ever be refused treatment. The gift of treating is usually passed from an older traiteur to a younger person, often in the same family.
This woman rubbed on my wart and talked what seemed like mumbo-jumbo directly to it. I do not remember what my mother gave to thank her. I’ve read that when rubbed by another person or if the traiteur licks their own fingers and then rubs it on the other person’s wart, the chemical reaction from their DNA sometimes speeds up the process of having a wart fall off. And this is exactly what happened. Although there was no licking involved, within two weeks, it was gone.
Sometimes it is a little more involved. Not only touching the wart but sometimes the person commencing the wart ceremony will do some kind of speaking, as in my case, and the wart disappears. But, other traiteurs have their own remedies for warts. Some involve potatoes. It seems if you cut a potato in half and rub it on the wart, and then bury that tater, it would remove your wart. I’ve also heard of using a fat piece of meat and burying it afterwards.
Of course, there’s muriatic acid if you don’t want to take these routes. But that sure ain’t fun. Or as a couple of others expressed, “My brother, just a year older, and I used to fight all the time. He ‘conjured’ a wart off my nose – with a right hook one day. Never came back!”
But my personal favorite is, “I had an uncle who would bite them off. Of course, he was from the old country and would eat anything.”
Lee St. John, a retired Coweta County high school English teacher, is the author of "SHE'S A KEEPER! Cockamamie Memoirs from a Hot Southern Mess." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org