A Description of New Netherlands
Adriaen van der Donck - 1649
OF THE MANNERS AND PECULIAR CUSTOMS OF, THE NATIVES OF THE NEW-NETHERLANDS
Of their Sustenance and Medicines.
Famine they do not fear, nor do they regard medicines and purgatives much. When they are unwell, they fast; if that will not remove the complaint, they then have recourse to sweating and drinks, but the latter they take very sparingly. Their sweating places are made of clay, and enclosed tight in the earth, with a small entrance to admit the patients within the apartments. Where the place is needed there many stones are heated, and placed around and within the same,; and then the patient enters and sits down, naked and singing, wherein he remains as long as it is possible to endure the heat, and on leaving the stewing apartment, they usually lay down in cold spring water. By those means they say that they gain relief, and cure most diseases. They can heal fresh wounds and dangerous bruises in a most wonderful manner.
They also have remedies for old sores and ulcers, and they also cure venereal affections so readily, that many an Italian master who saw it, would be ashamed of his profession. All their cures are made with herbs roots and leaves, (with the powers of which they are acquainted,) without making any compounds. Still it must be admitted that nature assists them greatly, for they indulge in no excesses of eating or drinking, otherwise they could not accomplish somuch with such simple and small means.
When any of them are very sick, and they apprehend the disease to be of
a deadly character; then, they all, or at least the nearest relatives of the
sick persons, have recourse to devil-hunting or driving, and make noise enough
to frighten a person in extremity to death which they say they do to learn from
the devil whether the patient will live or die, and when hope of recovery is
given, what remedies are to be used for the restoration of the sick. They seldom
however receive any positive answers, but directions to use remedies, and when
their hope for the recovery of the sick, then food is presented to the person,
who is persuaded to eat heartily, whether the food is relished or not.
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