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Necklace of snake vertebrae, Europe, 1871-1916

The growing influence of biomedicine in the 1800s did not necessarily replace established forms of treatment based on belief and superstition. What could be referred to as folk medicine – customs that often went back generations – continued to be practised. For example, here the bones of a snake have been threaded on to string to make a rather uncomfortable looking necklace. It is thought that this amulet was used to protect against lower back pain – perhaps the fluid slither of a snake was thought to encourage the back muscles to stay supple. The snake necklace was originally made in North London and then purchased in 1930 from Edward Lovett’s (1852-1933) collection of British amulets and charms. Lovett was interested in folk remedies all his life and began collecting from the age of eight.

Object number:

A665420

 

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    Glossary:

    Glossary: necklace

    Ornaments worn around the neck, usually in the form of chains or strands of beads, pearls, stones, or the like, and often including a suspended ornamental pendant. Use "chokers" for short, narrow necklaces worn close to the throat. Use "dog collars (necklaces)" for wide ornamental bands worn tightly around the neck.

    Glossary: snake vertebrae

    No description.

    Glossary: amulet

    Small object or piece of jewellery worn as a protecting charm to ward off ill health and bad luck.

    Glossary: lumbago

    A term used to describe mild to severe lower back pain.