It is still generally accepted that nettle stings can be cured by the application of a dock leaf, but in the past it seems that the accompanying words were as important a part of the procedure as the physical process: 'Nettle in - dock out, dock in - nettle out' (Northumberland, 1851); or 'Dock, go in, nettle, go out, Dock shall have a white smock, And nettle shall go without' (Addy, 1895: 92). Even Chaucer knew the charm: as Troilus is protesting that he cannot suddenly stop loving Cri-seyde, 'But kanstow playen racket, to and fro, Nettle in, dok out, now this, now that' (Troilus and Criseyde (c.1374), iv, lines 460-1). Nettles also featured strongly in the calendar customs associated with *Royal Oak Day. The traditional punishment for children not wearing an oak leaf on that day was that their legs could be attacked with nettles wielded by other children. The plant also features regularly in folk medicine (see Vickery).
   ■ Vickery, 1995: 253-8; Opie and Tatem, 1989: 279; Roy Vickery, Folk Life 31 (1992-3), 88-93.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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