Talking Fire Out

Have you ever heard about people who could talk the fire out of a burn? I’ve heard about the phenomenon my whole life, but never seen it done. One of my friends said her daddy’s uncle could talk fire out of a burn.

My friend said she’d often heard the story of a little girl in the family getting badly burned and then being rushed over to the uncle’s house so that he could lessen the pain. Once he got through talking the little girl’s burn was much better. The uncle was also able to remove warts.

In days gone by it was easier for folks to get burned. They used burning wood for heat, to heat water, and to cook among other things. In other words, there was ample opportunity for children and adults to get burned as they went about their daily lives.

I’ve never been badly burned and I’m glad cause it hurts! I remember getting burned on Mamaw and Papaw’s wood stove. It sat in the corner of the small living room and I liked to stand close to it to feel the warmth. No one has ever had to tell me to come warm by the fire I always make a bee line for it.

I had a pretty little coat with the hood trimmed in some sort of fake fur. I burnt the back of the coat from standing too close to the heater and I also burned my arm on it.

I remember an uncle saying the best thing for a burn was to burn it again. I’ve also heard folks talk about drawing out the heat of a burn by placing it near a hot surface. Maybe that’s what my uncle actually meant. I was too backward to ask him exactly how you was supposed to purposely burn yourself again.

“Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia” written by Anthony Cavender has the following to offer about burns:

The folk  materia medica for skin burns was extensive, but five substances are more frequently mentioned in sources: potato, soda, vinegar, butter, and balm of Gilead. Potato scrapings, or sometimes a slice of potato, were placed on a burn to “draw the fire out.” A soda paste or vinegar was applied singularly or in combination. The buds or leaves of balm of Gilead were mixed with hog fat and cooked down in a skillet into a soothing salve. Other popular remedies were a solution of slippery elm bark, egg white, water from the first snow in March, and vanilla extract. Some people thought it beneficial to apply cold water or, curiously, to situate the burned area close to another, stronger source of heat to “pull the fire out.”

In almost every community there were individuals known as “fire” or “burn” doctors who possessed the ability to “talk the fire out of a burn.” It is not difficult to find people in the region today who will gladly provide testimonials about the effectiveness of these folk healers.

It is likely that the burn doctor in this case used a charm well known in the region, and in English folk medicine as well, to “talk the fire out,” a version of which is the following: “There came an angel from the east bringing fire and frost. In frost, out fire. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Another version collected in 1939 in western North Carolina substitutes “salt” for “frost”: “God sent three angels coming from the East and West. One brought fire, another salt. Go out fire, go in salt. In the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Ghost.” Usually the burn doctor recited the charm in a murmur three times while moving his hand across and slightly above the burn, pushing his hand in a direction away form the victim, as though pushing the heat away, all the while blowing on the burn. According to tradition one can teach only three other people how to “”talk” or “blow” fire out of a burn. Some maintained that the person taught had to be of the opposite sex. No fee was charged for the service because it was deemed “the work of the Lord.”

The Deer Hunter used potato juice to heal his burned eyes back during his welding days and I’ve seen lots of folks use the soda and vinegar remedy for burns so those three home remedies are still being used. Please leave a comment if you’ve heard about talking the fire out burns.


*Source: Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia written by Anthony Cavender

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  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    February 28, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Hi, Tipper. My grandpa could blow the fire out of a burn. I think one of my uncles could also do this. Grandpa died a few months before I was born, but I know he did this to my mom when she was a baby and one of my 1st cousins said he did it to him when he was a young boy. He also stopped bleeding my reciting a verse. One of my cousins says that she has stopped bleeding before, too.

  • Reply
    Bobby C
    February 22, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    My dad can talk out fire. An older lady passed it to him and I’m told he could only pass it to a woman. Lots of folks come to have him talk out fire, but it usually from a small burn. I’ve don’t think I’ve ever know him to do it for a anything like a 3rd degree burn. My daughter is a teenager, but if she ever gets a burn, especially a sunburn, she will visit Papa.
    I don’t think anyone mentioned it here, but he also cures Poison Oak rash the same way. The itching will stop and the rash will go away.
    I know it probably sounds like hogwash to most folks, but personally I think it has a lot to do with mind over matter and how much you truly believe it will work. He’ also a Baptist minister. I’ve asked about how he does it or what is says, but he only says that he can’t tell or he’ll lose the gift.
    I can also attest to using Ezekiel 16:6 to stop bleeding. When I was a teenager, I had all four wisdom teeth removed. We went through so much gauze and it just wouldn’t stop. My mama called my grandma who told me to read that verse myself, and within 10 mins it had stopped. Maybe it would’ve stopped anyway, I guess I’ll never know. But I believe it worked for me that day.

  • Reply
    Marshall Reagan
    February 22, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    My Dad could talk out fire from someone who got burned. My cousin fell in some hot coals & was severely burned . his mom brought him over to my dad & dad talked out the fire . my cousin didn,t even have a scar from the burn. Dad could only tell one other person how & it had to be a female. he told my mom . I don,t know if she told anyone else or not.

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    February 22, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Tipper years ago when I was married and me and my wife were working in restaurant she got burned bad. She was taking a
    pan of bacon of what I called a pizza oven and spilled the grease down her arm. By the time I got her home the skin was beginning to blister. We lived just across from her grandparents and she noticed her uncles car was there. The first thing she said was take me over there to see uncle Plez so off we went again. I went in to tell them what happened and met Plez coming out. I told him what had happened and asked him to look at it. He held her arm and said something and would blow on the burn and repeated this three times. He then asked his wife to get him a white cloth then wrapped it around her arm and told me not to remove it until the next day. I took her home and she said it wasn’t hurting as bad so I didn’t take her to the doctor or anything. I asked her what he was doing and she said that he was drawing the fire out. To be honest at that point I thought it was a bunch of hogwash until I removed the cloth from her arm and there was no sign that it had been burned. I walked back over to her parents and asked Plez what he had said or done. His only answer was that he couldn’t tell me or he would lose the power but he could tell his sons. He did tell me that it was a verse in the bible and that there was a verse that would stop bleeding but he didn’t have that gift. I know that all sounds hard to believe and I guess I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.

  • Reply
    Deb Kroll
    February 22, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    I can talk the fire out of a burn. I’ve done it many times, and my daughter will sometimes call me on the phone and ask me to “take the fire out ” if she or her husband or son get burned.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 22, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    My wife’s Grandmother could take the heat out of a burn and there was a man in the same country side who claimed to be a warlock that could stop bleeding.
    I use yellow mustard for burns or the homeopathy remedy, cantharis.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve heard of several of the folk methods mentioned. The cigarette smoke in the ear reminds me of the “wicking” method used by some in south Texas which uses a cone of paper with the point in the ear of the person with the earache. The outer edge is lit and the smoke is supposed to draw out the earache – reports I’ve heard give it about a 50-50 chance of working. for burns, aloe-vera is my go-to although cold butter or cold heavy cream or sometimes avocado flesh have done just fine when I had no aloe-vera. The cold soothed and perhaps the fats replenished the moisture in the skin cells.
    I’ve wondered about the penny treatment – seems like it was sometime in the late 70s or early 80s that the amount of copper in pennies was greatly reduced so maybe the newer pennies wouldn’t work as well. Wonder if using a old, truly copper pan would work as well or some other copper item.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Just a few minutes after 1:00, Donna Lynn played a couple songs from the Reel to Reel tapes, by Ray and Pap. One of them was “I wasn’t there, but wish I could have Been”, a real Tear-jerker.

    I then requested “Working on a Building” by Chitter, Chatter, and Paul. She allowed Paul could really play the Guitar. …Ken

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Cold water works for me on a burn and I should know ’cause I have a wood-burning stove and I burn wood. But about 60 years ago, I had seed warts, right where you do writings with a pencil or pen. I’m right-handed and it hurt like the Dickens. I took the Flu and when I got over it, they were gone.
    I don’t know for sure whether it was the Flu that took them away, or Mama’s Prayers. …Ken

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 11:29 am

    My father, who was from the mountains of NC, could remove warts. I saw him do it several times. A Jewish lady once told me that to relieve the pain of a sunburn, run as hot water as you could stand over the burned area. It works.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I grew up with kids who claimed they knew people who could draw out fire and stop bleeding by repeating a Bible verse but I never heard the verse and never saw it done. They said that if the person who repeated the verse told anybody, the gift passed on to the hearer and they would lose it.

    My Daddy, however, could cure earaches with cigarette smoke. I have seen it done. On me! He would breathe in a big draw of Prince Albert smoke and gently blow it into my ear. The pain would cease almost immediately and would not return for months or years sometimes. I wish now that I had suffered on in silence with those earaches. Daddy died at 54 of a heart attack that I am convinced was caused by years of heavy smoking. I know in my heart that those few cigarettes he rolled to relieve my pain wouldn’t have made much of a difference considering he started at 12 years old, when smoking was good for you. But the thought that keeps returning is of “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” It was no more the last one than any of the other straws he bore that eventually broke him.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 22, 2018 at 10:19 am

    I remember it being called “drawing fire”. We’ve seen warts removed by the rock method and my grandparents believed the stopping of blood verses. So many strange things!

  • Reply
    Lisa I.
    February 22, 2018 at 9:40 am

    My pawpaw would talk out fire. I can remember him doing this when we were little. He would take the burned area and whisper over it. I asked him if he would tell me how to do it and he wouldn’t. Always wondered what he said.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 9:16 am

    My great uncle had the ability to blow out fire. Once a very prominent man in the community brought his wife, who had been badly burned, for him to doctor on. The problem was, that she had spilled hot grease in her lap, and it burned her very private area. Her husband didn’t want him to see that part of her anatomy, so he insisted that uncle John wear a blindfold. He refused to do that, telling the man that he wasn’t gonna risk sticking his nose in it. The man, not wanting his wife to suffer any longer, backed off, and the woman was treated .
    My great grandmother removed warts. She would count the warts, and pick up a small rock for each one, put them in a brown paper bag, and take you to a place where there was a fork in the road. She would give you the bag and tell you to toss it over your shoulder and not look back. If you didn’t look back, the warts would leave you in a few days.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    February 22, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Mr. Banks mentioned the seventh son of a seventh son which made me remember my mother saying my great grandfather was the seventh son of a seventh son. She said it like it was an important title. I was too young to inquire what she meant by that statement. I did know there were people that could remove warts although I never understood how they did it.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    February 22, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Never hear of blowing out fire but I do remember way back someone saying butter was good to put on a burn. For me it would have been cold water but I’m sure my grandmothers would have known that phrase. Today I usually keep an aloe plant because it absolutely stops the pain immediately. Just open up a leaf and put the jell on the burn.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 22, 2018 at 9:05 am

    My maternal grandma could blow out fire. People would come to her when they got burned because she was a widow for about 45 years and didn’t drive. I never knew how she did it and I was not in line to pass it on to.

    My Dad believed in drawing fire out with fire. It is very painful. Somewhere I read or heard that the current thinking of cooling a burn as fast as possible came from the experience of a dairy farmer. He burned his arm badly and to relieve the pain put his arm in cold milk. His arm healed without scarring where it was in the milk but was scarred above that.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Maybe talking the fire out has the same meaning as “trying on” or “laying hands on” someone. I lost a first cousin years ago when she got her long flannel gown too close to the fireplace. I often think of how she must have suffered, while my aunt suffered just as bad with a different kind of pain. Another cousin was severely burned while her family burned outside trash. She survived but has horrible scars everywhere except her beautiful face to remind her of what could have been much worse.
    A penny placed on a small burn works wonders. You will have to use an older penny with a higher percentage of copper.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 22, 2018 at 8:46 am

    I have heard of people who could talk the fire out of a burn by using certain Bible verses.
    It seems there were certain reasons why some people had the ability like being the seventh son of a seventh son or something like that.

    When I was in my twenties I had two plantar warts on my right foot that bothered me tremendously. I tried everything to get rid of them and the Dr said he could cut them out.
    An old lady we knew told me to go see Mr Johnson and he could talk them off. I was willing to try anything so she went with me there. He was an elderly man who was very kind. He looked at my foot and rubbed his hand over the warts and left the room. He came back in later and asked me if I believed they would go away and I said yes. He told me to go home and forget about them which surprisingly I did. Two weeks later the warts that had been there for over a year were gone.
    Thirty plus years later they are still gone and not even a scar from where they were so I can attest to the ability of some people being able to heal certain afflictions.
    I am scientific minded person so things have to make since to me generally before I believe it but in this case it is unexplainable and I’m ok with that.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 22, 2018 at 8:28 am

    My Grandmother did what she called pow wowing. I know it was all connected to the bible verses somehow. She could stop blood, remove warts and bring down a fever.I asked her to teach me and she said it had to go to a male first and he could tell me. My brother said he was not interested in all that mumbo jumbo and would not do it.
    I have regretted to this day I did not get someone else to do it.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 8:19 am

    We keep aloe plants growing in the house specifically to rub on burns. The fact that in days gone by, people spent more time around fires brings to mind one of my favorite poets and poems. Edgar Guest (1881 — 1959) had a son named Bud Guest who had a radio show that we always listened to while growing up in the Detroit area. That radio show was kind of like an old version of Prairie Home Companion. My favorite poem by the elder Guest is “When Father Shook the Stove” …. probably why we now live in a little log home in northern Wisconsin. It begins:

    ’’Twas not so many years ago,
    Say, twenty-two or three,
    When zero weather or below
    Held many a thrill for me.
    Then in my icy room I slept
    A youngster’s sweet repose,
    And always on my form I kept
    My flannel underclothes.
    Then I was roused by sudden shock
    Though still to sleep I strove,
    I knew that it was seven o’clock
    When father shook the stove.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    February 22, 2018 at 7:29 am

    I’ve heard of putting a potato or an onion on a burn. It seems like an Onion will fix about anything. Where I grew up, we had, or people still remembered, The Braucher…a kind of folk healer.

    Lately, I’ve been going through a book called The Long Lost Friend that is a book of folk remedies. You can find it on line and it is an interesting read.I find this stuff fascinating.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 22, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Tip, I’ve heard of talking fire from a burn but I have no personal experience with it. I have had experience with words being used to remove warts and it was 100% effective. I am sure talking the fire out would be just as effective. I think it’s not about the words it’s about the conviction behind them. We have far more ability than we realize.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    February 22, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Never heard of more heat for burned or blistered skin or ‘talking’ it out. Our bodies are mostly water so I don’t understand. Guess I’ll stick with ice.
    It’s a fact, my grandfather could remove warts so anything is possible.

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney Jr
      February 22, 2018 at 10:15 am

      You are correct in sticking with the ice. More heat only inflicts more pain. Their intentions were probably noble, but the remedy was torture. Apparently, the best immediate treatment used today is a cool saline solution poured over the burn(s)?

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 6:10 am

    That is something I’ve heard of and never seen done, but the potato slice on the eyes I have done, I was suppose to be a welder actually took classes to become one, and in the end became a lineman that could weld.

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney Jr
      February 22, 2018 at 10:19 am

      My Father-In-Law was a welder for over forty years and used the potato slice remedy over his eyes many times.

  • Reply
    Sheryl PaulI
    February 22, 2018 at 6:09 am

    My neighbor’s Grammy from the Ga mountains used to draw out the burn with heat, she woild also remove warts, but I don’t remember how. We aleays put pet milk on any burn it did seem to remove the heat. Maybe because there was always a can in the fridge

  • Reply
    Michael Montgomery
    February 21, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    I have no testimonials for “talking out fire,” “blowing out fire,” or any of the other folk medical treatments that Cavendar documents, but have read much about them. Perhaps the best known is “stopping blood,” purportedly by a having a person with the gift of performing this recite the sixth verse of Ezekiel 16: “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, ‘Live!'” Cavender has a handy three-page entry on “Folk Medicine” in the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF APPALACHIA — an 1800-page book that is quite a bargain. From the reading I’ve done, these practices appear to come from German tradition. Some of them can be documented back to German settlements in the Shenandoah Valley in the mid-18th century. See Gerald Milnes’ SIGNS, CURES, AND WITCHES: GERMAN APPALACHIAN FOLKLORE. He also has much to say about the use of almanacs when following “the signs” to plant and conduct many other activities.

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