Andrew Chumbley is one of those authors who I want to read every so often, only to find the desire quenched when I look at the prices of his books. Fortunately, Three Hands Press has re-released one of his shorter works, The Leaper Beneath: A Historical Study of the Toad-Bone Amulet: Its Forms, Functions, and Praxis in Popular Magic.
The amulet takes many different forms and uses, but the gist is this: The magician kills a toad and cleans off the meat, often by putting it onto an anthill. The bones are placed in running water, and the one that travels in a different direction than the rest is kept. Depending upon the tradition, this can be good for love, control of animals, or confirmation of mystical power. According to some, the owner must first wrestle for it with the devil, who is apparently unable to find his own toad. Chumbley covers a considerable amount of ground, starting with Pliny, touching on Agrippa and the grimoires, taking us through the English traditions of the Toadmen and the Horseman’s Society, groups that survived at least until the nineteenth century, and making hints as to modern practice. The work also has footnotes and a bibliography, for those who want to read more.
This was a short but enjoyable work. I’d consider the price high ($24, including shipping, for 60 pages), but the information provided is well worth it.